Monday, November 22, 2010

Cherry Trifle

Whoever named this dessert was being sarcastic. If you go the whole from-scratch route, this is going to take a couple of days. At the very least, you're looking at six hours. Fortunately, a bunch of cheats exist that can cut it down to about two hours, most of that waiting for the layers to set.

This is also the best reason to own a trifle bowl. The second-best reason is for displaying fruit salads. They can be found for very reasonable prices anywhere that sells cooking supplies. Here's Sur La Table's selections. Note the individual bowls. They are seriously cute, and allow you to serve it without smushing the layers. From a big bowl, you just have to scoop it out with a large serving spoon, which quickly creates a mess. Another serving option is to build it in wine goblets for individual servings. You could do it in a clear round bowl, but the straight sides of a trifle bowl really show the layers to advantage. You can see from the photo that I probably should have made a double recipe to fill the bowl. This recipe does not make a huge amount. The average dinner party of 8 to 10 people does not require a huge trifle bowl.

The recipes I have found call for macaroons for the cookie layer, and I get that the nuttiness adds contrast, but I prefer Nilla wafers. Graham crackers will get too soggy. As for the alcohol, yes it is added uncooked. This is an adult dessert. There isn't enough in one serving to get anybody tipsy, but it is definitely part of the flavoring. If this bothers you, cut the amount in half. You'll get the flavor without it being overpowering.

I'm going to post two versions of the method, one for from-scratch types, and one for people who have twenty other things to do before their holiday guests arrive. The proper recipe is from the Williamsburg Cookbook.

2 C Vanilla Cream Custard or one 4-serving box vanilla pudding, prepared
2 dozen ladyfingers or one 9" layer of spongecake cut into fingers (homemade or store-bought)
1 C cherry jam and 1 qt fresh cherries, pitted, or 1 can cherry pie filling, liquid drained and reserved
rind of 1 lemon, grated
1/2 C dry sherry
3 Tb brandy
1 dz macaroons, Nilla wafers, or other crunchy cookie, slightly crushed
1 C whipping cream and maraschino cherries for garnish

The Long Version

1. Prepare ladyfingers or spongecake. Store uncovered overnight to let them get a little stale. Prepare vanilla cream and store in fridge. Make jam and pit cherries.

2. Coat 1/2 of the ladyfingers/cake with 1/2 C of cherry jam; arrange evenly in bottom of trifle bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 of the lemon rind. Sprinkle with 1/4 C sherry and 1/2 of the brandy.

3. Cover with a layer of 1/2 of the cherries and 1/2 of the cookies. Allow to stand in fridge for 1 hour.

4. Pour 1/2 of the vanilla cream over the top, then repeat layers of ladyfingers with jam, lemon rind, sherry, brandy, cherries, and cookies. Chill for 1 hour, then top with rest of vanilla cream. Chill finished trifle for at least an hour.

5. To serve: decorate with whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Short Version

1. If using cake, cut into bite-sized pieces. Prepare vanilla pudding and let set (instant pudding is ok). Once cherry "goo" has drained from the pie filling, stir sherry and brandy into the cherries.

2. Coat half of ladyfingers/cake with cherry goo and arrange in bottom of trifle bowl. Sprinkle with half of lemon rind. Cover with half of the cherries and half of the cookies, and allow to chill 1/2 hour.

3. Spread half of the pudding on top, then repeat the layers of coated ladyfingers, lemon rind, cherries, and cookies. Chill 1/2 hour. Coat with rest of pudding and chill at least 1 hr.

4. Before serving, decorate with whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Serves 8-10

Difficulty rating  π or $@%!, your choice

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