Traditional English Trifle

I made this decadent dessert for a recent Christmas party. It’s a very grown up desert with the wonderful advantage that it can be made well ahead of time.

A Pat & A Pinch - Traditional English Trifle

The recipe is from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. Although it calls for a Sara Lee Pound cake, which can be found in the freezer section of almost and U.S. grocery store, any fine crumbed pound cake will do the job. I used the pound cake recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible and made my own.

I baked the pound cake several days before assembly and prepared the custard the day before assembly. The trifle was assembled the day before the party and refrigerated.

1 Sara Lee pound cake (10 3/4 ounces), thawed or any fine crumbed pound cake

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

1 cup coarsely broken Amaretti cookies

1 cup Marsala wine

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups heavy or whipping cream, cold

3 tablespoons icing or confectioners’  sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup toasted almonds

fresh strawberries or raspberries for garnish

A Pat & A Pinch - Traditional English Trifle

Cut the cake into 1/4 inch slices and spread flat on a surface to dry for several hours. Spread a thin layer of the jam on half of the slices. Top with the remaining cake slices. Cut the cake sandwiches into 1 inch cubes and scatter in a large glass bowl.

Add the amaretti crumbs and toss together. Sprinkle with the Marsala and toss to coat.

Whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks together in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the milk in a thin, steady stream. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened to the consistency of a custard. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap directly touching the custard, so as to avoid the custard developing a skin. Let cool completely. Refrigerate until assembly.

Pour the cooled custard over the cake mixture.

Whip the cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Beat in the icing sugar and almond extract continuing to beat until stiff. Spoon or pipe  the cream mixture over the trifle. Arrange the fresh berries to your liking, and scatter the almonds over the top. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to serve, up to 3 days.

Crazy Crunch

A Pat & A Pinch - Crazy Crunch

I love the holiday season! This is a Christmas tradition in our family.  It comes via my Aunt Robin who got it from her sister. It is an indulgence – there is absolutely nothing healthy about it but it is so delicious and incredibly difficult to resist. I only make it once a year, so that’s ok isn’t it?

It is best if you have two people to make it as the caramel begins to set almost immediately when removed from the heat, thus requiring fast action to get the popcorn coated. However, if you can’t find a helper it can be accomplished without assistance.  Rubber gloves are a good idea when working with the hot caramel and I wouldn’t make this without the benefit of a candy thermometer.

After years of making one batch with margarine and another with butter, the tasters always slightly favour the margarine batch. As a rule, I avoid margarine, but I make an exception for this recipe. Either is delicious and,if I’d never had the margarine version, I’d be perfectly content with the butter version.

The recipe also calls for a mix of almonds and pecans. I prefer all pecans, so I go with that.  It could also be made without nuts.

Crazy Crunch

2 quarts popped popcorn (not the microwave type!)

1/2 cup pecan halves

1/2 cup almonds

1 cup sugar

1 cup margarine (yes really) or butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup (Karo syrup in the U.S.)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 piece of parchment paper, crumpled into a loose ball.

For a single batch without assistance:

Spread the popcorn across one or two large roasting pans or cookie sheets with sides keeping the corn close enough together to minimize gaps. If you have a pan large enough to accommodate the popped corn in a single layer, it is easier to work with than two pans. Sprinkle the nuts across the top. Place two wooden spoons or silicone spatulas and the crumpled piece of parchment beside the pan(s).

Melt the margarine or butter in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan. Add the syrup, vanilla and sugar stirring constantly and bringing to a boil. Continue boiling, stirring regularly for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture reaches 285-290 degrees F on a candy thermometer, putting on the rubber gloves when the temperature reaches about 245 degrees F. Remove from the heat.

Quickly drizzle the caramel in a stream across the corn mixture. Toss the corn with the spatulas or wooden spoons to coat the corn mixture as thoroughly as possible. Use the parchment ball to flatten out the mixture.  Allow to cool. When cool, break into pieces storing in an air tight container.

A double batch when I have help:

When I have help, I make a double batch using a larger saucepan to make the caramel and a very large stainless steel bowl filled with the popped corn and nuts to mix in the hot caramel.  As I drizzle the hot caramel over the corn mixture, my assistant (wearing the rubber gloves) vigorously tosses the corn mixture and hot caramel, being careful to avoid any contact with the stream of hot caramel. The still hot coated mixture is then turned into two roasting pans, tossed a little more, and flattened with crumpled parchment before being allowed to cool.

A Pat & A Pinch - Crazy Crunch