Thursday, 15 January 2015

Sherry Trifle

Well… trifle is one of those dishes that people really seem to have strong opinions about. For some, it MUST contain jelly, whilst others see this as a travesty. Some people like it with instant, mass-produced ‘custard’ whilst others like it with a real egg custard. I think that the custard of preference for each individual is very much based on whatever you had and became familiar with as you were growing up. For me a ‘proper’ trifle is the sherry- laced version that my grandmother used to make and serve after Christmas dinner and for other celebratory meals.
I have never had particularly strong opinions about whether a trifle should or should not contain jelly and I like trifles with and without jelly. The one thing that I am adamant about is that a trifle must contain real custard, made from scratch with milk/cream and eggs.
My grandmother’s trifle was a sweet confection containing sponge cake layers sandwiched together with strawberry jam (but I always use raspberry jam/conserve because I prefer it) and then soak these in a medium-dry sherry. She used to line the bowl with boudoir biscuits – sugary dry sponge biscuits - which looked so decorative standing side-by-side with almost military rigidity around the edge of her trifle bowl. On top of the sponge layers she would dollop thick homemade custard and once this had set, she would top everything off with softly whipped cream and a scattering of toasted flaked almonds. You will note that no jelly was ever included because; unlike me, my grandmother had VERY strong opinions on this issue. In essence this is a very simple dish, but one that is so comforting and delicious to eat and, in truth, it is so much more than the sum of its parts.
This trifle is a dolled-up version of the one that my grandmother used to make. Rather than use shop-bought sponge cake, I made my own and rolled it into a swiss-roll from which I cut slices to decorate the edge of the bowl.  I have always liked the dry crunch of boudoir biscuits and I think that you definitely need something with a bit of a crunchy texture because otherwise everything becomes a bit ‘gloopy’… so I roughly broke up some boudoirs and scattered them around the sherry soaked sponge cake in the centre of the trifle. Even though my grandmother rarely used fresh fruit in her trifle, I like to, so here I have included some fresh raspberries, but you could use frozen ones just as well. On top of this goes homemade custard and softly whipped cream. I finished it off with some toasted almonds and a few cape gooseberries, because I actually like their taste and because they just look so exotically beautiful.
This trifle looks so much more complicated than it is, in reality, to make. The thing about trifles is that they are whatever you want them to be and using the basic template of sponge cake, custard, cream (and jelly if you so wish) you can create whatever you like using different alcohol in place of the sherry and different fruits. I’ve talked before about my love of all things kitsch and really you can’t get more kitsch, in food terms, than trifle.


4 large eggs
100g caster sugar, plus a little extra for rolling
100g self-raising flour
150g raspberry jam/conserve
4 large egg yolks
70g caster sugar
35g cornflour
1tsp vanilla extract
600ml milk
300ml cream
100g boudoir biscuits (or amaretti) broken into large chunks
200ml – 250ml medium dry sherry
125g raspberries, fresh or frozen
To finish:
250ml whipping cream
25g flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan
6-8 cape gooseberries


1. Preheat the oven to 220C/Fan Oven 200C/Gas Mark 7. Line a large (approximately 30cm x 23cm) baking tray/swiss-roll tin with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, whisk together for 5-7 minutes on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy and has increased in volume.
3. Sift the flour into the eggs and using a large metal spoon fold in gently until the flour is fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and give it a gentle shake so that the mixture is evenly distributed. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until the sponge is a light golden brown and beginning to shrink bake from the sides of the tin.
4. Lay a sheet of baking parchment on your work surface (this should be slightly larger all way around than the sponge). Lightly sprinkle a little caster sugar onto this sheet of parchment.
5. Turn the sponge out onto the sheet of parchment and carefully peel of the paper used to line the tray.
6. Allow the sponge to cool slightly and then spread with the raspberry jam going to within 1cm of the edge of the sponge. Start rolling the sponge up tightly along its long edge to create a 30cm long sponge cylinder encasing the jam.
7. Cut into slices about 2cms thick and use these to line the trifle bowl, pressing the cut side against the edge of the bowl. Pile the remaining slices into the middle of the bowl along with the boudoir biscuits/amaretti.  Pour the sherry over the sponge and set aside to give it a chance to soak in.
8. Place the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour into a medium sized mixing bowl and using a small whisk, mix together until fully combined. Add the vanilla extract and mix this through.
9. Separately put the milk and cream into a medium saucepan over a moderate heat and bring almost up to boiling point and then remove. Gradually whisk the milk into the egg mixture, stirring all the time. Return all the mixture to the saucepan and place over a gentle heat and stir continuously until the mixture thickens and just starts to bubble. Take off the heat and pour the custard into a clean bowl. Cover the surface of the custard directly with cling film and allow to cool.
To finish:
10. Sprinkle the raspberries over the sherry soaked sponge and pour over the cooled custard. Place into the fridge to set for about 30 minutes and just before serving, whisk the cream into soft peaks and spread on top of the custard. Top with the toasted flaked almonds and finish off by decorating with the cape gooseberries.

Serves 10-12.



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