Saturday, December 29, 2012

Classic English Trifle for the holidays

Much of my holidays traditions at my home are heavily influenced by my colonial English upbringing in Hong Kong and also my Aunt Kathy. I went to a English missionary school from age 3. Since my father was a single dad, my aunts were very involved with me when I was growing up, especially my father's youngest sister Kathy. I used to go over to her house after school, we would have tea with my English Uncle and she would help me with my homework till my father picked me up after work. We also used to cook together. We used to experiment with both traditional Chinese as well as English recipes. We had our shares of great success and a good laugh at those "not quite right".

Trifle is one of those dessert that I make during the holidays. Actually I would not call this cooking, rather an assembling. This is one of the first thing I learned to make at Home Ed class in school. (I went to an all girls' school, we were supposed to know how to cook and sew back in those days).
I made some modification through the years as I moved around. It looks grand and easily feed a crowd, great for Christmas and New Year Party.

This is one dessert that you do need a nice glass bowl, I have a couple trifle bowls. It is worth making that little investment. In this recipe, you will find that I am using a traditional English custard powder, just to keep to the tradition. I do make trifle dessert through the year, I would make a light custard from scratch in the summer with berries and at times, a Hawaiian inspired version with a coconut milk custard, fresh mango and lilikoi butter.

As with the ingredient amount, it will vary with the size of you bowl that you use. If you don't have a trifle bowl, try a nice glass 3Qt bowl. A tradition trifle is usually 3 layers: cake, fruit and custard, topped with cream. If you have a deep bowl, build a 2nd layer and you will need more cake, split the pears and custard between the layers. You can also make small individual serving, by using 1 thin layer cake, 2 pear halve and top with custard! Happy Holidays!

Classic English Trifle

1/4 of a 11x9" yellow cake or other cake of your choice, you can also use 1/2 package of lady fingers.
1/2 jar seedless raspberry jam
3 cans 15oz pear halves in light syrup, well drained
4-5 table sherry or grape juice (for a non-alcoholic version)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp Bird's custard powder
2 cups 2% milk
1 pt heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confection sugar
1 tsp vanilla 
Slice the cake in 1/2"x1.5" slices. the cake slices will depend on the size of your bowl. Line the bottom of the bowl with cake. Spread 3/4 of the jam on the cake. I would deliberately let some jam show on the side of the bowl to add colors.
Drizzle with sherry or grape juice. Let the cake soak in the liquid. Set a side
 Layer the pear halves on the cake base. Arranging the pears from the outside in, so that you see the pear layer
In a large bowl, mix custard powder with 3-4 tbsp of cold milk till it form a smooth paste. Side ahead 
 In a med size saucepan, heat the reminding milk with sugar, till hot. 
Add the hot milk and sugar mix to the custard paste, keep stirring to combine. 
Return the custard mixture to the pan and cook over low heat till thicken, about 10-15 min. Stir constantly. The custard should coat the back of the spoon
Finally fold in vanilla
 Pour the custard over the pears and cover, you do not want the custard to get too cold, it will form a "skin" on top.
Cover with a plastic wrap. Press the plastic wrap against the custard to avoid the "skin" to form
Chill the fridge for a couple hours or overnight. Spread whipped cream on top. Pipe some around the rim and decorate with the remaining jam to add the festive touch

Serve 10-12


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