This multifaceted British staple is the perfect combination of seasonal fruit and a healthy shot of alcohol.
My love affair with Trifle is new. Until recently, I thought the classic British dessert was old-fashioned — stuffy, even. Until my British partner described trifle as a dreamy, creamy and outrageously juicy treat, and admitted he felt tipsy on more than one occasion after a hearty helping. Intrigued, I decided to try Trifle again (perhaps in the literal sense).
“I really think trifle could be one of the most perfect desserts ever,” says Martha de Lacey, host of successful London supper club Muff Dining. “It has everything you could want in a pudding: so many surprises, endless variations, never the same little thing twice.”
At its simplest, a trifle consists of layers of cake or ladyfingers drenched in something tasty (usually alcohol), juicy fruit (sometimes lightly soaked in gelatin), and silky custard. Before serving, it is topped with a cloud of soft whipped cream. A trifle is an ethereal blend of smooth layers (not unlike a really good tiramisu) — juicy, creamy, and fruity — but it benefits greatly from a sprinkling of something crunchy, like toasted nuts or crushed biscuits.
One of the greatest assets of a little thing is its versatility. A trifle can be incredibly uncomplicated — mostly made with store-bought ingredients — or it can be taken to the absolute pinnacle of culinary potential. De Lacey’s ideal bite is downright extravagant, consisting of slices of orange-flavored panettone soaked in Marsala wine, rhubarb in light strawberry gelatin, lemon-scented custard, whipped cream and salted caramelized almond praline.
British food writer and author Felicity Cloake’s favorite little thing is a little thing born out of nostalgia. “I’m staying true to the version my mom made when I was a kid,” she says. “Sweet sherry-soaked boudoir biscuits (ladyfingers), canned raspberries, bird’s custard (made from instant powder) and toasted almond whipped cream. These days she uses fresh custard and fruit and it’s lovely. . . But I’ll be honest, it’s not quite the same.”
While Cloake’s favorite packaged ladyfingers — also known as savoiardi — are often the backbone of a bite, it’s also common to use slices of store-bought sponge cake, or “trifle sponge cake,” a type of genoise cake. Choosing ready-to-eat meals is not only easier, it’s also smart, as the cake or biscuit will hold plenty of delicious spirits, syrups and juices.
A little something must not be dry! Sherry is the traditional choice for keeping things moist, but you can also let seasonal fruits set the flavor profile of your bite. Tropical fruits like mango or pineapple can benefit from a shot of tequila. do you have cherries Try brandy. And consider replacing stronger alcohols with another aromatic liquid, such as B. macerated fruit juice, to achieve a tastier taste. Alcohol isn’t strictly necessary, of course, but it definitely adds to the experience. Try juice, coffee, or heavily brewed tea instead. De Lacey even recommends a splash of milk if your bite is chocolatey.
Whether macerated, preserved or cooked into a compote, fruit plays an important role in the Trifle and ensures a bright taste and valuable juices. Often, fresh or preserved fruit is suspended in a light gelatin (the British call it “jelly”), which is sometimes a controversial addition. For De Lacey jelly is a must, essential to give a little something its signature texture and ‘wibble’.
Since this dessert has multiple layers, it’s easy to assume that preparing the little things will be difficult or time-consuming. My favorite, simplest version, I combine ladyfingers, berries macerated in sweet sherry, vanilla pudding and whipped cream. The only component that requires much prep at all is the custard—my favorite part (which I wrote about custard for). TASTE GOOD at least twice before) and which should be velvety smooth and deliciously rich. The last upswing? Serve in an attractive glass bowl (a clear mixing bowl works too). After all, the vertical drama of a little thing is best admired from the side, allowing each delicious layer to speak for itself.