Strawberry and Cream Trifle

When a gorgeous slice of cake appears in front of you, tall and gloriously layered, which part is your fork most attracted to?

Much like preferring certain parts of a chicken over others – I’m a thigh girl, in case you’re wondering – I’ve noticed how people like to eat their cake. Some people avoid extraneous fluff, frosting or filling and zero in on their prize: the cake; while others are happy to precisely scrape away and devour only the layers of icing, leaving naked, golden cake all alone on the plate, like Beyoncè after she’s stripped off a pink satin dress at the end of the day.

It must be a trait we carry throughout our lifetime, because it’s not only children who seem to have this compulsion. I know a few adults who would gladly mutilate a harmless cake just to get at the neon-colored icing.

I place myself in the democratic camp; I get some of everything when I dig in to dessert; a bite of moist cake, the crush of sweet juicy fruit, and a lashing of vanilla-scented cream. That’s why I think trifle is such a perfect dessert: It’s cake deconstructed and put back together.

For this trifle recipe, I baked a sponge cake from pastry chef David Lebovitz’s new book Ready for Dessert. It’s super-easy to make and even better made ahead of time – like the day before assembling the trifle. But to keep things extra-simple, a store-bought angel food cake would work just as well.

And – ssshhh – maybe even better, since you can take credit for serving a simply stunning dessert for Mother’s Day (or any day) without having to turn on the oven.

Strawberry and Cream Trifle

Serving Size: serves 4

Ingredients

For sponge cake:

5 large eggs, separated

¼ cup cold water

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups cake flour, sifted

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Grated zest of a lemon or orange

For Trifle:

¾ cup sugar

2 cups crème fraiche

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 vanilla bean, split with sharp knife and seeds scraped

Juice from one large lemon or orange

4 cups mixed hulled and sliced strawberries and raspberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom of a rimmed 12 x 18-inch baking sheet or a 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 inches high. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg yolks and water on high speed for 1 minute. Decrease speed to medium, add sugar and vanilla then increase speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture forms a ribbon when the whip is lifted, about 5 minutes. Scrape the batter into another bowl, and wash the bowl and beater.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the beaten yolks. Gently fold in the flour until completely incorporated.
  4. Whip the egg whites and zest in the clean bowl on high speed until they form stiff peaks. Fold one-third of the whites into the yolk batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and the center springs back when gently pressed, 15 – 18 minutes in a baking sheet or 40 – 45 minutes in a springform cake pan.
  6. Let cake cool in the pan. Run a knife around the sides of cake to loosen and invert onto a cutting board.
  7. Whisk ½ cup sugar with the crème fraiche, cream and vanilla bean seeds in a medium bowl until smooth.
  8. In another bowl, whisk the remaining ¼ cup sugar with lemon or orange juice to dissolve. Gently stir in the berries. Let the berries sit 10 minutes.
  9. To assemble the trifle, cut the cake into circles to fit into 4 wide, shallow glasses. You can use ramekins, dessert bowls or go all out and use a special trifle bowl if you have one, just cut the cake into pieces to fit.
  10. Layer cake, berries and cream into whatever serving container you’re using, ending with berries on top. Refrigerate 30 minutes to one hour before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/05/strawberry-and-cream-trifle/

popovers with black pepper, chives & parmesan

FamilyStyle Food

Last week I attended a conference for food professionals {IACP} in Portland, one of my very favorite cities for eating and living well. What a great experience – with so many people representing a huge array of expertise in the field of food and cooking, the exchange of information is amazing and energizing; I love that we all have something to learn from each other.

I found myself sitting next to pastry chef Cindy Mushet during one session. Cindy is the author of  the award-winning The Art & Soul of Baking, a big door stopper of a book. I have to admit it’s not one I invite into bed with me since it must weigh in at more than five pounds, way too unwieldy to perch on my teetering pile on the bedside table.

But the other day I needed to get busy baking something, so I flipped through it; there’s lots to learn in there, the book is full of beautiful photos and basic techniques as well as some advanced recipe variations for more adventerous bakers.

I wasn’t feeling like spending the whole day baking, so when I saw a recipe for Parmesan Herb popovers I was all in. Popovers are the best at delivering bang for the buck; minimal ingredients, time and technique but big on the “wow” factor.

FamilyStyle Food

They are also delicious. Warm out of the oven and popped into your mouth they have a crisp exterior and a soft, almost creamy interior. Popovers are commonly sweet, but I like the idea of savory ones to serve instead of  the usual rolls or bread for a dinner party. Popovers are so easy to make at the last minute, and you can flavor them however you like.

I took Cindy’s basic recipe and tweaked it by adding freshly cracked black pepper, lemon zest and some of the chives that are blooming in big clumps in my yard right now.

While my popovers rose impressively, I noticed when I cut one open that they weren’t hollow inside as popovers typically are, but had a more substance. I might have to make another batch to practice my baking science, since I’m not sure why that happened. Did I use too much flour? Don’t know, but they were still light and delicious to eat.

Popovers with Black Pepper, Chives & Parmesan

Yield: 12 popovers

Ingredients

2 cups milk

4 eggs

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 scant cups flour (10 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat a 12-cup popover pan or muffin tin with melted butter or oil.
  3. Whisk together the milk, eggs and butter in a large bowl until blended. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Place the empty pan in the oven to heat for 7 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and fill the cups evenly with the batter (this is less messy if you transfer batter to a 4 cup liquid measuring cup).
  5. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until the popovers are deep golden brown, 15 - 18 more minutes.
  6. Cool briefly in the pan before removing and serving. You can reheat cooled popovers in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/05/popovers-with-black-pepper-chives-parmesan/

Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

We spent spring break at home last week, and I have to admit I dreaded it a tiny bit. My kids usually have a gang of friends in our neighborhood to hang with, but it seemed like they all flew south for a taste of warm sun, leaving my brood in a state of social withdrawal. I imagined long rainy days stuck inside while their boredom escalated to deafening levels.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law L flew in from Portland to entertain and play with us – happiness all around!

I came home one afternoon to find her in the kitchen with the kids, applying lashings of creamy frosting to the tops of just-baked little chocolate cupcakes, something I know an attentive Mrs. Cleaver might attempt with her family, but I never seem to. That must be what aunts are for, I think.

The cupcake recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s fantastic book Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie is a perfectionist, and her recipes are crafted to a precise “T”. Perfect recipe instructions are especially important in baking recipes; those chemical reactions that happen in the oven rely on exact measurements of ingredients, time and temperature.

These cupcakes are no exception; they turned out just as promised – dark, moist, not too sweet – glazed with a shiny, bakery-like chocolate frosting. L sprinkled some colored candy sprinkles on the cupcakes, reserving a few with a sprinkle of sea salt, a just reward for the adults in need of a chocolate fix.