How to Make Trifle Without a Recipe

Orignally published on 2021-11-28 14:51:51 by

A trifle is the ultimate holiday-appropriate hodgepodge dessert, bringing together cake, custard, booze, and frequently fruit in layers of creamy, spongy, luscious, and crunchy textures that combine delightfully in each spoonful. Never the same twice, a trifle can be adapted to suit your preference, your pantry, and the scene. It’s casually enticing, with a somewhat quirky but lovable appearance, and it fits the bill at busy holiday meals because it comes together quickly, making the most of ingredients you already have on hand. Learning how to make trifle gives you the perfect opportunity to finish stubborn, tiny amounts of nuts, dried fruits, and bits of cookies or chocolate, letting you play with flavors or highlight classic combinations—and you don’t need a recipe to make your own signature version. 

Another delight of this flexible dessert: You can make as much or as little as you’d like. I’ll walk you through everything you need—and the assembly—below, but you’ll want to start with your serving vessel. For individual servings, you can use Champagne coupes, ice cream glasses, cocktail glasses, or canning jars. For the big centerpiece, any large, clear, straight-sided serving bowl will help your guests peek at all the fancy layers; skip the footed dish if you want to also use it for salad. Hop on over to Etsy for the best selection of trifle bowls: browse the old etched glass from vintage American makers like Anchor Hocking, Libbey, and Godinger—or the French Arcorac. For a little color tint, seek out listings for Depression-era glass from makers like Federal. You can figure that an eight- or nine-inch diameter bowl can probably feed between six and eight people.

Start with the base: cake, cookies, or bread

Your base is going to soak up the flavors like a sponge—and provide a textural contrast to the creamy fillings and crunchy mix-ins. You’ve got options—or you could choose more than one!

Cake: Any cake will do, but I tend to pick something neutral, such as homemade or store-bought pound cake, angel food cake, or sponge cake. But if you’re craving chocolate cake or ginger cake, go for it. You can use layers that are between half an inch and one inch, or scraps, or even crumbles.

Bread: Brioche, challah, or even panettone are all lovely in a trifle. Stale or older bread will benefit from toasting.

Meringue: Store-bought or homemade meringues make a great gluten-free option—they have a satisfying marshmallowy texture .

Cookies: If you choose to use cookies instead, your trifle will be a bit more like an icebox cake—slightly more dense in texture and less bouncy than bread or cake. Cookies make an excellent layering accent, but a lighter trifle will benefit from the added sponginess of cake or bread, so consider combining them. A layered dessert like this is a nice way to use up the end of a few bags or boxes of cookies—homemade or store-bought. Any wafer type will be nice—including vanilla wafers or chocolate thins, gingersnaps, gingerbread, or biscotti. Avoid chewy baked cookies, which can get lost in the shuffle, or shortbread cookies, which don’t hold up well texturally. If your cookies are stale, toast them on a sheet pan in the oven at 250 degrees for about 10 minutes and let cool before layering.

Prepare the filling

This is your luscious layer, which adds richness and creaminess to the mix. You can use lemon curd (or other fruit curds), pastry cream, pudding, whipped cream, tangy dairy (like sour cream, creme fraiche, yogurt) or a combination.

Gather your mix-ins

Here’s where you add pops of extra moisture, flavor, and texture. Try fresh fruit, roasted or poached fruit, dried fruit that’s been rehydrated in your favorite spirits or tea, or even dollops of jam. Use a combination for the ultimate layered experience. For crunch, forage in your kitchen to rustle up some roasted, salted nuts or seeds. Cacao nibs, coconut, cereals, baked streusel topping, granola clusters, or even bits of candy—such as chopped or shaved chocolate, toffee, or peppermint candy canes—can also bring the crunch.

A few favorite flavor combinations

For the fruit, you can use dried, fresh, jam, or a mix depending on what’s available.

Orignally published on 2021-11-28 14:51:51 by

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