By Liz Scott
It’s almost time. Red and green M&M’s will be lining the shelves, craft stores will starting spinning Jingle Bell Rockradio and literally everything will smell like cinnamon. Yep, it’s almost The Holiday Season. Commercially, November and December are the biggest time for specialty foods and goodies and more often than not, “festive” food is synonymous with “booze-laden.” Brandy soaked cakes and plum puddings, mulled wine and spiked chocolates are just a few of the places that alcohol will be lurking.
How do we avoid a “white-knuckle” Christmas when the odds are so heavily stacked against us? In the November/December 2012 issue of Renew, I give you the best tricks for keeping it merry, bright and booze-free whether you are a holiday guest or host.
And to get the festivities kicked off just right, here’s a special holiday-ready recipe from my book, Sober Celebrations: Lively Entertaining without the Spirits.
Sometimes called the “tipsy cake,” traditional trifles are usually loaded with booze. Sherry is most common, but often fruit-flavored liqueurs are used to complement the fruit that is used in the layering of cake, custard, and whipped cream. The alcohol is applied by method known as “punching” – drizzling or lightly dabbing with a pastry brush to moisten the cake. In this alcohol-free recipe, we’ll be using a piquant syrup that is derived from the raspberries themselves to “punch” the cake. And to add extra intrigue in lieu of alcohol, the custard will be flavored with a hint of bay leaf and lemon.
A trifle dish is a straight-sided glass dessert bowl set on a pedestal. It is surprisingly inexpensive to buy and is usually 8 inches wide and tall, holding between 3 and 4 quarts by volume. Punch bowls or other types of tapered glass bowls will also work well: One with a 9- to 10-inch diameter is a good choice as long as you are able to see the beautiful layering of this dessert from all sides.
1. To prepare the custard, heat the milk, bay leaf, and lemon rind in a medium-size stainless steel pot tojust under a boil. Set aside for 5 minutes, then remove the bay leaf and lemon with a slotted spoon.
2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth and ribbony, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in half the hot milk, then pour the egg mixture back into the pot and bring to a very low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens. Immediately pour through a strainer into a clean mixing bowl and stir in the vanilla. Cover the surface with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming), poke a few holes in the wrap to vent, and allow to cool to room temperature.
3. In a small bowl, combine all but 1 tablespoon of the raspberry syrup with the vinegar. In another small bowl, whisk together the remaining syrup and the raspberry preserves.
4. Begin assembling the trifle by placing the cake slices, cut to fit, on the bottom of the bowl. Brush lightly with the syrup-vinegar mixture and spread 1/3of the preserve mixture over the slices. Sprinkle 1/3of the defrosted raspberries over and pour 1/3of the custard on top. Be sure each addition is touching the sides of the trifle bowl so that the layers are visible and attractive. Repeat layering twice more, ending with the custard. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight.
5. To finish the trifle, whip the cream with the confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. Spread evenly over the custard, and sprinkle the almonds and fresh raspberries decoratively on top. Return to refrigerator; chill until ready to serve.
Serves 6 to 8
Liz Scott is the award-winning author of The Sober Kitchen.