Monday, September 26, 2011

Edible Surprises

Song pairing:
Anticipation by Carly Simon
This song was chosen based on my favorite compliment of the evening - "It's just like Christmas morning!  Each layer is like opening another gift - and you can't wait to see what's waiting in each one!"

I love it when experiments and hunches are both successful and correct!  As in this lovely Pineapple Orange Trifle.  It's a journey through flavors and textures - the pineapple cloud on the top, which gives way to a melt-in-your-mouth burst of ginger, which leads to the tunnel of vanilla orange creamy pudding, which rests on top of the cubes of moist cake with orangey bits, which ends with a triumphant shout of berry cherry jelly.  This all happens in the space of about four inches, mind you.

I recently was asked to help feed 250 women a lovely and elegant dessert type of refreshment.  I racked my brain for options - my mind taking the usual route of elimination.  Come along and I'll share what a journey like this looks like inside my brain.

First stop - something chocolate.  Hmmm.  Maybe not this time.  The budget was pretty limited.  Every time I let my mind wander around in the chocolate sphere too long I always ended up somewhere either too  expensive or too involved.  

Second stop - heavily influenced by recent food shows on television.  I thought that creating pavlovas would fit the requirements neatly.  Elegant? Yes!  Lovely?  Indeed!  Topped with cream and a simple fruit medley, they would be wonderful!  The meringues would store well and I could make them over a period of days.  But I was probably the only one on the committee that would feel comfortable making them so did I really want to pipe out and bake 250 pavlovas?  Probably not.  So I continued to brainstorm.

My third brain stop - a sudden memory of a cake I'd had earlier in the summer that featured pineapple and orange flavors.  It was beautiful and light and airy.  It involved using mixes, which I have tried to avoid since learning so much in culinary school.  I'm more than capable of baking a beautiful cake and cooking a sumptuous pudding from scratch, and prefer to do so.  However, looking at the scope of the project, I had to swallow my pride and look at logistics.  By using mixes I could involve more people as most would probably balk at being asked to make such things from scratch.  Another bonus - many of the components could be made ahead of time and frozen.  The more time I spent considering this option, the more it seemed to make sense.  I would deconstruct the cake in a way to make it seem more special in its presentation.

The ultimate destination of my mind's wanderings ended up turning the lovely cake into a trifle - a sort of parfait of the original textures and flavors - but with added elements I thought would bring both additional eye appeal and flavors.  The original cake had mostly pale yellow hues.  I wanted something with a little more pop to it.  All I had to do was look around my kitchen to know that the color I would be looking for was something red!  I love that combo - yellow/gold hues with pops of reds.  It's happy - in both home decor AND food!  My favorite red food at the moment, raspberries, would work  perfectly.

I also thought it needed a surprise layer.  Something crunchy?  An unexpected flavor?  A cookie crumble?  Would that be a vanilla wafer?  A shortbread cookie?  What about a gingersnap?  Do others like gingersnaps as much as I do?  The ginger would definitely be a surprise - both in flavor and texture but it would also marry well with all the other flavors in the trifle.  I spent about two days agonizing over whether or not people would embrace the ginger love.  I did a taste test to settle the dispute.  DI-VINE!  I had to do it.  Had to!  I was happy to find that it ended up being the layer that received the most attention - the positive kind!  Yay for hunches!

Enjoy this with forced patience and anticipation.  Serve it to guests and listen as they "ooh" and "ahhh" over each new layer.  Close your eyes and picture Christmas mornings - and thank yourself for the perfect gifts!  And so as not to be "keeping you wa-ay-ay-ay-ting" ~ here's the recipe!

Pineapple Orange Trifle
Bottom layer:
Red Raspberry jam - figure 2 T. per trifle
Cherry Juice concentrate
       Heat jam in a saucepan on stove top over medium heat - just until it starts getting liquid.  If it has seeds, you might want to pass it through a sieve to get rid of them - I did!  Add a little cherry juice concentrate to help the mixture stay loose after it's cooled - I used about 1/4 c. concentrate per 2 lb. tub of preserves.  Go ahead and make up a big batch and keep on hand in a squeeze bottle for ice cream or savory sauces!

Second layer:
Yellow cake mix
4 egg whites
1/2 c. applesauce
1-11oz. can mandarin oranges, NOT drained
      Mix together in a mixing bowl for two minutes.  Spray a cookie sheet and fill with the batter, spreading it evenly.  The cake doesn't rise much so don't worry about it spilling over the sides.  Bake in 350 oven and start to check after 15 minutes.  It's done when it springs back from your touch and when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool.  Wrap and freeze.  After it's frozen, remove, unwrap, and, using a paring knife, cut the cake into 1/2 - 3/4 inch cubes.  Use a spatula to loosen the cubes and toss around a bit.  Let sit out to dry the cubes a bit - 4 hours.  Scoop cubes into gallon sized freezer bags if not using right away or use what you need and freeze the rest.

Third layer:
1 package vanilla pudding, the cooking kind, NOT instant
3 c. milk, I used skim milk - not a problem
      Make according to package directions.  PLEASE - resist the urge to use instant pudding for this layer.  Instant pudding has a different flavor profile - more high notes.  The cooking mix has more mellow notes which serve to balance the sweetness in the overall dish.  Trust me.  
      To use the left over egg yolks from the cake layer, I made an orange curd and mixed it in with the completed and cooled vanilla pudding.  You can reach the same effect by simply adding some orange zest to the pudding.  It adds interest.  But plain is fine, too!

Fourth layer:
Thin gingersnaps, such as Anna's Ginger Thins - figure 2 thins per trifle
      The easiest layer!  I found mine at Costco.  Hope you can as well!  If not, I found them on Amazon, too.

Top layer:
1-8 oz. tub frozen whipped topping, such as Cool Whip - can use reduced fat as well
1-20 oz. can crushed pineapple, NOT drained
1-1 oz. box of sugar-free, fat-free vanilla pudding - or use regular instant pudding
      Mix all together in a large bowl.  I put mine in a pastry bag without a tip and cut a 1" opening and piped it around and around, working from outside to inside.  

These can be made and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmm! Looking forward to trying this... You know I always love "the crunchy bits"!