Gingerbread trifle


RECIPE: It might not look pretty, but it tasted amazing! I discovered my husband liked trifle, so I decided to make a version full of Christmas flavours for my family Christmas dinner. With a gingerbread flavour base I looked at the normal components of a trifle and chose my own flavours. I started with a ginger sponge, added gingerbread marshmallow as an alternative to jelly after seeing a blog by Jess from Cooking is my Sport, always knew I was going to add custard and gingerbread men, decided early on that a maple flavoured whipped cream would work, and salted caramel was an easy add. I dithered over the fruit because pears were a natural fit for the flavours but aren’t in season, but my favourite alternative of apricots was an unknown fit with caramel and maple (I’ll experiment another time). The only things I might change in future would be to make a thicker custard using cream instead of milk or adding cornflour, and I would add an additional crunch – maybe some pecan praline scattered over the top. The only leftovers I had after assembling the trifle was the marshmallow, which can be frozen according to Christa Titus if you don’t eat it first, and the salted caramel, which keeps well!

The best thing about this trifle, is that each component only takes a short time (15-30 minutes) to prepare, and a lot of them can be prepared in advance making it a good dessert to fit in between other activities.

COMPONENTS: Three days before. I made up a half quantity of the gingerbread dough, wrapped it and put it in the fridge to bake another day. The caramel keeps the longest so I made that next. Ah, I love making caramel :S I had everything measured out before I started so I could be ready to stop the sugar cooking as soon as I needed to. My hotplates have uneven heat, and after safely getting through the dissolving phase the sugar started to go a lovely amber colour in one corner only. I nervously watched the sugar and suspected it was about to crystallise on the cooler side of the pan, so with only half my sugar amber-coloured, I added the butter and cream. This meant that I had a lighter, sweeter caramel that tasted fine but I would have loved to push it further to get the richer darker caramel. I put it in a glass jam jar and kept it out of the fridge the first two days, then after using it in the trifle, put the remainder in the fridge. If you want it to be a runny consistency, simply leave it out at room temperature, or give it a quick turn in the microwave.

Two days before. Next I made the marshmallows because these keep for about five days in a sealed container. I prepared the gelatin to soften, then heated the wet ingredients. They didn’t take that long to get to the desired temperature, so make sure your gelatin is ready before you start. I was worried the gelatin wasn’t ready for the hot mix because it hadn’t dissolved. This isn’t important though – the aim was to soften only. I very slowly drizzled the hot mix in because I didn’t want the gelatin to clump. It mixed well and after a while it fluffed up as promised. I set it overnight. When cutting, I found it easier to put confectioner’s sugar on my knife as well as on my bench, although it wasn’t too difficult to cut without it. I reserved a block, which I wrapped in plastic and foil and froze, and the rest was tossed in sugar and put in an airtight container.

One day before. I rolled, cut and baked the gingerbread men from the dough that had been stored in the fridge, while I prepared the cake. The cake was a very easy bake and turned out perfectly. I didn’t get a lot of fizzing when I added the soda, but it still rose well. I kept the cake in one piece to cut just before serving.

The morning of the dinner, I made the creme anglaise, which I very carefully stirred continuously and pulled off the stove when it came to temperature. After an initial cool, this was popped in the fridge. That afternoon, I made the poached pears, using some leftover syrup I had frozen after making my Apricot Danishes. To cool them quickly I put them in a big shallow container and they went into the freezer for about an hour. The pears could have been made up to two days earlier. Meanwhile I made the maple whipped cream and that was stored in a separate container as well.

ASSEMBLY: I had everything in containers and assembled it at my sister’s house. The cake cubes were placed first, then the poached pears over that – pouring any spare juice over the cake. Next I poured on the custard, sprinkled around some gingerbread marshmallows and drizzled this with some of the salted caramel. The cream went on top with more caramel and finally the gingerbread men went for a swim (some didn’t seem too happy about it).

IMPRESSION: It’s very hard to make trifle look good in a photo – hats off to those who do! While it might look a bit messy, it tasted fabulous. The marshmallow may seem a bit unusual, but it was a perfect fit. There were no complaints from anyone in the family. You could also just serve this as the separate parts and allow people to make their own.

Recipe sources shown on recipes below. Serves 8.
The trifle was served with one gingerbread man per bowl. I used the gingerbread recipe from Bourke Street Bakery, used for my gingerbread house.

Salted caramel sauce by Gemma Stafford
225g (8 oz) granulated sugar
57g (2oz) water, enough to just cover the sugar
85g (3oz) unsalted butter, cut up into 6 pieces
115g (4oz) heavy cream (35%)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat And stir until the sugar has dissolved, without boiling the mixture. Once all the sugar has dissolved bring the mix to a boil and simmer on medium heat. Do not stir the caramel once it comes to a simmer or it can crack. Cook steadily until you reach a rich amber-colored caramel, roughly 6-7 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Once you have a rich caramel immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Next, very slowly, drizzle in the heavy cream. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Allow to cool down before using.

Gingerbread marshmallows by Better Crocker Kitchens
Butter for greasing
40g (1.5 oz) confectioner’s sugar
23g (0.8 oz) unflavoured gelatin
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
120ml (4fl oz) cold water
300g (10.5 oz) granulated sugar
240ml (8fl oz) glucose/corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
60ml (2fl oz) water
60ml (2fl oz) molasses

Generously grease bottom and sides of 11×7-inch glass baking dish with butter; sprinkle with 1 spoon of the powdered sugar. In bowl of stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin, ginger, cinnamon and cloves over cold water to soften; set aside.

In a two litre saucepan, heat granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, water and the molasses over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Heat to boiling; cook without stirring about 30 minutes to 115C on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water forms a ball that holds its shape but is pliable; remove from heat.

Slowly pour syrup into softened gelatin while beating on low speed. Increase speed to high; beat 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is white and has almost tripled in volume. Pour into baking dish, patting lightly with wet hands. Let stand uncovered at least 8 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle cutting board with about 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Place remaining powdered sugar in small bowl. To remove marshmallow mixture, loosen sides from dish and gently lift in one piece onto cutting board. Using sharp knife greased with butter, cut into squares. Dip bottom and sides of each marshmallow in bowl of powdered sugar; shake off excess sugar but leave a light coating. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.

Poached pears from Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam and David McGuinness
1/4 vanilla bean
300g caster sugar
1/2 lemon, sliced
500ml water
3 Buerre bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into slices

Split the vanilla bean lengthways and scrape the seeds into a saucepan, adding the sugar, lemon and water. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Add the pears to the simmering syrup and cook for about 20 minutes, or until they are easily pieced with a skewer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Store in the syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.

Ginger sponge cake from Anneka Manning SBS Food
150g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g brown sugar
80g butter, cubed
125ml golden syrup
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, at room temperature, lightly whisked

Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced). Grease a 16 x 26cm slice tin with melted butter and line the base and two long sides with one piece of non-stick baking paper, allowing it to overhang the sides. In a large bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon and sugar. Make a well in the centre. Combine the butter, golden syrup, water and fresh ginger in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the mixture is heated through. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and allow to foam. Add to the dry ingredients with the egg and stir with the wooden spoon until just combined. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of the spoon. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until cooked when tested in the centre with a skewer. Remove the ginger cake from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to stand for 5 minutes before turning the cake onto the wire rack to cool completely (this will take about 30 minutes). When cool, cut the cake into cubes.

Crème Anglaise from Patisserie by William and Suzue Curley
400ml (14fl oz) full-fat milk
100ml (3.5fl oz) whipping cream
1 vanilla bean split lengthways
120g (4.5oz) egg yolks (about 6 eggs)
100g (3.5oz) caster sugar

Prepare an ice bain-marie. Put the milk and cream in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and drop in the pod too. Bring to a simmer. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and caster sugar until a ribbon is formed and the mixture is light in colour. Pour one-third of the liquid – make sure it is not boiling – onto the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until the milk is fully incorporated.

Return the mixture to the pan of milk and place over a low heat. Stir continuously using a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens, coast the back of the spoon and reaches a temperature of 82-84C (180-183F). Take the custard off the heat and pass through a fine sieve into a bowl in the ice bain-marie to cool rapidly. Place the vanilla back into the anglaise to continue infusing as it cools.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use within two days.

Maple cinnamon whipped cream from Spruce Eats
240ml (8fl oz) heavy cream
30ml (1fl oz) maple syrup
8g (1/4 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Beat the cream on high speed until it begins to thicken and get slightly stiff. Add the maple syrup, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon to the cream. Continue whipping the cream until it forms stiff peaks.

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