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English Trifle with Pears and Dried Cherries

English Trifle with Pears and Dried Cherries
A fortified wine that originated in Spain, sherry is produced in a variety of styles. Fino and manzanilla are dry, pale and crisp and are served chilled. Amontillado is a lightly sweet, caramel-colored sherry, while oloroso, or cream sherry, is darker in color and sweeter in taste; it is traditionally served at room temperature. Many of the firms in the sherry and port trade are British, so both these spirits are classic ingredients in English dishes, including trifle¿sponge cake soaked in sherry and topped with fruit and custard sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 3 Bartlett pears
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups raspberry jam
  • 1⁄4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (see Note)
  • 1 sponge cake (see related recipe at left) or
     one 9-by-5-inch bakery pound cake
  • 1 cup sherry (preferably amontillado or oloroso),
      Madeira or sweet Marsala
  • 2 recipes crème anglaise (see related recipe
     at left)

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1⁄2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Put the dried cherries in a small bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to plump the cherries. Drain. Reserve about 2 Tbs. of the cherries for garnish.

Peel the pears, halve lengthwise, core and cut the pears crosswise into thin slices. Put them in a bowl, add the lemon juice and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the jam with the warm water and stir. Reserve about 2 Tbs. of the almonds for garnish.

Cut the sponge cake into slices 1/2 inch thick. In a 2 1/2-quart trifle dish or deep glass bowl, make a layer of one-third of the cake slices, cutting and fitting them together as necessary. Sprinkle the cake layer with one-third of the sherry. Dollop one-third of the jam mixture over the cake. Sprinkle the jam with one-third each of the pears, cherries and almonds, in that order. Pour 1 1¿3 cups of the crème anglaise over the top. Repeat to make 2 more layers.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the trifle for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

About 30 minutes before serving, make the whipped cream: In a deep bowl, using a balloon whisk, beat the cream, confectioners¿ sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon the cream over the top of the trifle. Garnish with the reserved cherries and almonds. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. To serve, scoop out large spoonfuls, going down to the bottom layer. Serves 10 to 12.

Note: To toast the slivered almonds, in a small, dry fry pan over medium-low heat, stir the almonds frequently until they are fragrant and begin to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Christmas, by Carolyn Miller (Simon & Schuster, 2003).