Sharing our love of baking, cooking and edible gardening

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mixed Berry Tart (vegan)

This tart tastes as great as it looks! 
An astounding 93% of gardeners who grow fruits or vegetables grow tomatoes. Tomatoes are great- you ask anyone who grows them about how their garden "did this summer," and you get the tomato saga ; great, not so great, a weird disease, which varieties, whether they should or should not have sprayed, the story goes on.

Why do I start a post about a berry tart with tomatoes? Because this year our 3 year old blackberry plants (they really aren't bushes - they grow as canes, the fruit is produced on new growth) created an incredible screen of gorgeous leaves, flowers and then finally incredible (and numerous!) fruit. I admit it: I didn't care that it wasn't the best year for our tomatoes (another story).  We have developed a morning ritual of picking fresh blackberries for most of August, and will probably have berries through Labor Day.

We also grow a few "everbearing" strawberry plants as well as alpine strawberries (I'll point one out in a photo below) - which are among my favorite ground cover plants - so cute! And the tiny fruit pack a very "strawberryey" flavor.  It's easy to grow alpine strawberries from seed - there are many on-line seed purveyors - I've used Renee's Garden Seeds and The Strawberry Seed Store. Most alpine strawberries will not set runners (they grow into a charming clump, bloom mini flowers and produce fruit that dangle from the stems); however, this summer I had one that started to send out runners and after a bit of Internet research found that out that this can occasionally happen if the plant is stressed.

Anyway- if you're not inclined to grow the berries - July and August bring beautiful berries to the super market or farmers market. The filling can be made with frozen berries without any compromise to taste or texture, just cut back on the simmering time. My friends Judy,  Ellen and Jeannie and I have an alert system for berries that are on sale. Jeannie has enough blueberries in her freezer to see her through the winter.

This tart is adapted from the Blueberry Tart posted by Lorann Oils, a company that makes extraordinary extracts and flavoring. The original used cream cheese flavoring (which has milk in it), I substituted almond extract once and lemon oil another time, they both were very good.

This tart is made in a ceramic tart pan, the crust, which is similar to shortbread, doesn't show once the pan is filled with the berry filling and fresh berry topping.

There are three components to make this tart: the filling, crust and assembly with fresh fruit topping. You can make and chill the crust and filling up to two days before assembly.  Unlike a pie crust which needs to be rolled out and cut to fit, the cookie-like crust is whirred in a food processor and then pressed into the prepared pan. The baked crust can be cooled, covered and stored for up to two days in the refrigerator.

Think of the filling as an under-cooked fruit preserve, thickened with cornstarch (although I'm sure you could thicken it with tapioca if you prefer). If you use frozen berries, increase the cornstarch by 1/2 -1 tsp. Cook and cool the filling before using. If you plan to make the tart a day or two after you've prepared the filling, pour the thickened filling into a bowl or storage container, cover and store in the refrigerator.

Tart assembly takes a few minutes, and again can be done ahead of time (up to 24 hours).


  • Large ceramic pie tart pan (you can use other tart pans, there are metal pans with removable bottoms that I'm sure would work as well). 
  • Non-reactive saucepan for cooking the filling
  • Mixing and measuring cups, spoons 
  • Food processor (or hand pastry blender) - the electric food processor whips the dough up in under 2 minutes
For the crust:
10 oz all purpose flour (a full two cups)
5 oz sugar 
1/4 tsp Kosher salt 
1.5 sticks margarine (or butter) 
2 tsp almond extract OR 1 1/2 tsp lemon oil 
1-2 Tbsp ice cold water (if needed) 

For the filling: 
7 cups of hulled and rinsed berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries)
1/4 c water 
4 Tbsp cornstarch (mixed into 2 Tbsp very cold water)
1 - 1 1/4 c sugar (depends on how sweet the fruit is, blackberries especially can be tart)
2 Tbsp vanilla sugar (optional) 

For the topping:
2 cups of fresh berries (strawberries should hulled and sliced in half)
2 Tbsp demerara sugar to sprinkle on top of the fruit (optional)

Making the crust:
You can make this by hand, using a pastry cutter, work quickly, as the margarine (or butter for that matter) will soften and make the dough sticky and hard to work with.
1. Prepare the pan by spraying liberally with spray oil. Heat the oven to 380 degrees.
2.Add margarine (cut into small slices), sugar, salt, extract or flavoring oil to the bowl of the food processor and whir a bit.
3. Add the flour and whir until mixture comes together. You may find you'll need to add a tablespoon or two of ice water. Add the water judiciously. If the mixture accidentally gets too "wet," add a Tbsp of flour.
4. Press pieces of the dough into the bottom and up the side of the pan.  The dough along the side will shrink back while baking, don't worry about this, as you will not be removing the finished tart from the pan until you are serving.  Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork to minimize puffing.
5. Chill the crust for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator to firm up.  If you use a metal pan you can cool in the freezer, I worry about slipping a freezing cold ceramic or glass baking dish into a hot oven.
6. Slide the tart crust into the hot oven, lower heat to 375 degrees and bake until golden, approximately 25-35 minutes (check for color doneness after 25 minutes).  My home oven has uneven heat, I overcome this difficulty by keeping a baking stone in the oven while baking. Since the tart pan is cold when placed in the oven, I DO NOT place it directly on the hot stone.
7. Cool completely before filling. If you are not assembling the tart at this point, cool, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Whir the ingredients until the dough holds together

It's always good to have a happy assistant who cannot wait to sample the baked goods. Also, the happy assistant can press the raw dough into the pan.  This is an excellent activity for the children of the house - even if the children are taller than your counter. 

The baked crust will puff a bit, so make sure to prick  around the entire unbaked shell with a fork. The edge will shrink back while baking; in order to make sure the crust covers the bottom of the tart pan you must press the crust up along the side of the pan. 

Making the filling:
1. In a non-reactive pan add half of the 7 cups of berries and barely 1/4 c water.  Heat until they barely begin to pop. Add the sugar, stir and cook for another minute or two.
2. Prepare the cornstarch (or other thickener) while the berries are heating up
3. Add the remaining berries, bring back to a simmer. Stir the cornstarch to make sure it is dispersed in the water and pour into the simmering berries, stirring as you add. Bring back to a simmer, cook for another minute or two and turn off the heat.
4. Cover and cool completely. When the mixture has cooled down you can taste for sweetness. We do not like over-sweetened fruit desserts, so I tend to hold back on the sugar. Don't use corn syrup or honey - you'll be adding additional liquid and corn syrup mutes the natural sharp flavors of the berries.
5. The berry juice should thicken.  If it has not thickened when cool, pour off the juice, heat the juice again and add a bit more of thickener (dispersed in a Tbsp of cold water).  Mix the re-heated juice back into the berry mixture.  Unlike apples and cranberries for example, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are LOW in natural pectin and are a bit tricky to thicken. The filling will not be as thick as jam, yet should or less hold together when cold.
6. Either assemble the tart immediately or cover and store the filling in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Don't overcook the berry filling.  Notice the yellowish small berry in the lower left side- that is a yellow alpine strawberry

You can assemble the tart up to 24 hours before serving.
1. Pour the filling and spread over the baked tart crust.
2. Arrange the clean prepared raw fruit on top.  Sprinkle with demerara sugar if you like.
3. Serve immediately or keep the tart chilled.
An accompanying  scoop of ice cream is always welcome!

When serving use a pie server, make sure you completely cut through the bottom crust, which will be crispy, like a shortbread cookie

Enjoy the tart!  Comments and modifications you want to share are welcome! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blueberry Crumb Spice Cake

Summertime blueberries  (New Jersey Fresh!) , cinnamon and spice and incredible crumb topping ........delicious at any time of day.

This cake is lightly adapted from a great blueberry cake found in Paula Shoyer's cookbook, The Kosher Baker and my favorite crumb recipe, adapted from Melissa Clark's Rhubarb Crumb Cake (New York Times, June 2007). Combining the two proved that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.

The cake is made in two steps. Make the crumb first and set aside. The crumb can be made several hours before you intend to make the cake.  In an effort to speed the process, I've tried to make the crumb, cover in an airtight container and freeze the unbaked crumb. I found that the texture was affected slightly and wouldn't recommend it; however, making the crumb several hours before using it won't harm it at all.

When you are ready to make the cake, the fruit filling is prepared before you assemble the cake batter. Use the recommended spices as a starting point, if you like a particular spice more than another, play with the combination!

The cake is assembled in layers: batter, fruit filling, batter and crumb topping.  Bake and cool before serving. A scoop of vanilla sorbet or ice cream could only improve an already delicious cake.

This cake doesn't require an electric mixer. All ingredients were mixed by hand with mixing spoons.

  • 9x13 baking pan (I use a glass baking pan because I wanted to serve the cake in the pan and thought this looked more attractive than a metal baking pan)
  • Measuring cups, spoons, kitchen scale 
  • 3 large mixing bowls 
Make the crumb topping first
Crumb topping:

1/3 c granulated sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c melted margarine (use butter if you aren't concerned about the cake being pareve)
1 3/4 (7 oz) cake flour (you can use all-purpose flour, it will result in a slightly heavier crumb)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp kosher salt

Use fresh or frozen blueberries 
Blueberry filling:
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries                
1 Tbsp granulated sugar or vanilla sugar
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground ginger          

Cake batter:
3/4 c neutral vegetable oil (plus a bit of oil for greasing the pan)
1 c  (6 oz) granulated sugar                  
1/2 c  (3 oz) brown sugar
Mix the batter by hand 
3 extra large eggs
1/3 cup orange juice
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c (11 oz) all purpose flour (plus a tsp or two for dusting the pan)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cardamon

1. Melt the margarine (or butter). Add the extract into the melted margarine.
2. Combine the flour and spices
3. Whisk the melted margarine and flour mixture
4. The mixture will resemble dough. Set aside (or cover and chill for use several hours later)

Blueberry filling:
1. Toss the blueberry filling ingredients together in a bowl, set aside

Cake batter:
1. Grease an 9 x 13 baking pan (glass or metal) , dust with 1-2 tsp flour . Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat the eggs, set aside
3. Measure the spices into a small bowl, set aside
4. Measure the sugars
5. Sift baking powder into the flour, add the salt and spices. Mix.

6. Mix the oil and sugars together in a large mixing bowl, add the egg and mix. Add the orange juice and vanilla and mix.

7. Mix the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. The resulting batter will be thick.

8. Spread approximately half of the batter in the prepared pan. Top with blueberries and then top with the remaining batter. The top batter layer may be "dropped" and spread over the blueberries. Don't aim for perfection, you may not have enough to cover the berries entirely and the thick batter will be difficult to spread.

9. Take the topping, break up any very large lumps. Sprinkle the topping over the top layer of the cake.

10. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees, slide the assembled cake into the top third of the oven. Bake for approximately 45-55 minutes. Check with a cake tester to determine when the cake is done. Cool before slicing. (try not to pick pieces of the crumb!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Maple-Walnut Rugelach (pareve)

Rugelach is usually filled with fruit flavored preserves or chocolate  - flavors more commonly associated with Eastern European baking. This version of rugelach is non-dairy (pareve) and filled with an "American" flavor combination- maple and walnuts.

The recipe is loosely based on one given to me by my cousin Nancy, who was an exceptional baker. Her freezer was full of beautiful (and delicious) perfectly formed cookies and pastry. The dough is a yeast dough, although it requires very little proofing time - so don't let the use of yeast scare you away from making this cookie.

Rugelach is a shaped cookie that is made with a high-fat dough that is rolled out into a thin sheet, spread with filling, and rolled up.  The dough can be rolled into a rectangle or circle; the rolled cookie dough can be shaped into small crescents or rectangles. It's best to work quickly because the fat source (margarine, butter, sour cream or cream cheese) will soften the dough, making it increasingly difficult to work with.  The finished cookies will stay fresh for a day or two in a covered container, I prefer to store the baked cookies in a covered container placed in the refrigerator. The baked cookies freeze well (double wrapped).

One word of caution:  this is a recipe where less is more: spread the filling (maple cream) sparingly. The cream will melt and run out of the cookies if  you spread it too thickly, forming a sticky mass on the baking sheet. The melted and cooled maple cream will form a glass-like covering on the parchment paper, reminiscent of the "jelly" on a jelly apple, delicious, but a waste.

large mixing bowl and mixing spoons
kitchen scale, measuring cups, measuring spoons
2 cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper
flexible pastry scraper  (available at baking supply stores or on line)
baking mat or other work surface, to roll out dough
rolling pin
pastry brush
cooling rack

1 stick margarine (1/2 c)
3c all purpose flour (14 oz) plus a few Tbsp for dusting your work area
1/4c warm water
3/4 c faux "sour cream" (if you can find one with a minimum number of ingredients, go for it!)
1 tsp maple flavor (don't use maple syrup, you won't get the same results.  If you can't find maple flavoring in a local store, you can order a wide assortment of flavors from King Arthur baking company  or Lorann Oils)
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (1 package if you purchase yeast in small amounts).  I use SAF Gold for this recipe
5-6 oz (approximately) maple cream (I purchase mine on-line from The Green Mountain Refining Company) 
1 c chopped walnuts (4 oz)
demerara sugar (for topping the cookies) - this is optional

1. This recipe is mixed by hand. Measure and add the flour to a large mixing bowl.
2. Melt the margarine. Cool to room temperature (still liquid).
3. Chop the nuts (divide into 3 portions)
4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
5. Mix the maple cream; if it is too thick  or the solid and liquid has separated,you can warm for 10-15 seconds in the microwave
6. Add the yeast to one corner of the bowl with the flour, pour the water over the yeast to make sure that it is hydrated. Start mixing - I find that using the side of the scraper is easiest
7. Mix the maple flavor into the faux "sour cream" and melted margarine. Pour the mixture into the bowl and using the pastry scraper mix until the dough holds together.  It will feel a bit "spongy," to the touch.
8.Cover the dough and let rest while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare an area to roll out the dough by dusting it with a bit of flour.
9. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Remove one piece, cover the remaining two.  Roll out the piece you are working with to approximately a 2"x10" rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick. Trim the edges of the rectangle.
10. Using 2-3 Tbsp of maple cream, smooth a very thin layer over the rectangle of dough. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nuts over the cream.  Roll up the dough along the long edge. You'll have a log about 10 inches long and 1 1/5 inches thick.  Using the edge of your pastry scraper, cut small pieces of dough (3/4-1 inch wide).
11. Place the small dough pieces, dough side up (seam on the bottom) onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. Leave about 1/2-1 inch between dough pieces.  The cookies will "grow" slightly in the oven. Brush each cookie top with a bit of maple cream.  You can sprinkle demerara sugar on top if you wish).
12. Repeat the process with the other two pieces of dough.
13. Lower the oven temperature to 325- 330 degrees and bake (one baking sheet at a time) for 25-28 minutes.
14. Wait for 3-5 minutes and then gently move the baked cookies to a cooling rack.  If the cookie is sticky, cool it on its side, otherwise it may stick to the rack as the maple cream cools.

15. Store cookies in a covered container for a day or two. For longer storage, double wrap in small plastic bags and place in the freezer.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chard patties with garlic-pesto-yogurt sauce

Chard Patties with Garlic-Pesto Yogurt Sauce 
(vegetable patties lightly adapted from Ottolenghi's Plenty, Chronicle Books, 2011)

It's been too hot to cook anything complicated and a trip to the local Farmer's market today yielded some beautiful yellow-stalked chard today.  I also happened to make some peach ice cream and so we decided that meat was out.  Fred checked out some Ottolenghi recipes because chard is often used in Middle Eastern and Syrian dishes. He found this one and we organized a really delicious dairy dinner in under and hour. 

I do want to give a shout out to the farmers markets that dot the northeastern states at this time of year, they are an inspiration to gardener's, cooks and environmentalists. 

Ottolenghi suggests this dish as an appetizer, we added a portion of pasta and served it as a light dinner. 

cutting board, knives
2 large pots for boiling the chard and pasta 
large bowl for mixing the vegetable cake ingredients 
frying pan to toast pine nuts and saute the vegetable cakes 
mixing spoons
measuring spoons 

Ingredients for the Chard patties:
1 1/4 lb chard (a bit more won't hurt the recipe)
1/3 c pine nuts
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz salty brined cheese (feta, kashkaval, bulgarian are a few examples)
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt (scant! the cheese is salty)
black pepper (to taste)
6 Tbsp unflavored bread crumbs 
oil for frying 

Ingredients for the garlic-pesto yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used 1% Chobani Greek yogurt)
2-3 cloves garlic , minced very finely
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard 
3-4 Tbsp finely minced parsley
2 Tbsp pesto (I used homemade, but I'm sure commercial would be fine)

Ingredients for pasta and sauce:
Any shape pasta, make enough for 2-3 people (we used farfalle)
1/4 c pesto
1/4 c garlic-pesto yogurt sauce 

  • We were working together, Fred making the chard and me making the pasta. If you are working alone, start with the yogurt sauce, it will need to stand to allow the flavors to meld (about 30 minutes).
  • Prepare the pasta, drain and allow to cool (mix in a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking if necessary).
  • Make the garlic pesto yogurt sauce while the pasta is cooking.
  • Mix the drained pasta with the pesto- yogurt sauce and let stand at room temperature while you prepare the chard patties.
  • Prepare the chard patties
  • Serve the warm patties with chilled sauce and room-temperature pasta

1. To make the sauce: combine yogurt, minced garlic, minced parsley, mustard and pesto. Remove 1/4 cup to a small bowl, cover the remaining sauce and chill. This will allow the flavors to meld. WARNING: the raw garlic will be sharp, if you are not a garlic lover, cut back on the amount of garlic (but do not use powdered garlic, it won't give you the same taste).

2. Cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, mix the reserved 1/4c yogurt sauce with pesto. I happen to have home made pesto (lots of basil growing in my garden), but you can certainly use prepared pesto.  

3. Drain the pasta, add the pesto-yogurt sauce , cover and let stand at room temperature while you prepare the chard patties. 

4. Bring a large pot of slightly salted water (about 2 quarts) to a boil while preparing the chard.   

5. Separate the stalks from the leaves. roughly chop the stalks and then roughly cut the leaves. Add the stalks to the boiling water, simmer for 3-4 minutes and add the leaves, simmering for an additional 3-4 minutes. Drain and press as much water as you can out of the chard. 

6. Allow chard to cool while you toast the pine nuts in the hot frying pan with a bit of oil. Be careful not to burn the nuts. Cool. 

7. Measure off the 4 oz of cheese and either mash or dice. Set aside. 

8. Roughly chop the chard into smaller pieces, slide the chopped vegetables into a bowl, add the nuts and oil, cheese, egg, and breadcrumbs. Mix well.  S&P to taste. Fred found the mix sticky, but decided not to add more breadcrumbs until he tried making one patty. Ottolenghi recommends adding a bit more breadcrumbs if it's too sticky. 

9. The mixture will make approximately 8 patties (2 in rounds, about 3/4 of an inch thick). Fry in a small amount of hot oil , 3 minutes on each side. Drain on a paper towel.  The cheese pieces will become golden and the pine nuts that touch the oil will darken. 

10. Serve warm with the garlic-pesto-yogurt sauce and prepared pasta on the side. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pastrami Hash Blintzes (Breakfast for Dinner!)

All the components of a great breakfast for dinner:
hash and pancakes!

Blintzes: cheese, potato, or fruit filled are great at any time of the day. These blintzes have a meat, potato and onion filling - making them a great option for...any time of the day!  Think corned beef hash, eggs, and pancakes!

Blintzes (the stuffed crepe-like pancake) are the Eastern European Jewish version of the flat, crepe-like stuffed pancake commonly found throughout Eastern and Central Europe. The un-stuffed pancake itself has a specific Yiddish word: bletlach, which are unleavened wheat-based thin pancakes. And although it's interesting to think of a food as particularly "Jewish," blintzes are are related to blini (Russian), palacinka (Slovakian, Czech, Ukrainian), palacsinta (Hungarian), and  naleĊ›nik (Polish). 

Most people are familiar with the frozen blintzes that have a higher ratio of bletlach to filling. They can be fried, baked, covered with a milk-egg mixture to create a "souffle" or served at brunch in a chafing dish. They are rarely fabulous, but are a common comfort food. During Shavuot, when the custom is to eat dairy-based foods, cheese blintzes are standard fare. 

These blintzes however are a break with tradition. Take a traditional bletlach and fill it with a deli-meat hash. Serve it with a salad on the side and it's a fun meat entree. Make them smaller and serve as an appetizer or starter for Shabbat dinner. I've made the blintzes with both corned beef and turkey pastrami; other choices I'd bet on could vary from beef pastrami to smoked turkey. The filled blintzes were sauteed in very little oil and served at room temperature. 

This dish can be made in about an hour. Make the hash first. This allows the filling to cool while you make the bletlach. Saute in a small amount of oil and serve hot or at room temperature. The blintzes can be stored in a sealed container (either in a single layer or with a piece of waxed or parchment paper separating two layers) for 2-3 days. They can be frozen, but the quality of the blintzes do suffer.

Cutting board, sharp knife
Vegetable peeler
Saucepan, non-stick frying pan
Kitchen scale

Ingredients (for the hash):
There is "wiggle room" to this recipe, all ingredients are approximate. You can adjust the proportion of meat to onions.
1 lb peeled potatoes (suitable for boiling)
3/4 lb cubed deli meat (corned beef, pastrami, smoked turkey, salami, etc)
1/2 lb diced onion

1. Boil the potatoes until just fork tender (approximately 15-20 minutes). Drain and roughly mash with a fork.
2. At the same time the potatoes are boiling, saute diced onion until some pieces begin to brown. Add the diced meat, stir and cook through.
3. Mix the onion/meat mixture and mashed potatoes. Correct seasoning with pepper (there is enough salt in the meat). Cool.

Ingredients (for the bletlach):
The batter should be thinner than regular pancake batter. Add a small amount of water if you find it too thick.
6 eggs (large or extra large are fine)
pinch salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 c water (more if needed)

1. Beat the eggs and salt. Add the water and mix.
2. Pour the flour into a bowl, make a well and add the liquid. Mix with a wire whisk, breaking up any lumps.
3. Heat a small non-stick frying pan. You can spray the pan with oil spray if you like.
4. Ladle a small amount of batter into the pan while simultaneously turning the pan to distribute the batter. It may take one or two tries to master the technique. You want to create a thin round pancake.(see the technique video from Food and Wine )
5. Cook over medium heat for several minutes. The top of the pancake should be dry. Flip the pancake for 10-20 seconds (you want both sides to be cooked and dry, but not crisp. Slide the cooked bletlach onto a plate.

You should have approximately 8-10 bletlach.

Procedure for stuffing the bletlach:
1. Take on bletlach and gently place on a flat surface.
2. Take 2-3 Tbsp of the stuffing and place close to the edge of the pancake.

3. Begin to roll the bletlach around the filling, fold in the sides and continue to roll.

 Easy, right? Yep! 

4. Saute the blintzes, turning as they brown in the pan. Drain (if needed) on paper towels. Serve warm or at room temperature. Condiment ideas include mustard, Russian dressing, cranberry horseradish, sauerkraut or any other creative idea you come up with!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Strawberry Citrus Trifle

Trifle is an old fashioned dessert hailing from the British Isles. Trifles and related rich desserts making use of stale cakes go back to the 1700's. Fools, Spanish Bizcocho Borracho  and Italian Zuppa Ingles are all related to the same culinary tradition.

A beautiful and showy dessert that can be used as a table centerpiece, Trifle is made with sponge (or pound) cake, fruit, custard and whipped cream.  The components are usually layered in a large serving bowl, but you can also create "mini" trifles in small canning jars or individual dessert bowls. The great thing about trifle is that it serves a crowd and making sure that you add the whipped cream just before serving its fine to assemble the day before, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Trifle is not an overwhelming project - you can simplify the components by using ready-made items (packaged cake, instant pudding, frozen berries, canned whipped cream) or you can bake a cake, whip the cream, cook the custard. The resulting dessert will be beautiful and delicious whether you go for shortcuts or not.

This trifle is made with a citrus-sour cream pound cake (adapted from Norwegian Sour Cream Cake on the King Arthur Flour website), pureed fresh strawberries (jazzed up with a bit of brandy and a small amount of confectioners' sugar), lemon custard (I used a packaged pudding mix) and whipped cream.  Although the cake is dairy, a non-dairy version can easily be created (it's harder to find a packaged non-dairy pound cake). I've included directions for converting the dairy cake to a very tasty pareve version.  Packaged lemon custard or lemon curd is often pareve. Non-dairy whipped toppings are available (although they generally have more chemicals than I'm comfortable with).

These steps can be completed a day or two prior trifle assembly:
*Bake (or buy) the pound cake. If you are baking a cake you can do so a day or two before you plan to assemble the trifle- or you can do as did this time, bake and freeze the cake until you plan to assemble the trifle. At the time you assemble the trifle, cut the cake into small, bite size squares.
*Puree the fruit (I used strawberries, soft stone fruit or berries will work as well....try peaches or nectarines). The puree can be made a day or two before you plan to assemble the trifle.
*Make the custard or lemon curd  (use a "lemon meringue" pie mix or make it from scratch. Cool the mixture.

These steps should be completed at the time you plan to assemble the dessert:
*Slice additional fruit for decorating the top of the trifle.
* Whip cream (or use ready made whipped cream).
*Assemble the trifle. Chill until you are ready to serve.

For the cake: 
2 medium loaf pans or bundt cake pan
measuring cups, spoons
electric mixer (or a sturdy wooden spoon if you are mixing by hand)

For the puree:
A food processor or blender

For the lemon pudding (or curd):
large saucepan (a heavy bottomed saucepan works better)
mixing spoon
measuring cups and spoons

For preparation of the whole fruit:
knife and flat surface

For the whipped cream (if you are making it from scratch) :
Mixer or portable beaters and a large bowl
Measuring spoons and cup


Cake ingredients:
This cake is adapted from Norwegian Sour Cream Cake on the King Arthur Flour website. The cake is made with dairy products, but I've included non-dairy (pareve) substitutions.

8oz unsalted butter (or pareve margarine or coconut oil)
14 oz granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Fiori di Sicilia flavoring (optional, but it really adds a wonderful citrus tone to the cake)
12 oz sour cream (or yogurt, or pareve sour cream substitute combined with 1/2 tsp vinegar)
    Note: you can use full fat or low fat sour cream or yogurt. Yogurt is a bit thinner than sour cream
    so you may find that you'll need to add another tablespoon or two of flour in addition to the
    amount called for in the recipe.
17 oz all purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven. I used 2 glass loaf pans and preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  The original directions suggest a full size tube or bundt pan. Grease two loaf pans with spray oil and shake a tablespoon or two of unflavored breadcrumbs (or a small amount of flour) around the inside of the pan.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time. I break the yolks before adding them into a batter or dough, I find it makes it easier to blend the egg into the mixture. Add the flavoring and salt. Mix.
4. Combine the flour and baking powder. I use an old fashioned metal strainer that I've used for many years.  This step add a minute or two to the process, but you'll never have the bitter taste of baking powder (or soda) that didn't mix into the flour correctly.  You can also use a sifter for this purpose.

5. Add the sour cream (in two additions) and flour mixture (in three additions) alternately to the sugar-egg mixture. Mix until the entire batter is hydrated and mixed. Do not over-mix, the resulting batter will be thick.
6. Add half the batter to each pan, smooth with a silicone spatula and/or your fingers.
7. Bake for 35-45 minutes (check after 35 minutes). The finished cake will be a light golden color.

8. Cool the cakes and remove from the pan.  The cooled cakes can be loosely wrapped and used within a day or two - or you can wrap and freeze to use at a later time.

9. This cake has a wonderful and robust citrus flavor. Use one for the trifle and save the second and serve at another time by itself or with ice cream!

Fruit Puree:
1 lb ripe, hulled and cleaned strawberries
2 Tbsp brandy (optional)
1/4-1/3 confectioners' sugar (sweeten to personal preference)

1. Place the fruit, brandy and sugar in the bowl of the food processor.
2. Pulse the fruit until smooth (don't liquify).
3. Pour into a container. If you are making the fruit puree more than a day or two in advance, cover and freeze. Defrost several hours prior to dessert assembly.

Lemon pudding (lemon curd) :
I used a packaged mix, but if you want to make it from scratch, easy versions can be found at:
David Lebovitz's link or at the King Arthur blog .

The pudding/curd can be made a day ahead.

Sliced Fruit:
Slice 1 lb of hulled cleaned strawberries (or other berries or fruit if you choose). The fruit should be prepared when you are ready to assemble the trifle. Leave a few larger pieces to decorate the top of the trifle.

Whipped Cream: 
1 large can whipped cream or 2 cups sweetened home made whipped cream.
An easy recipe with directions for making whipped cream from scratch can be found at the Land o' Lakes website .  The proportion is 1 c whipping or extra heavy cream, 1/4 c sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.  You can use 1 tsp vanilla sugar instead of the extract.

Home made whipped cream can be prepared, covered and stored in the refrigerator a day or two before assembly.  Canned whipped cream is squirted directly over the assembled dessert just before serving.

To Assemble the Trifle: 

Building the trifle takes about 30 minutes.
1. Slice and dice one of the pound cakes. Set aside.

2. Have the prepared lemon pudding (lemon curd), pureed fruit (defrosted if you have prepared it previously) , sliced fruit and whipped cream ready.

3. Use half of each the ingredients to create the first layer: cubed cake, pudding, fruit puree and sliced fruit. Repeat to make a second complete layer. Top with whipped cream and decorate with the larger pieces of fruit you set aside. Serve in small portions using a large serving spoon - the trifle is rich and will serve a crowd.