Thursday, December 6, 2012

Caramel, Pear and Gingerbread Trifle

So you remember those gingerbread cakes I wrote about earlier this week?  I know, who could forget a sweet little wonder like that?  I did love them served simply with some sweetened mascarpone cream, but my creative juices got flowing with the first bite and I knew I couldn't just leave well enough alone.  (Sigh) I never can.  And I had the perfect excuse- the first Christmas party of the season was coming up and I had been tasked with bringing a dessert.  Or maybe I had volunteered, which is something I definitely would have done considering how much I love baking.  No matter...

It didn't take me long to come up with the combination of flavors in this trifle.  It's loosely based on a cake my mom made when I was a girl.  It was a chocolate and pear upside down cake and one of Mom's specialties.  Now, that chocolate cake is a pretty far cry from this intense gingerbread, but they are both rich in their own ways and I just knew that the velvety pears and caramelized bottom of the cake would be a perfect match for my babcakes. The cakes were already made, so I was halfway home.  It was just a matter of poaching a few pears and whipping up a caramel pastry cream and I would be set.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Caramel, Pear and Gingerbread Trifle
Serves 15-18 people- the recipe can easily be halved.
Click here for the printable recipe.

This recipe makes a large trifle- one for a party or big family gathering.  It's a no pressure kind of dessert because it's meant to be sort of messy.  There's no perfect looking trifle, after all.  The caramel pastry cream and poached pears need to be cool in order to assemble the trifle, so you can make all the components up to a few days ahead and then put it all together the night before your soiree.  No last minute rushing around to finish this beauty- and that makes it all the more beautiful.

1 recipe Gingerbread Babycakes
3 riesling poached pears, cooled
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped with 1/3 cup sugar to soft peaks
1/4 cup caramel sauce (you can buy a good quality one or make one such as this one)

Caramel Pastry Cream
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
8 egg yolks
4 cups milk
4 tbs water
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, stir together the cornstarch and a 1/2 cup of the sugar.  Whisk in the egg yolks until the yolks become lighter in color.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, stir together the water and the remaining sugar. Cook over medium high heat, swirling occasionally until the syrup begins to take on a light amber color.  This takes only a few minutes.  Watch carefully, it goes quickly from a light caramel to burnt.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the milk.  If you pour the milk in slowly enough the caramel will melt right into it.  If you do what I did and lose patience and pour too quickly, you'll have lumps of caramel.  They will melt in the next step, so don't panic.

Place the pan with the milk/caramel mixture back over the heat and bring to a simmer, stirring.  When it reaches a simmer, slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture you set aside earlier.  Keep on whisking so that you don't get lumps.  Pour the whole thing back into the pan and place it back over the heat.  Reduce the temperature of the stove to medium and cook the custard until it becomes thick and creamy.  Stir in the vanilla and remove from the heat.  Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap down over the surface of the custard.  Refrigerate until cool.

To assemble the trifle
If you have made baby gingerbread cakes, you'll need to slice 6 of the 8 cakes into 1/2 inch slices.  If you made a large 10 inch cake, slice 3/4 of the cake.  Save the rest for snacking or freeze it for another day.

Slice the pears thinly.

In a large bowl or trifle dish, place a dollop of the caramel pastry cream and spread it out.  Lay 1/3 of the cake slices over the cream to cover the bottom of the bowl.  Spoon 1/3 of the remaining caramel pastry cream over the cake layer and spread it to cover the cake.  Evenly distribute the slices of 1 pear over the cream.  Drizzle a bit of caramel sauce over the pears.  Top the pears with 1/3 of the whipped cream.  Repeat the layering twice more finishing the trifle off with a drizzle of caramel sauce.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

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