It wouldn’t be Christmas without trifle! This is a good traditional recipe which is always popular with my family. Rather than making a custard, and the fear that it may not set we have given a cheats version here, which gives excellent results.
8 trifle sponges or plain loaf cake, such as pound cake
6 tbsp strawberry jam
5 tbsp dry sherry
about 6 Amaretti biscuits or broken almond biscuits
1¼ cup OR 14oz canned custard or homemade to this quantity
1¼ cup double cream (double cream is hard to find in the US. To make your own, combine 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup melted butter for every cup of heavy cream)
½ cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp water
Drain the pears, reserving the syrup, then cut the fruit into small pieces. Cut the cherries in half. Split the trifle sponges in half horizontally and sandwich together with strawberry jam, then slice 6 sponges in half lengthways (like finger sandwiches).
Pour sherry into a measuring cup. Then add the reserved pear juice until you reach 2/3 cup. If you don’t wish to have sherry in your trifle, then use all of the pear juice – about ⅔ of a cup.
Put half of the chopped pears into the base of the glass dish. Arrange 6 halves of the trifle sponges around the edge of the dish pushing them into the sides, so the jam is visible through the glass. Put another 6 halves on top and push into the dish. Put the remaining two complete sponge sandwiches in the middle. Scatter the remaining pears and all the cherries on top. Scatter the amaretti biscuits on top and pour the sherry and pear juice mixture over. Press down firmly.
Lightly whip half of the cream until it just holds its shape and stir into the custard. Spread over and level the top. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Lightly whip the remaining cream and spread over the top and ripple the surface. Chill until ready to serve.
To make the caramel decorations. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a glass bowl with water and some ice cubes.
Put the sugar and water into a small stainless-steel saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, stir the sugar over a low heat, stirring until you have a clear syrup. Boil the syrup without stirring, until you have a light golden toffee color. Remove from the heat and cool down slightly by placing the pan into a bowl of cold water for a 2 - 3 seconds.
Using a metal spoon, dip it into the caramel and quickly wave the spoon over the paper (on the baking sheet) in long strokes to make thin caramel threads and wispy strands. Leave to harden for 10 minutes. When the caramel is hard, break it into large pieces.
When you are ready to serve arrange the caramel pieces over the top of the trifle in a rustic design, sticking up to give height.
Caramel can only be made in a stainless-steel pan, it does not work in a nonstick pan. Do not put the caramel on the cream trifle too soon, otherwise the moisture from the cream will soften the caramel.
To prepare ahead: This is an ideal dessert to make a day ahead the flavors have time to mingle. Keep in the fridge without the caramel. The caramel can be made up to 4 hours ahead and kept in a dry safe place until serving. Do not freeze.
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