Trifle is too good to be served just once a year, so for a mid-winter Christmas or a Matariki celebration dessert, go full-retro with this glorious trifle.
As far as retro trifles go, you can come across constructions made with layers of custard, cream, jelly, fruit encased in jelly, tinned fruit, fresh fruit, swiss roll cake, stale cake, lady fingers; just about anything you can soak in booze and layer in a bowl.
Compared to some of the fantastic trifles of which I wish I had fond childhood memories, my retro trifle is very simple. This trifle is "soupy" but, if you prefer a more solid consistency, add a tablespoon of cornflour to your custard when putting it back on the stove for thickening.
24 lady fingers (savoiardi)
30 ratafia biscuits (or amaretti)
1 litre custard sauce (see below)
500g strawberries, hulled and halved (use dehydrated strawberries, or fresh kiwifruit if not available)
1 quantity everlasting syllabub (see below)
500ml thick (double) cream, whipped
Brandy, to taste
Makes about 2 litres
10 egg yolks
500ml thick (double) cream
50g raw sugar
1 mace blade or cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf (optional)
Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Bring the milk, cream, sugar, spice and bay leaf, if using, to a simmer in a saucepan. Strain the hot milk mixture and discard the flavourings. Pour a little of the hot mixture into the egg yolks and whisk thoroughly. Now continue to add the hot milk mixture in batches until fully incorporated and you get a smooth sauce. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula until just thickened, making sure the eggs don't scramble. When just thickened, remove from the heat and pour into a cold jug.
Makes about 600ml
This syllabub can also be served in pretty little glasses or in pots. Since the mid-18th century, it has also been used as one of the layers of a trifle.
425ml thick (double) cream
50g raw sugar, processed to a fine powder
80ml lemon juice
125ml white wine, such as riesling
60ml sherry or madeira
Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the cream and the sugar on low speed. Combine the lemon juice with the alcohol and add that to the cream, whisking constantly until it becomes thick. You may whisk this by hand, but it needs at least 10–15 minutes of whisking.
Using a 30cm bowl, make a layer of lady fingers followed by a few ratafia biscuits, just enough so that every serving will have one. Drizzle the biscuits with enough brandy to cover them generously. Pour the cold custard over the biscuits and put it in the fridge to rest for about 15 minutes. Make a crown of strawberry halves all around the outer edge of the custard layer and fill the centre with more strawberry halves.
If you are a jelly lover, you could add a jelly layer at this point. Simply pour in cooled but not set jelly over the berries and refrigerate until set.
Scoop the syllabub on top of the strawberries. Add another layer of boozy lady fingers and a couple of broken-up ratafias, if you still have some left, followed by a layer of whipped cream. Decorate the top with sliced or halved strawberries.
Stand in the fridge for an hour, or until you need it, so the flavours can develop and mature. This trifle can easily be made in the morning for an evening dinner.
For a variation use peaches or nectarines stewed with cinnamon and sugar; allow the fruit to cool before assembling the trifle. You can also omit the whipped cream and use more syllabub instead.
Note: Substitute fresh strawberries with fresh seasonal fruit, or brands such as Fresh As dehydrated strawberries.
Edited extract from Pride and Pudding, by Regula Ysewijn. Photography by Regula Ysewijn (Murdoch Books, $60).