Saturday, December 18, 2010

English Trifle With Pears And Cherries

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English trifle is one of those desserts that looks like you have spent hours making it when in reality it is a very simple dessert to put together.  In this recipe all you will be actually making is the creme anglaise which takes about 10 minutes to make.  The rest is assembling ready made ingredients and waiting for them to get really cold. 

This recipe calls for pears and cherries, a great and festive combination, but you can really substitute any fruit you want.  If you have a good bakery near you, get their pound cake or sponge cake there.  If not, Sara Lee is pretty good. You can even use lady fingers if you want.

Sherry is the traditional wine for this dessert, but you can use rum, madeira or anything else that is similar.  As to the whipped cream, you can make it a couple of hours before serving, cover the top of the dish and stick it in the refrigerator.  It will keep.  Now, if you choose to cheat with ready made, fine, but I guarantee you it won't be the same!

You can cut this recipe down by making only two layers which should serve 6 to 8 people.  If you have extra sauce anglaise cover and refrigerate.  It should be good for 2-3 days and can be enjoyed with other fruits or meringues!

Serves 10 - 12


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  9-by-5-inch bakery pound cake (I recommend Sara Lee)

1 cup sherry (preferably amontillado or oloroso),
   Madeira or sweet Marsala

2 recipes crème anglaise*

For the whipped cream:

1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream

1 1⁄2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Make the Creme Anglaise first, as it will take 2-3 hours to cool

2.  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.

3 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.

4. Cut the 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.

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

6. 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.

Creme Anglaise*


2 cups milk

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1⁄4 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract


Rinse the inside of a nonaluminum saucepan with water and shake out the excess water. Pour in the milk, place over medium-low heat and cook until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolk and sugar and whisk just until blended. Gradually whisk in half of the hot milk, then pour the egg mixture into the pan. Set over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not allow it to boil.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and let cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days.

Makes about 2 cups.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Christmas, by Carolyn Miller (Simon & Schuster, 2003).


  1. Reggie adores trifle, and this sounds like a topper, indeed! Another delicious one can be found in the original Silver Palate cookbook, made with--of all things--Italian amoretto cookies. Divine.

  2. How interesting! I love pears but have never thought of putting them in trifle. Sounds yummy!

  3. Reggie

    I never thought of checking for a recipe there. sounds yummy, though!


    That's the great thing about trifle, anything goes! well, almost anything....


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