Trifles are a festive and elegant dessert, perfect for holiday gatherings.The earliest known use of the name trifle was for a thick cream flavored with sugar, ginger and rosewater, the recipe for which was published in England, 1596, in a book called "The Good Huswife's Jewell" by Thomas Dawson. It wasn't until sixty years later when milk was added and the custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread.
**Note: The poached pears in this recipe make a great dessert on their own - just leave the pears whole with stems intact. After removing the pears from saucepan, simmer the wine mixture over medium-high until it becomes a syrupy glaze. To serve, place a pear in a shallow bowl and drizzle with the syrup and garnish with whipped cream or mascarpone, and you have an ideal ending to any meal.
Red Wine Poached Pears
1 bottle light red wine (I used a Côte du Rhône)
1 ½ cups sugar
1 strip orange rind
1 star anise
½ of a whole vanilla bean
1 whole clove
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 pounds firm pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cored
1. Bring wine, sugar, orange rind, star anise, vanilla bean, cinnamon, clove and peppercorns to boil in large pot, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low, add pears, and simmer, covered, until pears are nearly tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate pears in the wine until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using slotted spoon, remove pears from liquid and slice thinly crosswise; discard liquid Reserve one 5-slice section from large part of each pear and cut remaining pear into ½-inch pieces. See Note**
Gingerbread Bundt Cake
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon finely ground pepper
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
4 teaspoons fresh ginger
¾ cup molasses, robust or dark
¾ cup Guiness Stout beer
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat until bubbling. Stir in ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
2. Whisk eggs, sugar, and fresh ginger in large bowl until light and frothy. Stir in melted butter mixture, molasses, and stout until incorporated. Whisk flour mixture into egg mixture until no lumps remain.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan and gently tap pan on countertop to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan 20 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet; let cool completely. (Cake can be stored at room temperature, covered in plastic wrap, for 2 days.)
Easy Pastry Cream
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
Pinch table salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 4 pieces
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Heat cream, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in heavy saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until sugar begins to dissolve. Whisk in cornstarch until mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
2. When cream mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer mixture to bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until frothy and the sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and continue to whip until doubled in volume and soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.
To assemble Trifle:
1. Slice gingerbread into ½-inch-thick pieces. Cut each piece in half horizontally. Reserve top halves for decorating and cut remaining scraps into ½-inch chunks.
2. Place reserved pear slices on clean surface and press gently with palm of hand to spread pears into fan shape. Arrange reserved cake halves and pear fans around base of 3-quart trifle dish. Place single layer of gingerbread scraps in center of dish and top with single layer of chopped pear pieces. Spread 1½ cups custard over pear pieces. Repeat layering once more, then top with final layer of gingerbread halves, pear fans, gingerbread scraps, and pear pieces. Spoon whipped cream over trifle. Serve. (Trifle can be refrigerated for 6 hours.)