Sunday, July 01, 2012

Inception of a Specialty

For a person who loves to cook, I don't cook very often.  Occasionally, however, I get inspired and I not only cook, but come up with something new.  My friend Nancy had a party yesterday, and when I woke up, I didn't know what I was going to bring, but I slowly put together an idea as the morning progressed.  One of my favorite flavors is caramel, and strawberries are very in season.  I wanted to make a trifle, and I used Cold Stone Creamery's Strawberry Blonde as inspiration.  So here's what I did:

One of the ingredients in the Strawberry Blonde is graham cracker crust, so I made one.  I used one packet of crackers (4.5 oz.) and one stick of butter, along with 2 tablespoons sugar.  I used my toaster oven pan, because who wants to fire up the oven when it's 100 degrees outside?  The ratios came from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  Next time, I'll use less butter.  It came out a little too crispy, and not so much cracker-y.  It was still yummy, though.

The next step was to cut up the strawberries.  I bought two pounds, and as I washed and hulled them I set aside the ones that seemed most round and the same size.  The little ones, the big ones and the weird double-wide strawberries got cut up into quarters and sixths.

All of the trifle recipes I read included some liquid to pour over the pound cake, so I combined some marsala and sugar, and heated it to dissolve the sugar and cook off the alcohol.  I let it cool a bit and poured it over the strawberry pieces in an effort to draw out some of their juices before assembling the trifle.
 Had I imagined this dessert a bit earlier, I would have made pound cake, but I didn't, so I had to use Sara Lee pound cake.  I cut it into chunks, and made a layer in the bottom of the bowl, cut sides out.  I could have cut the crust off, but with the caramel flavor central to the piece, I figured I'd leave it.
 Next step: I poured the liquid off the strawberry pieces, and poured half of it over the pound cake.  Then I put down a layer of strawberry topping (half a Smuckers jar) over the cake.  Preserves would have worked just as well, but I had a jar of topping already.

Next came the strawberries: halfed berries lined up against the edge of the bowl, then half of the cut strawberries went in the middle.
Then came about a third of a jar of caramel topping, and two cups instant vanilla pudding, topped off with half of the graham cracker crust, crumbled.

First round of layers complete!

Layers repeated, and ready for whipped cream to finish off!
If I had to do over again, I'd do a lot of things differently.  First, as I mentioned before, I would make the graham cracker crust differently.  Secondly, I'd cut the cake in triangles so I could make a more complete layer, and I'd make the layer shorter (the bowl was really filled to the top!)  I would skip the cake-soaking thing.  I know a lot of trifles include it, but this thing just got soupy, and fast.  Next I would not use four cups of vanilla pudding.  Maybe if I made it myself, but otherwise, I'd use part pudding and part whipped cream or something to lighten it up.  It took two cups of liquid to cover up each layer of the strawberries, but it was heavy and rich.  Also, I wouldn't forget to take a picture of the finished dish with the pedestal and whipped cream on top, ready for serving; it did look pretty.

Not bad for a first try (and first trifle for that matter).  I can't wait to try it again, but I need an occasion including 30 - 50 of my closest acquaintances to eat the thing; it is heavy!