” …with trepidation I take the bowl out of the fridge and carry it to the table, along with a plate and a spoon. I serve myself a large portion – as my grandpa always used to say, ‘if you’re going to do something, do it properly’ – and peer at the pile of pudding on my plate.
Taking a large spoonful, I bring it to my mouth, close my eyes and hope for a miracle …”
Last week I was challenged to make a trifle. But not just any old trifle: a special St Clement’s trifle. The reason for the challenge? I detest the stuff.
Apparently this recipe is going to change my mind. As the saying goes: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let’s see if it’s proof positive or negative.
* * * * *
What’s this? Make a cheesecake, instead of a trifle? Much though I’m tempted by the suggestion, the challenge was to find a trifle that could overcome my hatred of it. And that’s modern trifle rather than the original version, sadly. Back in 1596, when trifle was first coined (puddinged?), it was more like what we would now call a syllabub or a fruit fool. Then some plonker decided to add sponge to the mix and all was lost. Sigh. Still, I’m ever the optimist: today is going to be the day that I’m proved wrong and trifle redeems itself! Yes! I screw my courage to the sticking place and head to the shops, list in hand.
Armed with ingredients – minus mandarins, which weren’t available, so I bought pineapple as the next best thing – I whip the cream with the condensed milk and lemon juice to make the syllabub-esque top layer of the trifle. Five minutes of splashy mess-making later, I’ve got about half a jug of the stuff sitting in front of me.
OK, maybe a little bit less now that I’ve dipped my finger into it to taste. And again. And – ooh, go on – just one more …
To distract myself from the lemon cream I break the biscuits into the bottom of the bowl. I pop a piece into my mouth as I work and am surprised to find that it’s nothing like as nasty as I would have thought. It’s fine-textured and delicately sugary, rather than the gritty, tasteless mess that would be expected from the way they turn out when they’re soaked with liquid. Maybe Italian savoiardi are superior to English trifle sponges? Holding onto this ray of hope, I pour juice over the biscuits and start to layer the fruit.
Ten minutes later, when I catch myself rifling through the bowl of uneven pineapple pieces in search of the exact size and shape to tessellate with three others around it, I wonder whether making trifle may be messing with my head. When I collapse in giggles after seeing what’s been created after adding the layer of cream and decorative fruit, it’s confirmed.
The sight of half a jug of whipped cream left over shakes any thoughts of little green men out of my head. It does bring other ideas to mind, though.
I wake up the next day feeling sick. Maybe it’s the amount of cream and sugar I stuffed into my face the night before, but I prefer to think it’s anticipation mixed with just a little bit of fear. What if I actually like trifle? I’ll have to change my whole belief system.
“Loves cats. After a 30+ year vendetta has discovered that she was wrong and trifle’s all right after all. Drives like a maniac.”
It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, so it’s with trepidation that I take the bowl out of the fridge and carry it to the table, along with a plate and a spoon. I serve myself a large portion – as my grandpa always used to say, ‘if you’re going to do something, do it properly’ – and peer at the pile of pudding on my plate. The cream and the pineapple look just as delicious as they did yesterday, but the biscuits at the bottom look ominous. They’ve half-disintegrated overnight and they sit underneath the shining white cream and zingy yellow pineapple as an amorphous, glistening glob of beige.
I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Taking a large spoonful, I bring it to my mouth, close my eyes and hope for a miracle.
It’s FOUL. The liquid-soaked savoiardi are blobby and tasteless, sticking to my tongue and ruining the smooth, creamy syllabub and tangy fruit above them. Why, why, WHY did anyone ever think this was going to be a good idea for a pudding?
I dissect the layers, scraping the syllabub away from the pineapple, savouring its smooth texture and sweet and sharp lemony zing, unsullied by soggy blobs of pappy biscuit, and weighing up the pros and cons of today’s experiment.
On one hand, lemon syllabub is my kind of heaven and this one will, as Kate A says, be great on top of a cheesecake. On the other, I’ve been vindicated in my belief that trifle truly is utterly disgusting.
I’m chalking this up as a victory for the trifle-haters.