I never had much of a relationship with trifle growing up, I suppose because our mothers are the heart of our early food experiences and my mother, being a bit of a purist, never warmed to trifle.
However my mother did make syllabub. Her version had chestnut puree and rum stirred into it and was always served with crunchy amaretti. And although she hasn’t made it for years it stays with me as one of those special stolen treats when as small children we raided the dinning room the morning after a grownup feast.
I like to make syllabub in a more traditional way (Elizabeth David published a wonderful history of syllabubs and trifles), with lemon juice and alcohol. The alcohol content a little depends on what I have around and various things work well. Recently I had a bottle of amaretto to finish off so used that and found it wonderful.
I think syllabub does need something crunchy with it, and my favourite coupling is crunchy bite sized meringues. However all sorts of other things are good crunch providers like brittle, any cookies, toasted nuts etc etc.
My meringue method is an amalgamation of various different techniques from Sally Clarke, Chez Panisse, Darina Allen and Baker and Spice in London. —Highbohemian
- Serves 7 to 9
egg whites (about 6 medium eggs)
icing sugar/powdered sugar
the zest and juice of one large (organic if possible) lemon, with the pips strained out of the juice
amaretto or other alcohol (dark rum or grappa for example)
- turn the oven to 300° fahrenheit (if you have a convection option use this)
- put the egg whites in a bowl that will sit easily over a heavy bottomed pan which is half filled with water (a sort of improvised bain marie) and gently start to heat the egg whites
- add the sugar as the egg whites start to reach blood temperature and stir them till they completely dissolve into the egg whites, this will take a bit of time but is recognisable when the egg whites become opaque, still liquid, and there are no more sugar granules in the basin, be sure not to heat much at all otherwise the eggs will cook
- when the sugar has dissolved take the bowl off the pan of water and set it on the counter and then whip with an electric mixer of any kind, or by hand if you are made of stern stuff, for about 15 to 18 minutes, till the egg whites are completely stiff and hold their shape when you spoon them
- with a teaspoon and a silicon spatula spoon generous clouds of egg white, well spaced as they grow a bit, onto a cookie sheet lined with greased parchment, or better still a piece of silpat and slide into the oven for 45 mins
- when the hour is up turn off the oven and leave the meringues in for another couple of hours to cool there, during which time they will dry out but leave a slightly gooey bit inside
- NB: (there is an alternative method for cooking the meringues, especially if your prize them extra snowy white, which is to heat the oven to 160 and then turn the oven off as you put the meringues in, leaving them all night. I am however never quite organised enough to do this)
- whip the cold cream in a cooled metallic bowl (put the bowl in the fridge or freezer before if possible) till it is starting to firm up
- add the sugar and keep whipping to incorporate
- add the amaretto in two or three goes and keep whipping the cream till it regains its form
- add the lemon juice in two or three goes and keep whipping the cream till it is just about to pass the point at which it becomes buttery
- to serve put a generous dollop of syllabub on each plate and then place a meringue or two on top, and for a final decorative touch sprinkle a bit of the lemon zest (I like to make strands) on top for decoration (if the whole thing looks too anaemic please garnish with what ever there is around such as; thin slices of granny smith apple, a couple of raspberries, a mint leaf)
- note - if serving this later it is almost a good idea to whip it slightly past perfect and then hold it in the fridge, like this it wont be necessary to re-whip for serving