No sooner did the blackberries at Jacobs Family Berry Farm cease than Denver Dan’s Apple Patch welcomed their first crop. Our trip to Cali’s Apple Hill at the joint of seasons yielded buckets full of young McIntosh,Gravenstein, Jonathan and Smoothie.
Young apples will continue to ripen after being picked, but on occasion I do enjoy an astringent mouthful of a slightly underripe apple whose sugars haven’t been fully developed yet. And the crunch of such an apple is just superb. Those of you who have been following me know that I don’t like anything overly sweet, fruit included. In fact, a modicum of tartness is in order when it comes to apples and apple-derived desserts.
“So what do I do with an overload of underripe apples and a family that insists on an apple dessert tonight?” I asked myself as I rummaged through the fruit, picking up every orb to smell it for ripeness.
Though vague, a sweet, fresh aroma was coming from a couple of McIntosh.
What would two small McIntosh do for a family of four?
I charged to the fridge and gawked over its contents. A bowl of Jack’s end-of-season blackberries looked back at me from a middle shelf. That same instant the berries’ fragrance – so fresh and dazzling – filled my nostrils. I voraciously shoved a handful in my mouth for an immediate burst of sweet juice that left behind a mix of silky skin and tannic seeds.
Man, these are delicious!
Berries get better and better as their season closes in.
A mason jar chock-full of duck egg yolks sat hidden behind the berries. About 12 or so of them from the angel food cake I experimented with the day before yesterday.
I hunched over to rustle though a bunch of food storage containers on a lower shelf. Tucked all the way in the back was one that had a good size chunk of my double vanilla angel food cake.
Trifle was born, a simple trifle of angel food cake and Bavarian custard layered with sauteed apples and blackberries. A little heat and sugar softened up my stiff McIntosh and turned my blackberries into a fragrant syrup. The perfect combo of sweet and tart with a pinch of cinnamon and fresh thyme leaves. A flavor that has the best of both seasons.
Bavarian custard that I made for the trifles is a slight deviation from traditional Bavarian cream as we know it: a gelatinous dessert that is able to hold its shape under its weight once turned out of the mold. Way too gelatinous for me though! So I tinkered with the original to create something more runny while preserving its main characteristics of creaminess and lightness; hence I swapped the word cream for custard.
Another custard, right? Yep. The way I look at it: Custards are the cream of the baking crop or like the French used to say in the old days “crème de la crème” (no pun intended). They are also a delicious way to use some of those leftover yolks. No yolk tempering involved, I promise.
Not this time . . .
Recipes for Olga’s Original
Double Vanilla Angel Food Cake (GF) *
1. 1/3 cup (40 g) tapioca starch/flour
2. 1/4 cup (35 g) brown rice flour
3. 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (40 g) white sorghum flour
4. 1/4 cup (35 g) cornstarch
5. 1 1/2 cups (300 g) superfine vanilla sugar **, divided
6. 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) duck egg whites, at room temperature (10-13 duck eggs, separated, 5 yolks reserved for Bavarian Custard)
7. 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8. 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
9. 1/2 teaspoon fine kosher sea salt
1. Place oven rack in its lowest position and preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In a medium size bowl, whisk together flours, cornstarch and 3/4 cup sugar; sift and set aside.
3. Place egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Add vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt; beat on medium-high speed until foamy. Gradually add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating on high until soft, slightly droopy peaks form. At altitudes above 25oo feet, you do not want to whip your egg whites into stiff peaks, or the cake will collapse as it cools.
4. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
5. Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-inch aluminum angel food cake pan, preferably one with feet. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets.
6. Bake 35-40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Immediately place pan upside down on a wire rack; cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
7. To unmold, run a thin knife around sides and center tube of pan. Invert cake onto a serving plate. Slice cake using a serrated knife.
and Bavarian Custard (GF) ***
1. 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
2. 1 1/2 cups half and half
3. 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
4. 1 tablespoon whole milk
5. 5 duck egg yolks
6. 1/4 cup superfine sugar
7. pinch of salt
8. 1 cup heavy cream
9. 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
10. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Place half-and-half, vanilla bean and seeds in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and slowly bring to a scalding point. Remove from heat, cover and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over milk and leave to soften. Prepare an ice bath.
3. In a double-boiler, lightly whisk egg yolks, superfine sugar and salt together. Scald half-and-half again, then slowly whisk it into yolk mixture.
4. Cook custard over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
5. Remove from heat, add soaked gelatin and stir until completely dissolved.
6. Strain custard into a clean bowl and cover it with plastic wrap (plastic must touch custard to keep a skin from forming); cool over ice bath until it starts to slightly thicken and gelatinize.
7. Place powdered sugar into a mixing bowl and add heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Whisk just until cream reaches soft peaks, then fold it into cooled custard. Refrigerate.
Assemble the Trifles
1. For the fruit layer, in a medium size saute pan, melt 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add 2 small McIntosh apples (cored and thinly sliced) and saute them until tender and golden brown. Add 1/2 tablespoon natural cane sugar (or to taste) and a pinch of cinnamon; toss apples to coat them. Cook them another couple of minutes until apples are completely glazed. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely. Reduce heat to medium. In the same pan, melt another 1/2 tablespoon butter. Add 1 cup blackberries and 2 teaspoons thyme, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until blackberries soften slightly and are coated with butter. Sprinkle with another 1/2 tablespoon natural cane sugar (or to taste) and cook for 1-2 minutes, until sugar dissolves and turns syrupy. Let cool completely.
2. To assemble the trifles, layer ingredients amongst 4 (6-8-0z.) glasses, starting with angel food cake cut into 1-inch squares. You will need about 1/3 to 1/2 cake depending on the size of your glasses. Top with dollops of Bavarian Custard , then sauteed fruit. Repeat layers until all cake, Bavarian Custard and fruit have been added. Garnish with fresh apple slices, berries and thyme.
1. * and *** developed at an altitude of 4500 feet above sea level
2. ** to make your own vanilla sugar, score two vanilla beans down the middle. Place in a jar with 4 cups of superfine sugar. Cover and keep in a cool, dry place for at least 2 months.