COOKING ADVENTURES #77: Black Forest Trifle
Birthday celebrations galore. August has been one thrill ride of a month. I’ve recently returned from my first out-of-state book-signing event, worked a few long days at my day job, and… oh, yeah… celebrated 25 years on this earth on Thursday August 22nd. My parents and I went out for dinner at a nice little restaurant in town where I enjoyed an Angry Orchard (on tap! The best ever!) and a divine sandwich with both bacon and lobster. You have no idea what a good sandwich is until you’ve had something with both lobster and bacon. No idea. But, I didn’t get my craving for a celebratory dessert that evening because of being so full. So, Saturday night, I concocted a non-traditional birthday delight that totally rocked the socks of everyone I work with. And by the time I’ve finished telling you the tale, you will be eager to make one for yourself!
I’ve always been intrigued by the culinary moniker “Black Forest”. It conjures the image of a sinfully delightful dessert so rich that one will feel as though they’ve suddenly been lost in a euphoric woodland. I’ve seen dozens of recipes including cakes, pies, and even a muffin. But, after stumbling upon the recipe for the trifle from none other than Pampered Chef, I figured that this would be the best way to introduce myself to any and all things “Black Forest.” And so after a day of work and doing a steady stream of dishes that had been piling in my sink for FAR too long, I gathered my ingredients and started in.
The first thing to do was to make a pan of brownies. And because I wasn’t feeling terribly ambitious, I made them from a box. Call down the harpies to rake me with their claws and screech at me, I just didn’t have the energy to make them from scratch. Besides, the recipe said to used boxed. There’s my get-out-of-jail-free card. The boxed directions are pretty universal no matter what brand you get: you mix the powdered mix with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 1/4 cup water, and 2 eggs. Once you’ve stirred them at least 50 times (not 51, not 49… 50) you then slide this smooth rich brown batter into the pan of your choice and bake the sucker at 350 for about a half an hour. I used a stoneware pan which doesn’t necessarily need to be lined or coated with any Crisco or oil. While I waited for the brownies to bake, I started on the other levels of the trifle.
The next level is comprised of the delectable cherry filling. To accomplish this, you use none other than cherry pie filling. Not a hard thing to guess. I had grabbed a can blindly from the shelf at the grocery store as there was a person stocking the top shelf above and I was afraid of being creamed by a falling can of pie filling. Death by pie filling. That would be a highly original death if I ever heard it. When I grabbed the can to use it, I was disappointed to discover that there was a rather sizeable dent in the side. But after quickly reading up a report online and checking the can over carefully, I determined that the can could still be used and quickly spooned out the gloppy filling into a bowl. The next step was to add 1 tsp of almond extract. I was under the false impression that I had this in my endless extract inventory. I was wrong. I have almond oil… which definitely would not have tasted good with cherry pie filling. I skipped that step and moved on. I scooped some of the cherry filling into a different bowl to use as a garnish. I shouldn’t have bothered… but more on that later. Then, I added some cranberry cherry juice to the filling and mixed it in.
The third and final tier of the trifle consists of the amazing combination of a white chocolate pudding and whipped cream. The white chocolate pudding is an instant pudding mixed with 2 cups of milk which is the exact amount that I had left in my carton! After allowing it to set up for a few minutes, I took my whipped cream from the freezer and put in three heaping spoons of it and mixed. The directions say to add the entire tub of whipped cream. If I’d had a bigger bowl, I would have. However, I was starting to run out of bowls and counter space.
I finished up with that just in time for the time to go off. I pulled the brownies from the oven and their intoxicating smell quickly took over the apartment. And now… the most difficult part of the entire process… waiting for the brownies to cool. Waiting is awful, especially when you have something so tempting as brownies just sitting there begging for you to eat them. I lasted a good fifteen minutes before I gave in and started dragging a knife through the pristine surface of the brownies. And of course, not being entirely cooled, they looked as though I’d pulled a till through them, bunching up the cakey innards as if it was rich soil. By the time I was done, it no longer looked beauteous; just ravaged. I then attempted to cut them into squares to start making the bottom layer of the trifle. That went horribly. It ended up being crumbs, lots and lots of brownie crumbs, sometimes bigger crumbles, but nothing particularly square.
Once I had the bottom layer down, I dipped my spoon into the cherry filling and started pouring that over the brownies. I had to make sure that each brownie was covered and because of this little OCD moment, I ended up having less cherry filling left than I’d wanted. The next step was to sprinkle chocolate chips over the cherry filling. I mean, we wouldn’t want people to think that this isn’t a rich dessert or anything. It’s like when they add the deceptively sweet maraschino cherry to the top of the chocolate covered ocean of ice cream with walnuts, peanut butter cups, bananas, and spoonfuls of sugar. At this point, I knew that if I ate a normal helping of this, I would either breakout in a mountain range of blemishes to rival the Alps, or be overcome by lethargy and a sudden diagnosis of diabetes. Neither was a winning situation. I decided that I’d only have a very small helping and leave the fate of death by pie filling to my co-workers. Sorry guys. You know I love you.
After sprinkling chocolate chips like a devilish dessert fairy, I resumed layering with the final layer; the white chocolate pudding. Once that was in place, I started over: brownies, pie filling, chocolate chips, and pudding. Once I’d placed the final layer of pudding, I sprinkled even more chocolate chips (someone stop her! She’s gone mad!) and spooned on the garnish of my pie filling. The “garnish” ended up looking like someone had suffered a fatal accident directly over the bowl, a splotch of red that looked in no way pretty or delicious. Into the fridge it went for the poor souls at work the next day while I enjoyed my tiny portion. And to my surprise, it didn’t knock me over with sweetness. The right combination of tart and saccharine delight, I almost wished that I’d saved myself some more. Probably better that I not. I had a wonderful chocolate birthday cake with blackberry ice cream last night that was out of this world. And, as I already said, the trifle was a big hit at work. I’m almost certain it was gone before the end of the day yesterday.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’ll be throwing us into autumn with this awesome recipe for Chicken Pumpkin Stew that involves using a real pumpkin. I’m not sure how this is going to go over… hopefully my knife skills will be more like the ones used on my shark week watermelon recipe and less like last year’s chicken autopsy… Stay tuned!