Spring Fling–It’s time again for that short-lived but passionate love affair with local strawberries.
Of spring’s fleeting culinary pleasures – asparagus, fiddleheads, morels, rhubarb – strawberries are perhaps the most ephemeral of them all. If, like me, you only eat local fresh strawberries when in season, then you know just how short and sweet the season is. And it’s not just the season that flies by, once picked we’ve got about 16 ½ minutes to get them home and into our mouths before they begin to liquefy. Best to eat as you pick, with a can of whipped cream in a holster, perhaps?
When I was a kid, growing up in Hudson, Quebec, any walk through a farmer’s field or the woods was inevitably brought to a halt by patches of tiny wild strawberries underfoot. I’d spot the mass of telltale white blossoms, almost flush to the ground, and that would bring me to my knees for the hunt. Each berry was maddeningly tiny, but held ten times the flavour of the ones my father mollycoddled in his garden, under sheets of thick black plastic and mounds of straw.
With Father’s prized berries, Mother made pots of stewed strawberries and rhubarb that we’d spoon, still warm, over bowls of vanilla ice cream. Late spring eating at its simplest, sweetest, and finest. And that’s how I think we should enjoy the bounty of spring and summer; fresh, simple, and easy. Truly, there’s not a heck of a lot we can do to improve on a perfect, red, juicy, strawberry, other than pairing them up with flaky pastry, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or perhaps, near the end of the season, when you’ve almost had your fill, get a little bit fancy, and whip up this easy strawberry trifle.
White Chocolate Strawberry Trifle
Photo credit: Tristan Peirce
This lighter, no-custard recipe is as easy as a June evening. Now, feel free to crank up the oven to bake the pound cake, if you insist, but I think no-bake desserts are the way to go in summertime, so go ahead and buy a decent, all-butter pound cake to start with, then take it from there! Tweak this recipe for enjoying on the go; simply follow the steps for laying in individual wide-mouth jam jars – you might need about 12 for that.
¼ cup white crème de cacao (clear chocolate liqueur)
2 pound cakes; sliced into 1-inch slabs, then cut into cubes
3 ½ cups whipping cream (35%)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup grated white chocolate – start with a bar or block of baker’s then grate and measure
Prepare the strawberries, reserving a few for garnishing. Add them to a medium bowl with ½ cup sugar, orange juice, and crème de cacao; stir and set aside to macerate. Stir every few minutes. After about 30 minutes, smash the berries with a potato masher until it’s a chunky jam-like consistency.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks with 2 tablespoons of sugar and vanilla.
Into a dedicated trifle dish or other high-sided glass bowl – clear is prettiest! – add the first layer of pound cake cubes – make this layer a good one, to soak up all the strawberry liquid.
Add a layer of the strawberry mixture and spread it over the cake. Top that with a layer of whipped cream. Smooth it out to the edges.
Add another layer of cake cubes, follow with another layer of strawberries, then cream; continue until all the ingredients are used up or you run out of dish – whichever comes first! – but, make sure to end with a layer of whipped cream.
Top with a few fresh strawberries and the grated white chocolate. Refrigerate for 15 – 30 minutes before serving so it has a chance to set up a bit.
A trifle this size should handily serve between 10 – 12.