- Lottie + Doof - http://www.lottieanddoof.com -

Maple Walnut Trifle

Whoa, 2011 was a pretty great year at Lottie + Doof! I just reviewed the recipes from this past year and impressed even myself. It may have been the best year for recipes yet, what with bagels [1], savory granola [2], and crostatas [3]. On top of that, we had a couple of dinners [4], a cookie [5] sale, a wedding [6] and a honeymoon [7]. It was all pretty terrific. What better way to celebrate than with what is one of the best recipes I discovered in 2011. It snuck in at the end, just in time for our celebrations.

Brandi Henderson is someone I trust. I know that if a recipe makes it to her blog [8], it is worth making. Her enthusiasm over the maple walnut trifle she created for Delancey [9], the pizza joint where she serves as pastry chef, made the recipe irresistible to me. Even though I had sworn off sweets until 2012, I needed to give this a try.

This trifle is off-the-charts amazing.  It may be the perfect dessert. The toasted walnut cake has the right amount of texture and nutty flavor, the rich maple mousse is totally incredible and the topping of candied walnuts and sea salt make this so incredibly good that you will be impressed it came out of your kitchen, I sure was.

The recipe isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires some work, though it can be made over a couple of days. It also contains 18 egg yolks (although, my adaptation gets that down to a very modest 14). But it serves plenty of people! Depending on how you serve it, anywhere from 10-12. And this is not something you make every week. It is something you make once a year, for a special occasion. I can’t imagine a better dessert for the end of a celebration meal. You’ll be famous for it!

Have I convinced you? Honestly, you guys, make this one.

I adapted Brandi’s recipe to make slightly less mousse, and filled out some of the directions but this is all her genius. I would suggest making the cake and candied nuts the day before you plan on serving the trifle and the mousse on the morning of the day you plan on serving the trifle. The mousse calls for sheet gelatin, which is all-around better and easier to use than the powdered stuff. It is available online and worth seeking out. You might even stop into your local bakery or restaurant and ask to buy a few sheets from them. I haven’t tried it with powdered gelatin, so I have no advice there, though I am sure you can find a way to make it work. The mousse was best in the first 24 hours, but was still fantastic for the next couple of days. It deflates a little, which makes it less pretty but just as tasty. The cake is also good for a few days at room temperature. I would not combine the two until you are ready to serve.

I can’t imagine a better way to close out the year than with this awesome, decadent, dessert. Thanks to all of you for being so supportive this year, it means a lot to me. See you back here in January for some more delicious food!

Happy New year!

Maple Walnut Trifle (adapted from a recipe by Brandi Henderson [10])

Toasted Walnut Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the canola oil, maple syrup and milk. Set aside.

Place the toasted walnuts in a food processor and grind until they are the size of bread crumbs. Be careful not to grind them into a paste!

Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them and the pod to the bowl of the stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the mixture on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard or save for another use. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Once all of the eggs are added, beat for another minute. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add the ground walnuts and mix to combine.

With the mixer running on low, add a third of the flour mixture. Mix until just combined and then add half of the milk mixture. Repeat with another third of the flour, then with the rest of the milk mixture, ending with the last of the flour mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until done, about 25-30 minutes. The baked surface will spring back slightly when touched in the center and the sides will begin to contract from the pan, a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, and let cool completely before removing from the pan.

Maple Mousse:

In a medium saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium-high heat. It will bubble a lot, so make sure your pan is large enough. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the syrup is reduced by about 25%. You should end up with about 8 ounces of syrup. Cool to room temperature.

Place the sheet gelatin in a  bowl of cold water and let it sit until completely softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the water and shake off the excess liquid. Set aside.

Whisk together the cooled maple syrup, salt and egg yolks in a metal bowl. Place the bowl over a medium saucepan filled with simmering water (to make a double-boiler). Cook over the pot of simmering water, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 165º F. Remove the bowl from on top of simmering water and whisk in the drained, bloomed gelatin sheets. Pour the mixture through a fine mash strainer, into another clean large bowl. Set aside to cool, whisking every few minutes. You can either place the mixture over an ice bath, or pop it in the fridge. It is very important to stir every couple of minutes, to keep the edges from setting to quickly. The mixture will slowly start to thicken and set. The goal is to have the mixture set to being equal in stiffness to whipped cream.

Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream to stiff peaks.

Once the maple mixture is the right consistency and the cream is whipped, fold a third of the cream into the cooled maple mixture, to lighten it. Once it is incorporated, gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream until just barely mixed. Pour into a container and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. the mousse will be a perfectly luscious consistency.

To Assemble:

I made individual trifles in rocks glasses. I cut up the cake into 1-inch cubes and filled each glass with a handful of cake cubes. I topped the cubes with a generous amount of the mouse. I finished with some candied walnuts [11], a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of maldon sea salt. The salt is vital. Do not skip it.

This is one of those desserts that is amazing with a coffee or espresso to cut some of the sweetness.