Brandied Cherry Trifle
Bing cherries work quite well for this recipe, but if you can, try a split of Bing and Rainiers (or similar variety). The latter are more tart, tempering this very sweet dessert. The trifle needs several hours of refrigeration before serving. This recipe is inspired by one in Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion 2003).
Makes 10-12 servings
1 cup hazelnuts
4 cups of halved, pitted cherries, plus 8-10 whole cherries for garnish
1 cup brandy
1 1/3 cup sugar, divided
½ cup water
2 eggs, separated
1 ½ pounds (24 ounces) mascarpone cheese
Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10 minutes, until the nuts begin to brown and the skins split open. Wrap the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub together to remove skins.
Place the cherry halves, brandy, 1 cup of the sugar and ½ cup of water into a large pot and bring to a boil. When the mixture begins to foam, reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for about 10 more minutes.
Take 8 ladyfingers and slice them in half lengthwise and crosswise, then use them to line the bottom of a large bowl. Don't worry if the pieces are broken or uneven – the point is to create a sturdy base for the trifle.
In a food processor, blend the remaining ladyfingers with the hazelnuts to a coarse breadcrumb consistency. Dust the ladyfingers in the bowl with a third of this mixture.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer cherries to the bowl, covering the ladyfingers. Spoon over 2-4 tablespoons of the liquid as well, reserving the remainder.
Lightly dust the cherries with more of the crumb mixture, being sure to leave enough for topping at the end. Drizzle on a few more tablespoonfuls of liquid.
In a mixer, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar until they become paste-like. Add the mascarpone cheese, then slowly drizzle in 1/3 cup of the cherry liquid. Set aside.
Using a different bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mascarpone mixture. Spread the cheese mixture over the top of the trifle, cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, dust the trifle with the last of your crumb mixture and top it with halved or whole cherries.
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