Red raspberry trifle brightens holiday table

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Christmas desserts deserve to be steeped in holiday tradition, in this case visibly -- with cheerful raspberry red. Raspberries are the basis of a dessert that can brighten the holiday table with its color, and whose taste will recall other seasons.

However, raspberries needn't be just a summertime memory. They are available year-round in the frozen food section of groceries, and they can be useful to have on hand during the holidays, to use in drinks, appetizers and main dishes as well as desserts.

Red raspberries blend with tart raspberry-cranberry juice and complement creamy orange mousse in this version of the very English dessert called a trifle.

Traditionally, in Britain, trifles are made with layers of sponge cake, marinated fruit, custard and whipped cream. This trifle calls for angel-food cake, and it can made in advance and refrigerated until serving. To streamline preparation, use store-bought cake.

Red Raspberry Holiday Trifle

(Preparation 1 hour, plus refrigeration time of 4 to 6 hours or overnight)

1 purchased angel-food cake, sliced

Two 16-ounce bags frozen sweetened raspberries

1 cup raspberry-cranberry juice concentrate, thawed

6 tablespoons Cointreau (see note for substitutions)

4 cups raspberry-cranberry juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch

For mousse layer:

6 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

Generous pinch of salt

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 cup heavy cream whipped to medium firm peaks

Garnish:

1/2 cup heavy cream whipped to medium-firm peaks and placed in decorating bag with piping tip or in plastic resealable bag with corner snipped

6 fresh red raspberries

To make the berry filling: In a large saucepan bring the 4 cups of raspberry-cranberry juice to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together 4 tablespoons Cointreau with the cornstarch. Whisk into the reduced raspberry-cranberry juice and cook on medium heat until juice has thickened and become clear. Remove from the heat and add the two 16-ounce bags of frozen raspberries. Set aside and let stand until the berries have thawed.

To make the mousse layer: In a heavy nonreactive saucepan (stainless steel or enamel) combine the egg yolks, sugar, orange juice and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until the butter melts. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickly coats the back of the spoon, about 5 to 10 minutes. Strain mousse through a fine-mesh strainer to remove lumps, into a large bowl. The orange mousse mixture will be very thick. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, until completely chilled, about half an hour.

When mixture is chilled, in a large bowl, mash mascarpone cheese with a rubber spatula, add 1/4 cup of the orange mousse and stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in the remaining orange mousse and then fold in the whipped cream.

To make the soaking liquid: In a small bowl, mix the 1 cup of thawed raspberry-cranberry concentrate with 2 tablespoons of Cointreau. Stir until blended and set aside.

To assemble the trifle:

In a 12-cup trifle bowl or a glass bowl with straight sides, layer half the slices of the angel-food cake on the bottom, making sure that only the white, cut edges of the cake are visible against the sides of the trifle bowl.

Drizzle cake with half the soaking liquid. Evenly spread half the orange mousse mixture over the soaked cake slices. Spread three-quarters of the berry filling carefully over the mousse. Layer the remaining angel-food cake slices on top of berry filling, cut sides against the glass.

Drizzle cake with remaining soaking liquid. Spread remaining orange mousse mixture over cake. Mound remaining quarter of the raspberry mixture on top of the mousse in the center of the bowl.

Pipe whipped cream on top of trifle to decorate. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours or overnight before serving.

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