And now for something completely different. We’re going off on a bit of a tangent today, as I collaborate with two German food bloggers, Ginger of Ginger & Bread and Christine of Anna Antonia, to share a three course menu as part of a online event held by Kochtopf, organised by Dorothee from Bushcook’s Kitchen. For Flotter Dreier, (“Happy Threesome”), three food bloggers come together and present a course each of an original, themed, three-course menu.
Ginger, Christine and I, as two Germans and a Brit spread between England and Germany, found the theme of our three courses to be a bit of a no-brainer: it would of course be an English-German menu, wherein traditional dishes from both countries would fuse remarkably easily with each other. Yet, with Ginger and Christine both hailing from the southwestern German region of Schwaben (known in English as Swabia), we decided to go one step further and embrace three courses of English-Schwabian delights. Introducing, therefore…
Schwenglisch in Three Courses
Shropshire Cheese and Onion Jam Dinette by Christine of Anna Antonia
Steak & Stout with Spätzle from Ginger & Bread
Black Forest Trifle (recipe below)
Christine took on the starter, Ginger the main, and though it’s not usually my course of choice, I decided to get involved with dessert. Why? Because it meant I got to combine two of my all-time favourite sweet treats: a German Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, the traditional layered cake from the Black Forest built from a thin biscuit base and several generous layers of whipped cream, chocolate sponge and liquor-spiked cherries; and an English trifle, a classic, celebratory layered dessert that comprises chopped fruit, sherry-soaked sponge fingers, thick yellow custard and a topping of whipped cream. (You can read more about English trifles in this brilliant New York Times article from 1988, when they were still truly enjoying their heyday.)
So, here’s my fusion of the two: a Black Forest Trifle, a decadent dessert composed of alcoholic chocolate brownie, roasted cherries and two different, thickly whipped creams. Utterly indulgent, yes, but though the brownie is very rich, the dessert as a whole is not overly sweet; the roasting of the cherries takes the edge off their sweetness and the booze gives it a bit of a kick to keep you out of a food coma. No biscuit base in my version, but I imagine that a base layer of crumbled Digestives wouldn’t make a bad addition. This is the perfect pudding for cherry season, however if you should fancy it as a part of celebratory Christmas dessert, you could always used tinned cherries instead, reserving a little of their liquid for drizzling on the brownies.
So here we are. Introducing three courses of the finest (read: heartiest) traditional English and Schwabian cuisines, all rolled into one magnificent feast. It’s probably best have a digestif on hand for afters.
Recipe: Black Forest Trifle (serves 6)
Gluten-free brownie layer (adapted from a recipe by David Lebowitz)
85g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
225g dark chocolate, chopped (I used Green & Black’s Dark 70%)
150g white sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Kirsch (a slightly bitter cherry brandy. Use good quality cherry juice for a non-alcoholic version)
Plain and chocolate creams
50g dark chocolate
900ml double cream
1 tsp white sugar
For the chocolate brownie, grease and line a 23cm tin with foil and preheat your oven to 180˚c. Melt the butter and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and stir gently till lump-free, smooth and glossy. Remove from the heat and mix in the sugar and then one egg at a time, before sifting in the cornstarch and cocoa powder. Beat the mixture hard until it has lost most of its graininess (else your brownies will end up crumbly), pour the batter into the tin and bake it for 30 minutes, until a skewer to the middle comes out only a little wet. Set your brownie to one side to cool completely – and don’t turn off the oven.
Now roast your cherries. Reserve 12 cherries for decorating your trifles, and remove the stalks and stones of the rest of them, halving them as you go (tip: don’t wear a white t-shirt for this bit). Scatter them into a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. The cherries will wilt a little, but you want them to hold their shape.
Whilst your brownies are cooling and your cherries roasting, prepare the creams. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water before slowly adding 400ml of the cream, stirring slowly, till smooth and pale. Leave to cool (you can put it in the fridge whilst you finish everything else off). In a separate bowl, add the sugar to the remaining 500ml of cream and whip into soft peaks.
To assemble your Black Forest trifles, line your ingredients up alongside six transparent dessert bowls or glasses – or one great big one. Break up the brownie into small pieces and push gently into the base of the bowls. Drizzle a little Kirsch or cherry juice on top of this first layer.
Next, carefully place the cherry halves vertically around the outside of the glass, adding a few extra pieces (the ones you squashed during the pitting process) flat in the middle, covering up the brownie base. A couple of spoonfuls of the plain whipped cream go on next: use a spatula or the back of a teaspoon to smooth it down and push it into the gaps the cherries. Repeat with a layer of the chocolate cream, add a couple more small chunks of brownie and a roasted cherry or two, should you have any left, and finish with a final dollop of plain whipped cream.
Decorate the top of your trifles with two whole cherries per serving and a quick grating of dark chocolate, should you have a square or two remaining.