Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day: Pear and Chocolate Trifle

Photo: BBC GoodFood
Being an Anglophile, I often come across references to Boxing Day in British books I read. What exactly is Boxing Day? When I was younger, without any 'real' boxing day experience, I took it to mean the day after Christmas when you boxed up all your ornaments and returned them to the attic. I also thought Boxing Day was the day that you boxed up your presents and returned them to the stores where they were purchased. I was so wrong.

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, when "servants and tradesmen traditionally would receive gifts from their superiors." Today it's a national holiday in most of the British Commonwealth and former British colonies. As far as why it's called Boxing Day, there are several different theories:

A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present.

Boxing Day was a day off for servants and when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.

A box to collect money for the poor was placed in Churches on Christmas day then opened the next day.

Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. If the voyage were a success the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents given to the poor.

Whatever the origin, it's definitely another day to eat well, and that would mean chocolate!

Here's a lovely British recipe I found a few years ago to celebrate Boxing Day: Pear and Chocolate Trifle. What could be better for Boxing Day than a trifle? This recipe is from John Torode in BBC Good Food Magazine. I've adjusted the measurements for American Cooking. If you're just too tired to bake another thing after the holidays, a shortcut would be to use leftover Chocolate Cake in the trifle.

BOXING DAY PEAR AND CHOCOLATE TRIFLE

Ingredients

FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER
7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup sweet butter
2 cups superfine (if you don't have golden caster) sugar
5 large eggs, separated

FOR THE POACHED PEARS
6 firm pears, peeled
1 vanilla pod, split

FOR THE MASCARPONE LAYER
2 large egg yolks
4 Tbsp golden caster sugar (superfine sugar)
5 ounces marsala
2 - 9 ounce tubs of mascarpone

TO FINISH
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, grated
5 tbsp very strong coffee (or espresso)

Directions

1. For the cake: Melt chocolate and butter together, then cool. Meanwhile, heat oven to 325F. Butter and line the base and sides of 9"springform pan with parchment paper.

2. Whisk sugar and egg yolks until very pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Fold in chocolate mix using large metal spoon. Put egg whites and pinch of salt into another bowl and, with clean beaters, whisk until you have medium peaks. Fold this gently but thoroughly into chocolate mix with metal spoon, then spoon into pan and bake for 11/2 hrs until risen all over. Insert skewer into middle of tin to test; it should come out with just a few damp crumbs but no wet mix. The cake will sink once it cools.

3. While cake cooks, put pears, vanilla pod and 4 cups water into saucepan. Weigh pears down under surface with small plate, then simmer for 20 mins, covered, until tender. Leave to cool in liquid if you have time. Cut each pear into 6 long slices, then remove stalk and core.

4. For mascarpone layer: Half-fill medium saucepan with water, then bring to simmer. Put yolks, sugar and 6 tbsp of the Marsala into large bowl, sit it over just-simmering water, then whisk for 5 mins until mixture is thick and holds trail for few secs. Put mascarpone into bowl, beat with 2 tbsp more Marsala to loosen, then whisk in egg mix in 2 batches, until smooth, thick and light.

5. You're now ready to assemble the trifle. Cut cake in half - it will be squidgy, so don't worry if it breaks up. Spoon some of mascarpone layer into bottom of  dish, then top with a few pears and a sprinkling of grated chocolate. Put half of cake on top, then sprinkle with some of remaining Marsala and coffee. Spoon more of mascarpone over, then top with more pears and more chocolate. Top this with next piece of cake, spoon over more Marsala and coffee, then spoon remaining mascarpone mix over top. Finish with remaining pears. Chill for at least 2 hrs, or up to 2 days. When ready to serve, cover with last of grated chocolate.

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