I recently taught a class of several teenage boys how to make trifle. Through the course of the evening, they tried to convince me to replace the candy canes with Andes mints, the cocoa with dark chocolate, and the cream with eggnog; all this while yelling about how trifle is a rifle with a T and tying each other up with yarn. (To see if they could get out, of course.) Sometimes you just forget how weird teenage boys are. It was awesome.
My brother Nathan was there too, and he had fun telling them stories about our childhood while we were all whipping cream (not eggnog, I won that battle) and crushing candy canes. I think their favorite one was the infamous microwave story.
Nate is my older brother and I pretty much did whatever he did for the first half of my life. (This is why I never even tried mustard until I had reached a very ripe age, only to discover that I loved it). I trusted him implicitly.
One time (when I was very young) I overheard my dad, who is an electrical engineer, mention something about microwaves at work. I asked Nate about it later and he told me that Dad made microwaves there. If you tell a kid your dad makes microwaves, do you really think they are going to assume you mean the electromagnetic wave and not the appliance in their kitchen? I am not an idiot.
Although you may not believe the above statement when I tell you that years later, my parents decided to upgrade their microwave. Great! I said. Can I put spoons in this one? I assumed that the reason I couldn’t put silverware in our microwave was because it was the one Dad had brought home from work years before. Our microwave looked older than the microwaves at my friends’ houses, and I assumed that this new and improved version would be able to handle some metal. I had never complained about our spoon-free microwave because, hey, my dad made it, how cool is that?
My dad is probably one of the smartest men on the planet. I have no idea why none of this intelligence was passed on. At least I’m smart enough to make rifle with a T.
This is my favorite Christmas dessert and it is rapidly becoming a family tradition for us. It’s super rich.
Candy Cane Brownie Trifle
Source: Better Homes and Gardens; the brownie recipe is from Allrecipes.com
For the Brownies:
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 9×13 pan.
In a large saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat, cool for a while, and then stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix dry ingredients into the butter mixture, stirring just until moistened. Spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.
Remove brownies from the oven and cool completely (if you are in a hurry stick them in the freezer). Cut brownies into bite-size chunks and set aside.
For the trifle:
6 ounces chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cup half and half or cream
3 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup crushed candy canes (about 12 candy canes)
In a small saucepan combine chocolate chip and 3 tablespoons of butter. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Stir in 1 1/4 cups half and half or cream, 3/4 cup sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Boil gently, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes or until sauce is reduced to about 2 1/3 cups. Remove from heat. Let cool. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract. Cool to room temperature; mixture thickens as it cools. (Freezer also helps here).
For whipped cream, in a chilled mixing bowl combine cream, powdered sugar, and peppermint extract. Beat with the chilled beaters of an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.
In 16 dessert cups, alternately layer brownie chunks, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and crushed candy canes, ending with whipped cream and candy canes. Serve immediately.
If you want to do this all in one trifle bowl, place 1/3 of the brownie chunks in a 3-quart glass bowl. Drizzle with 1/4 of the chocolate sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the candy canes. Top with 1/3 of the whipped cream. Repeat layers twice more. Drizzle with remaining chocolate sauce; sprinkle with remaining candy canes. Serve immediately.