Trifles are great when you're searching for something fancy that's quick and semi-homemade. Usually pre-made cakes or lady fingers are layered with pre-made custard or whipped cream and fruit then chilled before being served. I've eaten and enjoyed these kinds trifles before, and even have a recipe of my own that calls for storebought angel food cake so I definitely understand the appeal.
However, this is not that kind of trifle. This beautiful thing is a start-from-scratch sort of dealy that's only distantly related to it's light and fruity counterpart. Vanilla custard, cake, and fruity layers are replaced with rich brownies, butterscotch pudding, and bourbon whipped cream. It's the darker, sexier cousin of the traditional trifle..just in time for Valentine's Day.
I've been searching for a butterscotch butter recipe that contained both butter and scotch. Not that you *need* those things for it to be considered butterscotch, but I've been attached to that idea since trying butterscotch ice cream that was made with a splash of scotch. Luckily, David Lebowitz's pudding recipe was exactly the one I had been dreaming of. Dark brown sugar, heavy cream, butter, eggs, and that coveted scotch.. perfect.
The pudding requires some whisking and cooking, but there's no boiling of sugar, whipping of egg whites, or folding of delicate ingredients. Not as simple as packaged pudding (and let's face it, few things are as simple as dumpling some powder out of a box and stirring), but perhaps not as complicated as you might imagine it to be. Plus, it's completely totally worth the time.
The only hard part is leaving it to chill in the fridge overnight. I don't know about you, but my pudding has a habit of disappearing a spoonful by spoonful each time I open the fridge. Mysterious...
The brownies are the kind that bake up rich and fudgy with a crispy crust. Cake-like brownies get a bit soggy when layered with pudding and whipped cream, but these intensely chocolaty little morsels retain their shape and texture even a day or two after assembling the trifle. I used Stirling Churn 84 for both the pudding and the brownies give them an extra rich texture.. and because butter is my Valentine.
Equal amounts of butter and cocoa powder are melted together in a pot, then sugar, flour, salt, milk, and an egg are stirred in to make the batter.
Which is then spread (not poured.. waaay too thick for that) into a parchment paper lined tin, topped a scattering of pecans for a bit of crunch, and baked until the center is set and the edges are starting to pull away from the pan.
Once cool, the brownies are sliced into little bite sized pieces. Warm brownies are delicious, but you want to let these cool 100% so that they layer properly into the trifle.
The cream for the trifle is only lightly, every so lightly sweetened to offset the sweet pudding and intense brownies. It gets whipped into a big pillowy cloud with just a tablespoon of powdered sugar and a splash of bourbon. I highly recommend adding bourbon to your whipped cream, even if you're not planning making this trifle. It's perfect alongside apple pie, on top of peach crumble, floating on a mug hot coffee.. the list goes on.
Finally, the ingredients are layered either in individual dishes, or in one big bowl to scoop out of. You can assemble the trifle beforehand and keep it chilled in the fridge for a day or two, or simple assemble right before eating.
The brownies, pudding, and whipped cream are tasty on their own, but the beauty of the trifle is when you combine them and get a bit of each with every spoonful, the dessert ends up being more than the sum of it's parts. Plus it checks all the boxes for the perfect Valentine's Day dessert: chocolate, booze, easy to share, and it's a little bit fancy without being over the top.
Butterscotch and Brownie Trifle
4 tablespoons Stirling Churn84 butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2½ cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons scotch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Stirling Churn84 butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup pecans
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup whipping cream
1 TBSP powdered sugar
1 TBSP bourbon (or to taste)
Make the pudding:
1. Melt the butter in a medium pot, then stir in the sugar and salt to dissolve. Remove the pot from heat.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch. Then whisk in the eggs. Whisk the remaining milk into the brown sugar and butter mixture, followed by the cornstarch-egg mixture. Whisk until smooth, then place the pot back on the heat.
3. Stir the pudding over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Reduce the heat and stir constantly until it thickens enough to coats the back of your spoon, 1 - 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the scotch and vanilla. Transfer to a clean bowl, press plastic wrap on the top of the pudding's surface and chill in the fridge until completely cool.
Make the Brownies:
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper
5. Melt the butter in a medium pot, then stir in the cocoa powder until smooth. Stir in the sugar and salt, followed by the flour, milk, egg, and vanilla. The batter will be very thick.
6. Use a spatula to spread the batter in an even layer in the baking pan. Break up the nuts a bit with your hands, or put them in a plastic baggie and press down to crush slightly. Toss with the sugar and salt then sprinkle over top of the brownie batter.
7. Bake at 350 for 22 - 26 minutes until the center is just set and the edges are starting to pull away from the pan. Use the parchment paper to pull the slab of brownies out of the pan and cool on a wire rack. Slice into bite sized pieces.
Make the Whipped Cream:
8. Whip the cream until thick, then add the icing sugar. Whip on high until fluffy and fold in the bourbon. Adjust booze and sugar to taste.
Assembling the Trifle
Press a layer of brownies along the bottom and edge of a bowl (or small individual bowls). Top with butterscotch pudding, whipped cream, and extra pecans. Repeat until the bowl is filled.
Full Disclosure: Stirling sent me some butter, but I bake with it because I legitimately enjoy the product and find the quality makes a difference.