I am a big fan of Christopher Kimball and America's Test Kitchen. While I have had, at various times in the past, subscriptions to several of the other big cooking magazines, it is America's Test Kitchen that I consistently keep going back to, so much so that a good while ago I signed up to be a recipe tester for them.
It must have been at least 18 months between the time I signed up to be a tester and receipt of my first recipe. It was so long, in fact, that I figured I wasn't ever getting a recipe to test. I shrugged it off, and so was all the more amazed when my first recipe found its way to my inbox.
I've received about 6 recipes in the last three months, but due to various other commitments, have not been able to make the recipe and respond to the requisite survey within the required amount of time. I was determined to make the deadline when I received a recent recipe for Berry Trifle. For some reason, I have been fascinated by trifle; I've never made it, it contains dessert elements I like (cake, fresh berries, custard) and it's from America's Test Kitchen. Definitely, on its face, a recipe for success.
I made this yesterday, and I must say it was ultimately a success, but not without some hiccups. Initially, I have no trifle dish (and the squared shape of the traditional trifle dish is rather important when composing the trifle), so what you see below is my next best effort - a rounded mixing bowl. At least it's glass.
Secondly, the recipe called for a rather large baking sheet on which to bake the cake portion of the trifle. All of my baking sheets were off by 3 inches in both directions; I wound up making a smaller cake. Fortunately, since my glass mixing bowl was slightly smaller than the required trifle dish, this turned out just fine.
And then there was the time element. This dish serves a whole troop of people and takes at least 3 hours of continued effort to complete. No breaks, no down time while things are baking. Then, at minimum, another six hours to set up in the refrigerator (a full 24 hours is probably better). I must admit, this was kind of a drawback - I suppose if I was a professional baker, the time commitment would be no problem. Unless it's holiday time (and then long baking sessions are a joy since I bake, cook and otherwise make most of my gifts), I guess I just wasn't into sinking three hours into one dessert on this particular occasion.
Nevertheless, it tastes great, even if it's not the most attractive dessert. I actually decided to show everyone the finished trifle because I think it's important for everyday bakers and cooks to see how things turn out in real life. While the berries garnish on top saves it, I've definitely put together better presentations.
Chalk it up to a baking learning experience. This recipe should be published in a future America's Test Kitchen magazine.