June 19, 2011

Boccone Dolce (trifle)

I have been thinking a lot about birthdays lately, and why we celebrate them. Maybe because this is the first birthday that I really was not too excited about turning a year older (I know that you readers in the extremely-late-thirties crowd are rolling your eyes right now, but I'm just being honest).

I didn't think that 25 was that big of a deal until a friend asked me about a month ago how I was feeling about turning a quarter of a century. "The next big birthday is 30, you know," someone else said to me. That's when I really started thinking about it.

The first twelve or so birthdays are exciting because you have an excuse to eat as much sugar as you want, you get a bunch of fun toys, and all your friends get to come over. Then you're thirteen, finally a teenager. Then fourteen, entering high school. Fifteen you get your permit. Sweet sixteen you can drive. On and on the excitement builds... until about twenty five.

All the birthdays leading up to this year have made me look with excitement and anticipation at the year ahead. This year was different. This year, I felt myself looking back for the first time.

Maybe it was because this was my first year as a mother, and if any life situation should make you feel like you've grown up fast, parenthood is it. At any rate, I look back on twenty five blessed years of life that have rolled out in front of me, step by step. It seems that most of the time the next bit of the path was only visible as I was in the middle of stepping onto it. But I think that is what celebrating birthdays is about as you get older: celebrating your ability to adapt and cope and keep taking those life steps as they come, one at a time.
It is at this point in my rambling that I will bring us back to food. We will look at this dish as a micro-example of a larger life lesson: the ability to adapt as life happens.

Friday was my birthday, and I wanted- no needed- to make my favorite dessert in the whole world: boccone dolce. Imagine layers of meringue drizzled with chocolate and smothered with fresh seasonal berries and fluffy pillows of heavenly whipped cream. That is what I made, more or less.

The second life lesson of this post: waxed paper does not equal parchment paper. The meringue layers (which require about four hours, start to finish, plus a babysitter) are supposed to be baked on parchment paper. I thought the cheap equivalent, waxed paper, would work. So, so wrong. Instead of easily peeling off as the parchment paper would have done, the waxed paper melted to the meringue and formed a sticky adhesive that was pretty much impossible to remove. Except in chunks.
(Insert picture of my mother and I frantically trying to chisel off crumbling meringue pieces from the wax paper at the time I am supposed to be somewhere with completed boccone dolce in tow. Photo unavailable due to the situation just described.)

As a result, I- now being an extremely mature, level headed, rolling with the punches 25 year old- made boccone dolce trifle. Which was delicious and just what I had been craving, despite its appearance being far from the beautiful layered cake from Papa Haydns.
This recipe, which I shamelessly copied and pasted from this site and then wrote in my own notes, is supposedly the Papa Haydns' recipe. It tasted pretty dang close to me.

Boccone Dolce (trifle)
Serves: oh so many! 20 people who have already had dinner maybe?
For the meringue layers, you'll need the following:
1 1/2 cups egg whites
2 cups sugar
(about 4 hours, and a babysitter, as stated above)
1.  Whip the egg whites on high until they come to a stiff peak
2.  Turn down the mixture to medium speed and start adding sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time, every 2 to 3 minutes.  This allows the sugar to be absorbed.  You'll notice the meringue will become very thick and glossy.
3.  You will need to line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Draw the circles (the size you want your meringue layers to be) on the under side of the parchment.
4.  Take a rubber spatula and start spreading the meringue inside the circles.
5.  Bake at 225 degrees for 2 and a half hours. (I only took about 2 hours, 10 minutes)  Meringue should be white in color and crispy all the way through.  If they're still soft after this time, you can bake them longer.  The low temperature will prevent them from browning too quickly. Let cool completely before carefully peeling off parchment paper.

For the sweetened whipping cream, you'll need the following:
4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar (or more, to your taste)
1.  Whip cream to soft peak
2.  Add vanilla and sugar
3.  Whip cream to stiff peak -- then it's ready to use.  The cream needs to be stiff in order for it to hold the meringue layers together.
4. Flavoring the whipped cream to compliment the fruit with a smidgen of spice like ground cardamom or an orange liqueur adds another a counter point to the classic vanilla.
You also need: 
- 6 cups berries (I used strawberries because they are in season in Oregon, and amazing. Use whatever you have fresh and local)- 8 oz melted semisweet chocolate (the recipe calls for 6, but 8 is more realistic in my chocolate-loving opinion)
Let's put together the Boccone Dolce:
1.  Put one layer of meringue on your serving plate (or 1/3 of the crumbled meringue chunks into the serving bowl)
2.  Drizzle melted chocolate over the layer
3.  Spread 1/4 of your whipped cream on top of the layer, and top with berries.
4.  Spread 1/4 of the cream on top of the berries.
5.  Repeat with next layer
6.  Top with 3rd meringue layer.  Drizzle with chocolate.
7.  Decorate with edible fresh flowers, fruit, mint or geranium leaves.  Enjoy!

Source: Papa Hyden’s Natasha Ohlman - Portland, Oregon

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