Baking with Michelle Darmody: Sherry - not just for trifle

I HAVE just returned from a very wet and windy trip to southern Spain. The weather was so unexpectedly grey that we found ourselves indoors more than we intended. There was an up-side, we used the time to visit some wonderfully aromatic sherry bodegas, if I closed my eyes I felt as if I were sinking into a trifle.

The range of sherry styles we tasted was very broad, there was one to work alongside each matching tapas, from a bone dry fino sherry to the intensely sweet, dark and sticky Pedro Ximenez. I enjoyed the Oloroso style the most, it is golden in colour and has a nutty taste somewhere between the dry and sweet. It seemed extra nice when served among the old barrels inside the great vaults of the bodegas.

Most sherries will last a few weeks after opening, once the bottle is stored in the fridge. If you have a bottle lying around for much longer than this it may be best to save it for cooking or baking.

An affogato is a sublimely simple desert. A variation on the original coffee and vanilla ice cream is one with a shot of Pedro Ximenez in place of the espresso. It is equally as delicious. This rich, sweet sherry also works well in other deserts like this version of a tiramisu. It is a tasty play on the original.

There is no getting around it, trifles are fiddly, especially if you are making all of the separate elements to assemble. The recipe included here is with the Manzanilla sherry from the seaside town of Sanlucar. It’s dry flavour gives the trifle a bit of kick, you can substitute it for a softer cream sherry if you wish or add a little extra sugar if you find it too dry for your liking.

Pedro Ximenez tiramisu

90 mls of Pedro Ximenez sherry

90 mls of strong coffee, cold

12 sponge lady finger biscuits

3 tbsp of golden caster sugar

220g of mascarpone cheese

220 mls of cream, whipped to stiff peaks

2 tsp of cocoa powder

Pour the sherry and coffee into a flat dish and place the biscuits on top. Allow the liquid to soak in.

Beat the sugar and mascarpone until completely combined. Fold in the cream.

Lay two of the soaked biscuits into each of six glasses. Scoop the cream mixture on top and sprinkle with cocoa powder before serving.

Sherry-soaked Eccles cakes

2 sheets of puff pastry, cut into six 12 cm circles

3 tbsp of Pedro Ximenez sherry

100g of currants

20g of sultanas

10g of butter

30g of mixed peel

The zest of 2 oranges

1 tsp of mixed cake spice

50g of muscovado sugar

1 tbsp of lemon juice

1 egg white

Mix the sherry, currants and sultanas together. Allow to soak for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and line a flay baking tray with parchment.

Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan. Stir in the peel, zest, cake spice, sugar and lemon juice until combined. Stir in the sherry and soaked dried fruit.

Spoon a generous spoon of the filling in the centre of each pastry circle. Pull the edges of pastry together and pinch it closed so that the filling is sealed inside. Turn the cake over and prick it with a fork. Place onto the baking tray. Brush with the egg white.

Bake for 20 minutes until they pastry is golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Orange and Manzanilla mini trifles

Custard

600ml of milk

2 tsp of vanilla essence

3 egg yolks

25g of golden caster sugar

2 tsp of corn flour, sieved

Madeira cake

170g of golden caster sugar

175g of soft butter

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp of vanilla essence

The zest of 4 lemons

The zest of 2 oranges

250g of self raising flour, sieved

120ml of Manzanilla sherry

Assembling

90ml of Manzanilla sherry

2 tsp of honey

2 oranges, segmented and the zest of 2 oranges

A handful of berries such as blueberry or raspberry

To make the cake heat your oven to 180C and line an 8in round cake tin with parchment.

Cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Mix the vanilla and zest through the eggs and add these slowly to the butter mixture. If it starts to separate add a spoon of the flour. Stir the flour in with a wooden spoon or spatula and make sure to completely combine all of the ingredients. Scoop into your tin and flatten.

Bake for 35 minutes until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely. Break up about half of the madeira cake into large bite-size pieces and soak the pieces in the other 120ml of sherry. The rest of the cake can be eaten separately or added in if you wish.

To make the custard heat the milk gently over a low heat in a heavy based saucepan. Mix the sugar, egg yolks and cornflour together until they form a smooth paste. Whisk the warm milk into the paste trying to make sure lumps do not form. You can strain it with a sieve if they do. Transfer the custard back into the saucepan and over a low heat whisk until it thickens. Allow to cool.

Soak the orange segments and the berries in the sherry and honey.

Place the sherry soaked madeira pieces on the bottom of the glasses. Spoon the orange and berries on top, pouring in any extra juice. Spoon a generous amount of custard on top and sprinkle with the orange zest or grated chocolate before serving.

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