Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lemon Trifle

light lemony love...
I really debated as to whether or not to post this recipe, but over the years I've had so many requests for it that I finally decided I had to just let go and do it. Not that it's not delicious - it is most definitely that, sweet (but not too sweet) and light as a cloud with a pleasant lemony tang. And not that it's not beautiful - trifles just look so pretty, standing tall in their bowl with their lovely layers just begging you to dig deeper. And it's not that I want to keep it to myself - I love sharing my kitchen adventures with the world, or I wouldn't have started this blog !

No, my problem with this recipe is just that I'm a little embarrassed by it.

I came up with this recipe many, MANY years ago when I was participating in a popular weight loss program. The base of the trifle - the lemon layer - was something that the receptionist had come up with to get the most point value out of her yogurt. She would take a box of sugar-free Jello (any flavor would work) and add hot water per the package instructions, but instead of cold water she would add in...yogurt. Allowed to set in the fridge, this concoction would turn into something between Jello and pudding - almost the texture of a very smooth pie filling. Portioned off into cups, it made a totally delicious dessert or snack with half the point value of regular yogurt (as the Jello was "free") . She also made a desert by layering this stuff with (as I recall), fruit cocktail and "rusk" cookies that the program sold. Not being a fruit cocktail fan, I started tweaking...and eventually came up with the infamous Lemon Trifle. And while I eventually swapped in some more "foodie" ingredients, at its core this dessert is really still a combination of premade cookies and American convenience foods...namely, Jello and Cool Whip. (Anyone who makes the very popular versions of Chocolate Trifle out there will tell you that for some reason, Cool Whip works a lot better that actual whipped just holds up better). Here, then, is the source of my embarrassment...I'm not usually known for my love of convenience foods. Don't take on my issues, all means, if you are a lemon fan and don't mind Cool Whip (I have a not-so-secret affection for the stuff), make this trifle. (If Cool Whip really freaks you out and you want to try it with regular whipped cream, use the real stuff you whip yourself using 10x sugar to sweeten and stabilize it...or try one of these other stabilization methods : Don't even go there with the canned stuff.)

One of the reasons the lemon was so great in my first versions of this recipe (other than the fact that I love lemon desserts) is that masks the aftertaste you can get from sugar-free products - the tartness really overrides the bitterness.  So if going low or no sugar is your thing, use sugar-free versions of some or all the components...Jello, yogurt, and Cool Whip all come in sugar-free versions, of course, and you can even get sugar-free cookies or angel food cake. Just bring the sugar down to whatever level you feel comfortable with. Made with regular versions of all the products, though, this really is a gorgeous, light dessert that everyone is always happy to can travel to any party with ease.  Oh, and if you don't have a trifle bowl use a large glass bowl or even a glass baking dish...simple trifle bowls are cheap, though, and you'll find them useful for all sorts of things.

Enjoy ! ~ CO

Lemon Trifle
  • 1 large (6 oz) or two small (3 oz) boxes Lemon Jello
  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1 package ladyfinger cookies (the crunchy kind) (you will probably not use entire package) OR substitute : biscotti (lemon or vanilla) , cubes of stale angel food cake or soft ladyfingers gone stale, even Nilla wafers...whatever strikes your fancy !) 
  • 2 tablespoons Limoncello (optional)
  • 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1 12 oz container Cool Whip, defrosted (if you aren't trying to go sugar free, get Extra Creamy) OR 3 cups sweetened, stabilized whipped cream (see above)
  • 1 lemon, for zesting (if you're not using the Limoncello and you can find Meyer lemons, use can use the juice as you would the Limoncello) 

DAY BEFORE : In a large bowl, dissolve Jello in boiling water as per package directions. Substitute the 2 cups vanilla yogurt for the cold water called for on the box. Whisk this mixture well, cover and let set in the fridge overnight. If you are using cake or soft cookies instead of ladyfingers, set them out to go stale at this point as well (cube the cake first)

NEXT DAY - build your trifle. Start with a layer of ladyfingers; cover the bottom of your bowl, and sprinkle with the Limoncello or Meyer lemon juice if using. Spoon half the pineapple over the cookies (use a slotted spoon if you have already moistened the cookies with something else; otherwise use some of the juice in there too). Repeat all layers, ending with Cool Whip. Zest the lemon over the top.

Refrigerate trifle for at least 4 hours before serving