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Cranberry Coconut Trifle
“No other dessert turns heads like a trifle. Festive in every way, this trifle recipe glows from within with scarlet layers of juicy cranberries. The filling is made from an astounding 6 cups of antioxidant-packed cranberries! We made the custard “skinny” with a combination of low-fat milk and light coconut milk. From-scratch brown-butter sponge cake, made with whole-wheat pastry flour, stands in for store-bought ladyfingers.”
3 cups low-fat milk, divided
⅓ cup cornstarch
3 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon coconut extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can “lite” coconut milk
⅔ cup granulated sugar
2 12-ounce bags cranberries (6 cups)
1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup honey or agave nectar (see Tips)
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons coconut extract
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour (see Tips)
½ cup cake flour, sifted
⅔ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup heavy cream or whipping cream
½ cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon coconut extract
3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut chips or flakes, toasted if desired (see Tips)
1To prepare custard: Whisk ½ cup milk with cornstarch in a medium bowl; set near the stove. Whisk 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon coconut extract and ¼ teaspoon salt in another medium bowl. Combine the remaining 2½ cups milk, coconut milk and ⅔ cup sugar in a large saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming but not bubbling. Whisk the hot milk into the cornstarch mixture, then return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
2Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Strain through a sieve into a bowl or storage container. Cover and refrigerate until cold, 4 hours or up to 2 days.
3To prepare cranberry filling: Combine cranberries, cranberry juice, 1 cup sugar and honey (or agave) in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until most of the cranberries burst open, 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Or transfer to a storage container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
4To prepare sponge cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large (12-by-16½-inch) rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan) with parchment paper. Trim the paper so it covers the bottom of the pan completely, but does not curl up the sides. Coat the paper and pan sides with cooking spray. Place 5 eggs (in the shell) in a stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, add very warm tap water and set aside to warm the eggs and bowl.
5Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, until the white flecks of milk solids in the bottom of the pan start to turn golden brown, 4 to 8 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in 2 teaspoons coconut extract. Set aside.
6Meanwhile, whisk whole-wheat pastry flour and cake flour in a medium bowl; set aside.
7Drain the water and break the eggs into the warmed mixing bowl. Add ⅔ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon salt and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until tripled in volume and very pale light yellow, 5 to 15 minutes (depending on the strength of your mixer). To test if it's beaten well enough, lift the beater from the batter: as the batter falls off the beater into the bowl, it should mound for a moment on the surface.
8Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture with a whisk, in two additions, until just incorporated. Gently fold about 1 cup of the batter into the reserved butter. Then gently fold the butter mixture into the bowl of batter with a whisk until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking sheet.
9Bake the cake until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool in the pan on a large wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and turn the cake out onto the rack; remove the parchment and let cool completely.
10To assemble trifle: Cut the cake into 1-inch cubes. Spread about 1 cup of the custard in the bottom of a trifle dish. Top with about 3 cups cake cubes and 1 cup of the cranberry filling. Repeat the layering 3 more times.
11To prepare topping: Just before serving, whisk or beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Whisk in yogurt, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon coconut extract until smooth. Spread over the top of the trifle. Garnish with coconut.
Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the custard and cranberry filling, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days; tightly wrap the cooled cake and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Or prepare the trifle through Step 10, cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
Equipment: Trifle bowl or similar 12-cup glass serving dish; 12-by-16½-inch rimmed baking sheet
Agave syrup or nectar is the naturally sweet juice extracted from the agave plant. It has a lower glycemic index and is lower in calories than table sugar, but is even sweeter. Use it in moderation when substituting for table sugar. Look for it near other sweeteners in large supermarkets and natural foods stores.
Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft wheat. It contains less gluten-forming potential than regular whole-wheat flour and helps ensure a tender result in delicate baked goods while providing the nutritional benefits of whole grains. Find it at large supermarkets and natural-foods stores.
Large thin flakes of dried coconut called coconut chips make attractive garnishes. Find them in the produce section of large supermarkets or at melissas.com. To Toast: Cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 5 minutes.