Many of us grew up picking the berry to enjoy in varied ways
Learn to make P.E.I. Strawberry Tiny Trifles in this month’s Food Seductress Column.
Strawberry season is a precious time for most Canadians as far north a latitude as Mother Nature will allow.
Many of us grew up picking strawberries, dipping them in sugar, scooping them up in a shortcake or slathering these mystical berries over freshly toasted bread. There is an aroma, too, that is noteworthy. Whenever I make a strawberry jam or compote, I am instantly at my mother’s side as a little girl as she prepares the Hungarian version of a crepe while the strawberry sauce she prepared cools nearby on the counter.
We all have our own special strawberry memories, and when I asked chef Brad MacDonald at the helm of the Brickhouse Kitchen and Bar in historic downtown Charlottetown, I looked forward to hearing about his connection to the once wild and now universally cultivated inside-out delicate crimson berry.
When it comes to the best way to enjoy strawberries, MacDonald is a purist: “I am a traditionalist when it comes to strawberries. I love them in season and simple. I don’t like to complicate them and I definitely want the naturally sweet strawberry taste to stand on its own. One of my favourite things ever since I can remember is my mother’s strawberry freezer jam on toast, a heavenly way to start a day.”
MacDonald has an affinity to the pastry arts, and his confections are especially a favourite of his followers on Instagram. His strawberry tiny trifles are a great example of his playful approach to creating a dish.
“I think that sometimes as a chef it is easy to turn inward and forget that at the end of the day you are making someone’s meal. I want to create a memory for the guests, give them a story to tell and maybe have my guests see something they thought was ordinary become beautiful.”
MacDonald’s Tiny Trifles can be made up to two days ahead, travel well and are a perfect ending to any outdoor summer gathering.
P.E.I. Strawberry Tiny Trifles
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
¼ cup cornstarch
1 L 4% whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
500 ml whipping cream
½ Cup Sugar
2 pints P.E.I. Strawberries diced
¼ Cup Sugar
10 500 ml Mason Jars
Chocolate sauce (optional)
Grand Marnier (optional)
In a saucepan heat the milk until the surface of the milk barely starts to move then remove from heat.
Combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a mixing bowl and using the whisk attachment, blend until smooth approximately three minutes.
Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg mixture and whisk for one minute.
Pour the mixture into a heavy bottom sauce pot and place over medium heat.
Using a wooden spoon stir continuously until the mixture just comes to a boil, there may be some small bubbles work up to the top. Slice and scrap the vanilla bean placing the seeds in the pastry cream and whisk until well combined. Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap. Pierce the plastic wrap with a small knife or wooden skewer and set aside to cool. When the pastry cream is room temperature place in the refrigerator.
Slice the cake into ¼ inch slices then cut rounds using a round cookie cutter the same diameter as the Mason jars until you have twenty rounds. Cover and set aside.
Mix the strawberries with the sugar and set aside. A nice option if desired is to add a splash of Grand marnier to the berries at this point as well.
Whip the cream and sugar with a whisk until soft peaks have formed. Put some of the pastry cream into a piping bag. Place some of the whipped cream into a piping bag. Brush the cake rounds with maple syrup to moisten. To assemble the trifles pipe a ¼ inch layer of the chilled pastry cream into the mason jars then a cake round then strawberries and follow with a ¼ inch layer of the whipped cream. Repeat alternating all of the layers until the jars are full.
If taking them on a picnic or outside place the lid on the jars and chill. If serving at home you can pipe some of the whipped cream above the tops then chill and drizzle with chocolate sauce if desired when serving. Pro tip: Whisk the cornstarch with the eggs and sugar to avoid lumps and burning your pastry cream.
Brickhouse chef Brad MacDonald and Guardian columnist and chef Ilona Daniel show some of MacDonald’s P.E.I. Strawberry Tiny Trifles made with fresh Island berries. The dessert can be can be made up to two days ahead and can be sealed for easy travel if placed in Mason jars.
Several layers of pastry cream, whipped cream, strawberry compote and pound cake with maple syrup packed into a Mason jar creates an easy-to-travel with dessert for summer parties.
Brickhouse chef Brad MacDonald tops his tiny trifles with some strawberry compote. The recipe for the compote is simple with only two ingredients, which MacDonald says lets the natural strawberry taste stand out on its own.