With the countdown to Christmas now well and truly under way, time seems ever more tight. A dessert that can be rustled up early in the day and look after itself til serving is ideal. This was what I had in mind when I created this Amaretti and lemon dessert or ‘trifle’; all do-able very easily from some ready-made ingredients and five minutes with a whisk.
If you’re a home chef this month, probably like me you’ve found that invites issued a good while back – for dinner parties, lunches and drinks ‘do’s’ – are now upon you, and calling for some quick menu planning and mad-dash supermarket runs. While you can miss off desserts most weeks, and most of us do (though as a child, my family’s weekend lunches always had a ‘real pud’ to follow), dinners with guests do require something served to complement the mains. I find anything with lemon is a winner and sets off whatever first courses you’ve prepared.
This one with crushed Amaretti is an Italianate twist on that old British festive season favourite – the trifle. I was never über keen on trifle as the combo of custard and cream was just too rich for me, but this one is less heavy on that front with its whisked ricotta (recipe for homemade ricotta here), and the citrus makes it refreshing on the palate.
If you fancy a bit more of a challenge and to show off your pâtissier prowesse to guests, you could make your own lemon curd. But shave off time using best quality ready-made and you’ll still achieve great flavours. I did make homemade because I love real lemon curd (less sweet and has real zing) and local Maltese lemons are coming into season now so I like to make use of them over Christmas and into New Year when I can.
Amaretti & Lemon Trifle
Zest of two unwaxed lemons
400g ricotta or homemade (very easy!) recipe here
100g plain, soft cream cheese
80g caster sugar
2 large egg whites
Limoncello or Amaretto – a dash to soak biscuits lightly
Lemon curd (good quality bought or homemade recipe here)
Almond flakes – handful
Whisk the ricotta and caster sugar till smooth and creamy. In a separate, clean bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and then carefully fold in to the ricotta mixture along with the zest of one lemon. Take 8 tall, wide- brimmed dessert glasses or cocktail stems and dollop a dessert spoon of lemon curd in the bottom. Layer with some crumbled Amaretti biscuits and then add a teaspoon of Limoncello to lightly moisten the biscuits. Cover with some ricotta mixture and repeat the three layers ending with the ricotta layer. Sprinkle over some flaked almonds and the remaining lemon zest. Chill in fridge, covered if possible, until required. Best to eat on the day as this ensures the Amaretti biscuits are still slightly firm and not über soggy, but it will keep for two days chilled.
This Red Bistro recipe appeared in E&D magazine, 30 November, The Times of Malta.
All images © Liz Ayling, 2012