Why helllllooooooooooooooooooo there, mon petite gendarmes. And Welcome once more to the wonderful world of Kitchen Catastrophes! I’m your magical marquis, Jon O’Guin. Things have been so…dreary of late, have they not? Jon spent 3,000 words being inconsolable…are you kidding me? The French for “Disconsolate” is “INCONSOLABLE”? You’re FRANCE, how do you not have more words for “sadness”?! Did losing every War since Napoleon died beat it out of you?!
Don't give me that look, Bonaparte. You know it's true! Like how you lost in Vietna-bad example. How you lost in...huh, you actually did fine in World War 1. Well, you definitely lost pretty hard in World War 2, so there!
Shit, I broke character. I mean ‘YEEEEEEEESSSS, YESSSSS, trés…in…consolable… for the passing of his dearly beloved Papa. And then, in his grief, he ran around with the birds, like some sort of poultry farming fool. Well NO MORE, mon petite jambóns. This is not a place for heaviness and sorrows, not since your Belovéd Jon took several of his “happy pills” to get him through the evening in…shall we say, “pleasurable cessation of care”?
And luckily, just as we slip into the sweet embrace of medicinal bliss , we have a light and carefree dish to accompany us. Let us speak now of foolish things, and trifles. Literally. We’re talking about Trifles.
And before any of you squares try to narc on me, my "happy pills" are Tums. I've been having acid issues of late.
And my stomach has been unwell.
Such A Trifling Little Thing
That accent is super tiring, actually, and I’m really late, so fuck that noise, back to my normal voice. I’ll get you something more committed later. But yeah, what Jon le Roi Soleil said: we’re talking about Trifles today. The more narratively minded among you may say “Jon, don’t you already have a fake French version of yourself you used to write the Chocolate Mousse post?” To which I say “LEROQUE CLAIMED TO BE ME?! That absolute bastard! Where is he?! Which way did he go?!”
Ah, yes. Through the open door marked "Escape". Truly he is one of our most ingenious modern criminals.
Anyway, trifles have a very interesting history, in that, as far as all my research has revealed, they just…showed up. Like, there’s a bunch of dishes LIKE them, but pretty much out of nowhere, this specific variety just popped into existence. Oh, wait, I haven’t even explained what a trifle IS yet, have I? I'm just trampling through this like a drunken elephant today. My bad.
Trifle is a dessert made of multiple layers of ingredients. In a full English trifle, the layers are: fruit, then alcohol-soaked cake, then custard. However, there’s a TON of variety to them. The ordering can be different, the fruits can be in jelly, the CAKE can be in jelly, you can replace the fruit entirely with something like chocolate or coffee. Essentially, the only truly SET part of what makes a ‘trifle’ is “a layered dessert with cream and something else.”
I googled 'trifles' for something, and this came up surprisingly high.
Coroner's Inquests were RARELY trifles, for the record.
Damn did 1800's England not care about human life.
The dessert, as I already said, just kind of showed up one day. The term was originally used interchangeably with “fool”, which is a dessert that’s more common in England than America, consisting of fruit, pureed and cooked down, stirred with custard or whipped cream. Basically a freshly made fruit pudding kind of dish. But why call these dishes this? A good question. Let's let a man who is only technically a "professional food historian", me, explain.
Jon Makes a Guess
Now, here’s my best guess at the etymology, because of the 4-5 sources I’ve checked, no one had a definite theory. Firstly, understand that the words came first: corrupt rulers had been calling their minions 'FOOLS' for centuries at this point, while dismissing growing peasant unrest as a 'trifle' for roughly the same time. The dish just took the words as its name. Second, understand that, back before industrial sugar production and refrigeration, cake and milk were more expensive. Lastly, understand that there is another set of names for trifles: Due to the cake being soaked in alcohol (typically sherry, but sometimes port wine or whiskey) they’re sometimes called “Tipsy cakes”, or a string of other names saying WHO they’re making tipsy: “Tipsy Parson”, “Tipsy Squire”, “Tipsy…Hedgehog”.
Didn't think we'd be doing references to Redwall today, but I'm pleasantly surprised.
As such, my theory is basically this
Both dishes were made to use up leftover cream/custard, and one is made to use up stale cake as well. As noted, these are all expensive ingredients at the time. Imagine someone said “We need to use up all this left-over caviar and champagne” today. Who has left-over caviar? Two people: someone who went too far for a special event, or someone with too much money to care. Or, put another way: a fool, and the kind of rich people to whom bills are “trifles”. The kind of people who, and this is a real thing bellboys talk about, don’t understand the difference between the bills they hand someone. “Here’s your tip” and they hand over 2 $100s. Or 2 $20s, or 2 $1s. And they consider them all of basically equal value, because they’re ‘two units of money from my wallet.”
This also helps lay a foundation for the “Tipsy cake” idea later, because there’s not normally enough alcohol in these to make someone noticeably drunk. The STRONGEST recipe I’ve seen called for ½ cup of wine for a recipe that serves 8. That equates to ½ a tablespoon of wine per serving. (Hilariously, the recipe I was looking at for that number has 3 comments on it, and two of them are “What kind of person has stale pound cake lying around?” Which is just great for my theory.) Anyway, the idea of a “tipsy person” also being a “fool” tracks, mentally speaking. A tipsy priest is often a foolish one, as it stands.
Especially ones who were tipsy KINGS a year before.
Anyway, that’s all well and good, but my recipe doesn’t actually use ANY alcohol, nor does it have any fruit. So no one’s getting tipsy over here. But they’ll probably get fat on Brownie Trifle.
Now, if you know my brothers, mother, and me, the note “There’s no alcohol in this” may seem slightly surprising. And that’s because none of us developed this recipe. Also, we’re not alcoholics. We do plenty of things that don’t involve alcohol. Why you gotta be a dick?
This is a recipe from my maternal grandmother, and there’s no alcohol in her house. Neither her nor my grandfather drink, and they don't permit drinking in their home. The specifics as to why are hazy in my mind. As I recall, my grandmother was just raised in an alcohol-free household, and has never liked the taste of it, while my grandfather did drink it, but he didn’t like being drunk, and what it did to his friends. Again, these are my vague recollection of whenever the topic came up, so it’s possible, even probable, that I’m missing something.
Like this picture here.
Anyway, Brownie Trifle is one of many dishes that is slightly complicated, in that it has several steps, but isn't “hard”, because the steps are all simple. Like, the first step is “Make a batch of brownies.” If you’ve never made brownies, allow me to put you at ease: brownies are STUPIDLY easy to make. It’s just “Mix ingredients, pour in greased pan, bake until done.” Honestly, if you’ve never cooked before, just go buy a box of brownie mix and make it. And then realize that all the brownie mix did was mix a couple dry ingredients together for you.
The sweet taste of success.
Now, you might notice that the countertops and other paraphernalia (a word I am moderately irritated got appropriated by the drug community, as it’s just super fun to say.) are different than normal. That’s because we’re actually MAKING this in my maternal Grandmother’s house. (by the way, in case you don’t know or haven’t seen it before, I keep using “maternal grandmother” not to imply that my other grandmother isn’t motherly and warm, but rather, because it sounds better than saying “my mother’s mother.” You can use ‘maternal’ and ‘paternal’ to denote which side of your family a member is on.) Nate and I went down to celebrate Easter/my grandfather’s birthday with that side of the family this year, to help my grandmother prepare all the food, and to serve as the living figureheads for the family, as our father’s cancer had just come out of remission shortly before the event.
While there, we indulged in the ever-constant “claiming of dessert”. See, my grandmother always leaves a couple ‘blanks’ in her dish list for family events, to be filled in depending on who’s coming. For situations like “Cousin David can’t stand salad X, but it is Nate’s favorite,” for instance. It also serves as a perk for our family, since of late we’re the ones helping out the most, because our cousins on that side are all raising young children and therefore don’t have the free time to help out that Nate and I do, having quit our jobs to care for our father. Well, technically, we quit our jobs ANYWAY, and our father's illness was simply an (un)happy coincidence. There’s an alternating system to who gets to fill the b;anks: My birthday is the end of September, so I get to “claim” a dessert when we come help for Thanksgiving. Nate’s birthday is the end of April, so he gets to claim one for Easter. This would be more chaotic, if Nate and I didn’t both have “our favorite dessert that grandma makes”: mine is a peanut-butter pie with chocolate drizzle, and Nate’s is Brownie trifle.
Which is why it's his delicate hands in these shots, rather than my traditional ogre-like paws.
And since the first step is “make a batch of brownies”, I doubt you’ll be surprised that the next step Is “Make a batch of chocolate pudding.” Because this recipe is actually pretty much “take other desserts, and force them into one super-dessert Voltron.” Chocolate pudding, Brownies, Whipped cream, and Heath Bars!
I'm so fancy
you already know
And once you’ve completed the brownies and pudding, the recipe is just “layer these things correctly”. Brownies, then pudding, add a sprinkling of crushed heath bars, top with whipped cream, then repeat the entire process. There was an extended argument between Nate and my grandmother over whether you only repeated the process once or twice, as my grandmother couldn’t precisely remember, but believed Nate was wrong. Nate ended up making it his way, because he was the one making it, so STUFF IT, YA OLD BIRD.
Once you're done being whipped by your grandmother, and it’s all layered, you pop it in the fridge overnight, and serve the next day. And I’ll say this, while it’s no Peanut-Butter Pie, it’s also pretty great. It’s rich and chocolatey, and the pudding and whipped cream have softened the brownies into basically a very moist cake.
Seriously, it's really good.
This is a really stellar exploratory dessert for someone who’s just getting started on cooking. You buy a box of brownie mix, a box of chocolate pudding mix(though my grandmother technically uses a chocolate mousse mix), and a tub or two of whipped cream. You make one thing, then the other, then add them together. It’s as fool-proof as something like this can get.
You wanna know what isn’t fool-proof? Making a profit off of a blog. Hello, I’m Jon O’Guin, guy who just wrote this post. Today, I want to talk to you about Market Saturation. Wait, no, that’s just an inside joke between my brother and me. What I really want to talk about is Patreon. With Patreon, you can give as little as $1 a month to keep internet idiots like Jon and Nate making funny things for your amusement. The funds go to covering the site’s hosting fees, and, if they ever get high enough, will also be used to buy ingredients, improve equipment, and maybe even pay Jon for writing this stuff. Your support, through a simply handled monthly donation, means the world to us. Jon himself supports several of his friend’s creative endeavors through the site. If you can’t afford to support us, remember that old industry by-word: Exposure. Just tell your friends about us, share our posts, and invite people to like our Facebook page. If you tell 3 people, and THEY tell 3 people, and THEY tell 3 people, a whole 27 people will have heard about us! And while that might not sound like a lot, that’s how exponential growth works: those people would then tell 81 people, who’d tell 243 people. So maybe I should have held out for two more iterations. But I’m not a mathematician, just a guy who tries to write funny things online. Anyway, thanks for reading!
THURSDAY: JON CORRECTS HIS MISTAKE, AND TALKS MORE ABOUT PIE.
MONDAY: JON WILL BE RETURNING FROM A WEEKEND TRIP TO MONTANA, SO IN HONOR OF HIM BEING GONE, WE’LL COOK UP SOMETHING CALLED A JOHN DERAGON. SPOILERS: IT’S A HOT DOG.
1 box brownie mix
2 boxes chocolate pudding or chocolate mousse mix
2 containers whipped cream
5 Heath Bars
1. First, just MAKE the brownie mix. Follow the instructions ,and let it cool. Then, make the chocolate mousse/pudding, following its instructions.
2. While the mousse sets and the brownies cool, beat the crap out of the Heath bars. Take a small rubber mallet, rolling pin, flat meat tenderizer, whatever, and just try to break up the candy without shredding the wrapper. Open wrappers
3. Cut the brownies into 1” squares.
4. In a large bowl or trifle dish, put a layer of brownies. Top with 1/3 of the chocolate pudding, spreading into an even layer. Sprinkle with Heath bars, and Top with roughly 1/3 of whipped cream.
5. Repeat step 4.
6. Repeat step 4. Sprinkle with remaining Heath bars, cover, and chill for at least one hour, or overnight. Take out 20-30 minutes before you intend to serve.