I love living in Washington, DC and after almost 5 years in the area it’s the only place that has even begun to surpass my childhood town in it’s capacity to feel like home. When I chat with people about living here they offer all manner of groans and eye rolls about the traffic, the cost of living and the stifling swampy weather and they would be right on every single one of those counts. But those inconveniences have little to do with why Zach and I chose to live here and my fellow DCers out there would no doubt agree.
For starters, you can fill an entire weekend without spending a dime and when you do find yourself a little flush with cash, there is an amazing, interesting and talented community of chefs, eaters, restaurants and bars to share it with. And though I may belong to that small club of people who live here and don’t work in politics or the government, catching a glimpse of the White House as I run to a meeting downtown or having the obnoxious sirens of a motorcade drown out my cell phone conversation have yet to lose that cool factor.
On national holidays there are an endless array of free events. Crowds of visitors suddenly pour into the city and it’s damn near impossible to get out of town unless you leave in the dark of night. So on the 4th this year Zach and I opted to eschew the masses of tourists and charter buses on the mall since we’re lucky to live here year round and instead, take a trip to neighboring Leesburg for a wine tasting, picnic and outdoor concert with friends.
I must confess, I was easily swayed to this plan since the band playing just so happened to be a Journey cover band, named Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ – naturally. So big a fan of Journey am I that our wedding ceremony recessional consisted of a flute and cello rendition of Don’t Stop Believin’ . (Zach’s willingness to go along with such a ridiculous idea is but one, of many reasons, I knew he was the one for me. And yes, our ceremony musicians are insanely talented and, thankfully, good-humored fellow Journey fans.)
This 4th of July, we packed a picnic of homemade banh mi, Kim’s killer Asian-style slaw and these individual berry trifles. While it doesn’t get more patriotic than fireworks in the midst of the Washington Monument, I must say that lounging on a blanket with a glass of wine, eating layers of pound cake and berries served out of canning jars and watching tipsy crowds of people and fireflies jam out to “Anyway You Want It” sure places a close second.
Summer Berry Trifle
While this recipe can surely be used for a traditional, large trifle I love the ease and look of these portable single serving trifles. I opted for canning jars as the lids form a tight seal, preventing any melting ice in your cooler from seeping in and are also cheap, available in cases of 12. Any combination of seasonal berries will work here just be sure to thinly slice or quarter large berries (like strawberries) so they fit easily in the jars. I have plans for a peach and blackberry combo with a bit of bourbon-spiked cake later this summer. If not a fan of lemon curd, feel free to sub in your favorite jam or preserves. Serves 6-8
For the Pound Cake
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baking Companion
8 Tb butter, at room temperature
6 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, or bowl of stand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until blended and fluffy. Add the salt, sugar, vanilla and baking powder and beat at medium speed for five minutes. Add the flour, beating to incorporate and pausing to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl intermittently.
3. One at a time, add the eggs, beating well after each one. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again to make sure eggs and all ingredients are fully incorporated. Spoon the batter in a greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan or bundt pan, which is what I used. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Note, do not fear when the exterior turns a dark brown – the inside will remain nice and moist. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
For the Lemon Curd
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 3/4 sticks (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon piece
1. Whisk together zest, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.
2. Add butter all at once and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 10 minutes. Immediately pour curd through a fine sieve into a bowl, then chill, covered. Curd will continue to thicken as it chills.
For the Berries & Whipped Cream
4 cups mixed berries
2-3 Tb sugar (depending on your berries’ sweetness)
1.5 cups heavy cream
2 Tb confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1. Place a metal bowl and whisk, or bowl of electric mixer and whisk attachment, in the freezer to chill. In a large bowl, mix the berries and sugar and allow to macerate for 15 minutes.
2. Remove the bowl and whisk from the freezer and pour in the cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla. Whisk vigorously until soft peaks form. Adjust sugar and vanilla as necessary.
To Assemble the Trifles
1. Slice 1/2 inch thick slices of pound cake and trim edges so pieces fit down inside your jars. You should slice enough for about 2 slices of cake per jar.
2. Place one slice of trimmed cake in the bottom of each jar. Layer a heaping spoonful of lemon curd on top of the cake and top curd with another spoonful of the berries. Spread a layer of whipped cream on top of the berries and repeat layering order (cake, curd, berries, whipped cream) to finish with whipped cream at the top of the jar. Top with whipped cream and a few berries and screw on jar top tightly. Allow trifles to sit for at least 1 hour, letting the curd moisten the cake, before serving