There is something magical about things that jiggle (thighs are the exception, there is no magic there) and how fixated one can be on something that wobbles to and fro without falling over. Short of some congealed fatty substance, Jell-O is the wobbliest food I could think of. You can jiggle it, chew it, slurp it and almost bounce it. A crack at our Ghetto Gourmet series needed to cross over from savoury to sweet and Michelle Edger, pastry chef and co-owner of the Sweet Escape Patisserie definitely wins points for enthusiasm, and for teaching me something that blew my mind. Known for her selection of homemade ice creams, macarons, cupcakes, squares and maple bacon donuts, I’ve witnessed her excitement at working with new ingredients in the past. Her picks: vanilla Jell-O pudding and raspberry Jell-O.
Michelle decided to update a classic trifle with almond sponge cake, fresh peaches, homemade whipped cream and amaretto. She has childhood memories of her uncle’s mother making a trifle every holiday with store-bought sponge cake, canned fruit cocktail, Jell-O and sherry. Her version would be a little more refined.
Michelle’s reason for working with peaches (I was digging for some deep, complicated reason), is simply that they are in season. Also, she dislikes sherry and prefers the way peaches and Amaretto go together because the pit of the peach has an almond-like flavour. I’m sorry? Who knows what a peach pit even tastes like?
Now here is the part where she totally threw me: she takes a knife and cracks open a peach pit and takes out a little kernel from inside. It’s almond-like in appearance and she offers it to me…to smell? “No, eat it.” She instructs.
The kernel does actually have an intense almond-like flavour. Michelle then tells me of a pastry job she once had where she was responsible for cracking bucketloads of peach pits to get the kernel (the same is done with apricot pits) which is often ground and can be used in frangipane, marzipan, and in Michelle’s case, pastry cream. This strikes me as an incredible amount of work for very little return. This is because I border on lazy and would never bother to put my limited muscle into smashing peach pits for a tiny little prize.
Also, the amaretto doesn’t actually contain any almonds; its flavour comes from apricot kernels which are like peach kernels, and now makes everything appear related. So all these things have an “almond-like” flavour, but the only thing in the gourmet trifle with the actual nut is the almond sponge cake Michelle has baked, and layers carefully with pudding, fresh fruit and Jell-O. It’s simple, it’s classic, it jiggles.