Recipe: Sweet Corn and Blueberry Trifles
As a pastry cook in New York City in the early days of Momofuku Milk Bar, my mornings were fueled by a sugar and caffeine high, baking dozens of cookies for the swarms of East Villagers lined up outside the bakery doors who were in search of the same buzz. Of the dozens of treats on offer, the bakery's corn cookie was my absolute favorite: a buttery, crisp crunch on the outside, a tender interior, and an assertive, nutty corn flavor reminiscent of grilled summer corn on the cob. The secret to that concentrated flavor was using a familiar ingredient in a new way: When preparing the cookie, we pulverized dehydrated corn kernels into a fine powder that we stirred into the cookie dough, lending a jolt of pure corn to an already sweet, corn-infused batter.
Years later, I'm still inspired by that concentrated summer flavor. This year, I decided to combine two of summer’s quintessential ingredients—corn and blueberries—for a new take on a trifle. Traditional British trifles include alternating layers of a soft sponge cake that gives way to a chilled creamy custard, a fruit component, and whipped cream. This recipe substitutes the traditional sponge cake for a crunchy shortbread crumble—made with the same dehydrated corn powder that Milk Bar uses in those cookies—for a welcome textural contrast and a boost of buttery corn flavor. An herb-infused blueberry compote provides complexity and acidity, perfectly complementing a creamy corn custard. Although I prefer blueberries for this recipe, any other fruit in its late-summer prime, such as blackberries or plums, would be a delicious substitution. As the hot humid days of August give way to September, I find it important to slow down and savor the last few weeks of warm weather and sweet, ripe produce. This Labor Day, I’ll definitely be serving my corn and blueberry trifle for one last taste of summer’s prime ingredients.
For the Corn Pastry Cream
- 1⁄4 cup freeze-dried corn kernels, preferably Just Corn
- 1 tbsp. powdered gelatin
- 2 cups milk
- 2 ears sweet corn, husks and kernels removed and reserved
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄3 cup sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup heavy cream
For the Corn Shortbread Crumble and to Assemble
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 3 tbsp. freeze-dried corn kernels
- 2 tbsp. corn flour
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄8 tsp. baking powder
- 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1" cubes and chilled
- Blueberry Compote, for serving
- Make the pastry cream: Pulse dried corn kernels in a mini food processor until coarsely ground; set aside. Combine gelatin and ¼ cup cold water in a bowl and let sit until softened, about 5 minutes; set aside. Combine milk with corn husks and kernels in a 4-qt saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; remove from heat and steep 30 minutes. Remove and discard husks. Transfer milk mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain milk mixture, discarding solids, and return to saucepan along with the dried corn kernels, and salt. Return to a simmer over medium heat.
Whisk sugar and egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly whisk ½ cup hot milk mixture into egg mixture until smooth, then transfer egg mixture to saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, whisking until gelatin is dissolved.
Strain custard through a fine strainer into a bowl, set over a larger bowl of ice water. Cover surface of custard directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until cold. Beat cream to soft peaks and gently fold into custard; set aside.
- Make the shortbread crumble: Heat oven to 325°. Pulse flour, corn kernels, corn flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a food processor until finely ground. Add butter and pulse into pea-size crumbles. Add egg yolk; pulse until shortbread mixture comes together. Spread on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely and break into bite-size pieces; set aside.
- Assemble the trifles: Layer pastry cream and blueberry compote in small glasses or ramekins; top with shortbread crumble.
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