This pretty bowl of gin-spiked delight is your Christmas dessert sorted. I've kept it a little lighter – lemon curd does some of the heavy lifting rather than the usual custard. This keeps that amazing gin flavour alive through the layers. I've ditched the traditional sponge for the crunch of golden pastry – it adds a textural reprieve between the layers. The addition of mini pavs at the top ticks two of our must-have desserts off the Christmas list. A trifle pav. Perfect.
6 titanium strength gelatin leaves
300g castor sugar
250ml gin (I used Winston Quinn Slim Crop, but any floral, botanical gin works well)
400ml tonic water (I used Fevertree)
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 cup castor sugar
1 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 tsp cornflour
zest and juice of 4 lemons
⅔ cup butter (about 160g)
1½ cups castor sugar
2 decent sprigs of lemon thyme
4 eggs plus 4 egg yolks
1 sheet sweet shortcrust pastry (I used Careme)
¼ cup white chocolate chips (I used Callebaut)
½ cup roasted macadamias, roughly chopped
Whipped gin cream
¼ cup icing sugar
125g fresh honeycomb (or a small drizzle of floral honey)
lemon verbena leaves
about 20g freeze-dried raspberries
1 small punnet of edible flowers
For the gin and tonic jelly bloom the gelatin in a bowl of icy cold water and set aside.
Add the sugar and 300ml of water to a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir regularly to dissolve the sugar. Add the gin and stir to combine. Add the bloomed gelatin sheets and whisk vigorously. Once fully incorporated add the tonic water and whisk again. Pour into a 25cm-diameter trifle bowl and place in the fridge to set overnight.
For mini pavlovas preheat oven to 150C and line several oven trays with baking paper.
Whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer to soft peaks (4 to 5 minutes), then, with motor running, gradually add sugar and whisk until firm and glossy (2 to 3 minutes). Whisk in the lemon juice or vinegar, then fold in cornflour. Using 2 dessert spoons, shape into rough quenelles and place onto trays. Place trays in preheated oven, reduce the temperature to 120C, and bake until meringues are crisp but not coloured (1-1¼ hours). Turn off heat and cool completely in oven with the door closed (3 to 4 hours). Meringues will keep in an airtight container for one day.
To make the lemon curd add the lemon juice and zest, butter and castor sugar to a saucepan. Place over low-medium heat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until incorporated. Add the sprigs of lemon thyme and set aside for 10 minutes.
Remove the lemon thyme then add the eggs and yolks and return pan to the heat. Whisk continually until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Add the gin and cook for another minute, then allow to cool slightly (about 15 minutes) before gently pouring the lemon curd across the gin and tonic jelly layer. Return the trifle bowl to the fridge for at least two hours to cool completely.
For the crumble preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the sweet shortcrust pastry sheet on the lined tray and bake until golden and brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before breaking into 20-cent-coin-sized pieces into a bowl. Toss together with the white chocolate chips and roasted macadamias. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the curd layer.
To assemble: On the day of serving, whip the cream to medium-firm peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the cream and whisk to incorporate. Just before serving, stir through the gin. Dollop the cream on top of the crumble layer. Gently arrange the mini pavlovas over the gin cream layer until they reach the top of your trifle dish (you should have about two layers of meringue; just place them as best you can, there is no need to be precise). Scatter over the garnish toppings and finish with broken pieces of fresh honeycomb at the centre.
The best bit: you can do this in stages, bits and bobs, here and there, as you get ready for Christmas. All you need to do on the day is whip a bit of cream and sprinkle all the pretty flowers, herbs and bits of delight on top.