There’s a running joke on the husband’s side of the family that I can be a bit of a “purist” when it comes to food in the sense that I want to make EVERYTHING from scratch. And, I hate to admit, they’re not exactly wrong. But it’s not my fault!
Okay…..it’s kind of my fault, but it goes back to when I was a kid. My Dad is an insane chef and baker. He makes the most incredible pizzas, cinnamon rolls, pies, bread and pretty much everything. Growing up, he wasn’t stoked on me using boxed mixes to bake. His argument was it’s not that much harder to just make it yourself. Which is true! So that meant if I wanted something sweet (which was all the time) I had to make it myself…..from scratch.
These days, this make it from scratch philosophy has kind of taken on a life of itself. My Dad may have even created a bit of a monster……like I wouldn’t let him buy pre-shredded parmesan once because I said it’s better to shred your own. When he complained I told him, “This is your fault! You created this!” It might have been an over the top reaction to have in a grocery store, but I’m cool with it.
The recipe I’m sharing today originally comes from my husband’s Grandma. It’s a dessert so legendary in their family that it’s simply referred to as The Blueberry Dessert. I had been hearing about this icon of treat for a while and was so excited when I finally got try some. And, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It’s crazy delicious and addicting. My Mother-in-law was kind enough to share the recipe with me a few years back and, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to change it up a bit.
The original recipe calls for Cool Whip and canned blueberry pie filing, but since I feel the burning desire to make everything from scratch I swapped both of those out for homemade versions. A bright and jammy blueberry sauce took the place of the canned stuff and a stabilized whipped cream was an easy replacement for Cool Whip. And since I was already changing up the recipe, I decided to make it as a layered trifle instead of in a 9 x 13 pan.
While my version of the dessert is slightly more complicated than the original, the intent and spirit behind it remains the same. This is the dessert I make for the husband on his birthday or when his family comes to visit and will even be on our Thanksgiving table this year. It’s a dessert that reminds him of home and makes me feel more closely connected to his family. Being able to put my own spin on a dessert so rich in their family’s history feels like a melding of our two pasts. Me and my make it from scratch mentality passed down from my Dad and their beautiful family dessert steeped in lots of love. It’s one hell of a combo!
Blueberry Cheesecake Trifles
Serves 8 – 10 people
For the crumb:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt (if using regular salt – cut back to ¼ tsp)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
For the blueberry filling:
5 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the cheesecake filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar, divided
½ cup granulated sugar
16 ounces heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons water
To make the crumb:
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a small baking sheet pan with parchment and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add in the melted butter and mix until it is just incorporated. Then fold in the chopped walnuts.
Press the mixture into a relatively even layer on your lined baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until the crumb just set. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Once cool, use your hands to break it up and give it a good crumble!
To make the blueberry filling:
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Place 5 cups of the blueberries in a large saucepan and then sprinkle the sugar/cornstarch on top. Cook over medium heat, stirring gently the entire time, until the mixture is boiling and is no longer cloudy in appearance. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the the lemon zest, lemon juice, and remaining ½ cup of blueberries. Set aside and let the filling cool completely before using.
To make the cheesecake filling:
Place the the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and 1 cup of the powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On medium speed, cream together for 3 – 4 minutes or until light and fluffy.
In a small mixing bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set aside.
Add the heavy whipping cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Meanwhile, zap the gelatin and water mixture in the microwave for about 5 seconds to liquefy it. When the whipping cream thickens up, slowly add in the remaining ¼ cup of the powdered sugar. Then drop the speed to low and carefully add in the gelatin mixture. Bump up the speed to high and beat the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Then add in vanilla and cream cheese mixture and beat on medium speed until fully combined.
To assemble the trifles:
This can be done in either a large trifle bowl or in individual glasses. Sprinkle some of the crumb in an even layer on the bottom of your bowl. Using a piping bag or a spoon, add a layer of the cheesecake filling on top of the crumb. Then spoon some of the blueberry filling on top of the cheesecake. Repeat this process until your bowl is full…..or you run out of layers! The number of layers is totally up to you, but be sure to do at least 2 full sets of the crumb, cheesecake, and blueberry. That way you when you dig in you’re guaranteed to get a bit of each layer in every delicious spoonful.