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.