Parfait is perfect for those who like creamy frozen desserts but don’t have an ice cream machine. In other words, me.
In the States, “parfait” usually means some kind of layered dessert, but in French it refers to a sort of frozen mousse. Very simple and very versatile, parfait is made by freezing a mixture of whipped cream and egg yolks that have been whipped with hot sugar. It is the base for what is sometimes called a frozen soufflé or, in Italy, semifreddo. Silky and airy, parfait retains its creamy texture after it freezes.
Parfait can be flavored with booze, vanilla bean, citrus zest, whatever you like. But after recently having two desserts (one in Lyon, one in Paris) that were made with Chartreuse, I bought a bottle to play with at home. Chartreuse is an herbaceous liqueur that has been made by monks since 1737. The list of 130 ingredients that go into the stuff is a closely guarded secret, but the resulting booze, naturally bright green (or chartreuse, get it?) smells of mint, anise, and eucalyptus. It pairs well with chocolate, but I love it with strawberries, which are everywhere at the moment.
The only potentially difficult element of this recipe is the handling of the sugar, though if you’ve ever made Italian meringue or French buttercream it will be old hat. You’ll need a candy thermometer. The other thing that is molto important is for the whipped yolks to be completely chilled before you fold in the cream. A bowl or pan of ice water that your mixing bowl can rest in will do the trick.
1 c (240 ml) heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 c (100 g) sugar
1/3 c (80 ml) water
tiny pinch salt
1-2 T Chartreuse, or your favorite booze (see note below)
1. Whip the cream to soft peaks and put it in the fridge while you do the rest.
2. Prepare an ice water bath. Have your candy thermometer handy.
3. Put the yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip. If (like me) you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a hand-held mixer and a medium to large sized mixing bowl – glass or metal – no plastic.
4. Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and let it sit until all of the sugar is moistened. Put the pan over medium heat. Start whipping the egg yolks — this will give them enough time to get pale and thick before the sugar is ready. Boil the sugar until it reaches 238° (113° c) on a candy thermometer (the soft ball stage). With the mixer running on medium-high speed, slowly and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the eggs. Try not to let the sugar hit the beaters directly. Continue whipping the eggs until the bowl is no longer hot to the touch (this will take a few minutes), then place the bowl over the ice bath and use a whisk to keep whipping the eggs until they are cold.
5. Fold about 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream into the egg mix, then fold in the rest. Gently stir in the booze (start with a little and then taste it…) and the tiny pinch of salt.
Pour the parfait into individual glasses or molds if you like, then cover them and put them in the freezer. Or you can put it into any appropriate sized container and just serve the parfait in scoops like ice cream, accompanied by macerated fruits, a little chocolate sauce, whatever you like.
To make frozen “soufflés,” use strips of parchment to line ramekins, cutting the strips wider than the ramekins are high so that you can overfill the molds. After the parfait is frozen, remove the parchment collars and you’ll have what looks like a risen soufflé. Parfait also makes a fine filling for icebox cakes or bombes.
Read all about Chartreuse here.