This post is an installment from the ongoing Dessert FourPlay project, in which I prepare and write about all of the desserts in Dessert FourPlay: Sweet Quartets from a Four-Star Pastry Chef by Johnny Iuzzini. For more on this project, click here.
These photos are almost two months old. That’s about the length of time I’ve been experiencing problems with my website that have kept me from being able to post.
Directly after my big I’M BACK!!! announcement, I began having problems related to a server crashing that continue to plague the site even now. For a while there I was worried that I’d never see the EVK logo again, but thanks to the tech team, it’s back. There are still problems; if you scroll down, you’ll probably notice that I’m missing four whole pages worth of photos. I’m not going to keep talking about it because it makes me emotional, but in a few weeks I hope to have all of those photos back up on the site.
But more to the point, a long long time ago, in my humble kitchen in the East Village of New York City, I make this frozen treat from Dessert FourPlay While citrus was still having its turn at being in season. It was timely, given that I was just learning how to make parfaits in school that very same week.
You may look at this dessert and wonder what I’ve done with all of the layers that we Americans know and love in our parfaits. The French take on the parfait (a frozen concoction made by folding Italian meringue (meringue made by whipping egg whites with 250 degree sugar syrup), into a carefully heated milk/egg/sugar/flavor concoction, then folding that into whipped cream and freezing) is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, I think its the best answer to the question, “Do I really need an ice cream maker to make ice cream?” The parfait is a light, delightfully creamy answer for those lacking ice cream machines.
The parfait is served with a sauce made with verjus ( a light vinegar made from the juice of green grapes), ginger, simple syrup, and two of my favorite ingredients in the whole world: lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. I tried a version using verjus, which I found here, and another version using a very light white balsamic vinegar that I found at Trader Joes. There was only a marginal difference between the two sauces.
Lemongrass is available at Whole Foods, and I found Kaffir lime leaves in the freezers of both Kalustyans and Dual Specialty in New York, which leads me to believe that they are probably available at most any Indian specialty foods store.
The sauce was perfect: bright, fresh, and acidic. It was the perfect balance to the parfait.
I allowed the parfait to freeze overnight before unmolding. In the meantime, I ground up packaged graham crackers and made the graham cracker sablè, which is basically a crispy butter cookie that replaces a lot of the usual AP flour with graham cracker crumbs. I neglected to take pictures, and I was not happy with how this part of the recipe turned out. The cookies were tough, not crispy. They tasted really egg-y. And I hadn’t loved the idea of grinding up a processed food product and then baking it right back into a cookie. When I do this again, I would use a homemade graham cracker recipe instead. Martha Stewart’s Cookies has a great one for crispy grahams that hold up to toasted marshmallows and parfaits without getting a soggy like the traditional graham cracker crusts that I usually associate with key lime pie.
There was one other issue that is worth mentioning about this recipe: I struggled with seasonality when making it. To get key limes in season required making the recipe in the early spring, a time when getting good plums in NYC is just not an option. I sacrificed plum quality because I was more interested in getting peak key lime flavor, and ended up with dry, flavorless plums to cut and shape into rosebuds on top of the parfait. In the future, I think I’d make a substitution here, perhaps using fresh grapefruit or pineapple. The aesthetic was pretty gorgeous, though. and despite my setback with the sablè, the parfait and sauce were so wonderful that it was worth all of the effort.
Up next: Fromage Blanc Panna Cotta~Rhubarb Two Ways~Crispy Almond Phyllo