Ali’s Foodie Column: A Recipe to Impress

Those of you who read last week’s piece on seasonal desserts will know I am rather partial to a parfait.  A parfait is a frozen, mousse like dessert, made with eggs, cream and any number of different flavourings. Having waxed lyrical about their delights, I thought it only right to share my recipe. I was fortunate enough to have a free rein in the pastry section of the kitchen where I was employed for the 3 years prior to my maternity leave. During this time parfait frequently featured on the menu, always a variation on the recipe below; with a few tweaks it can be transformed to work for any season. Simply add 100g sugar with the cream before whipping and omit the caramel.  Replace the aperitif with water, citrus juice or a liquor of your choice – baileys parfait anyone?! At Christmas, add nuts and glacé fruits, for early summer a dash of rosewater or lavender and serve with poached apricots or marble with lemon curd and serve with summer berries.

This is by no means an easy recipe, it is fairly involved and time consuming but if you’re willing to invest the time and effort, it’s a sure fire way to wow your guests. This is a recipe of several parts, the parfait is delicious on its own; add the crumb and/or apples for an extra “cheffy” flourish.  I’ve also served this parfait with poached pears in the past.  The shortbread is a wonderfully crumbly rich variety to serve as a coffee biscuit or if you’re feeling incredibly indulgent, dipped into the salt caramel!

Cup

Launched in 2014, Apple Aperitif is the second product from Halstock based Liberty Fields. Along with their Apple Balsamic Vinegar, it is made from apples grown in their own orchards and selected Dorset and Somerset orchards, with no added ingredients. It packs a punch far deeper than its 8% abv would suggest, with a warming almost scrumpy sweet-sour balance, delicious on its own or in a cocktail. The quantity I suggest for the parfait is the minimum required to give a whiff of boozy flavour. To up the impact, add extra to taste to the cream when whipping.

Salted Caramel Parfait with Apple Aperitif, Shortbread Crumb and Apples

First make the caramel; it will need to be at room temperature when added to the parfait

For the Caramel

This will make more caramel than you need for the parfait. It will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks; use to add to other desserts or as a delicious sauce for ice-cream.

200g sugar

250g cream

40g water

40g butter

3g salt

-Gently warm the cream

-Place the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat. Ideally you want all the sugar to be wet. Bring to the boil and continue to boil until amber in colour, gently swirling the pan to even out the colour. Do not stir or the sugar will crystallise.

-Remove the sugar from the heat and add the cream, stirring briskly all the while. Be careful, the sugar may bubble up and spit. Quickly stir in the butter and salt and transfer to a tub. It is important to do this quickly or your caramel may become fudge!

For the Parfait

60g egg yolks (about 3 large yolks)

60g caster sugar

60g Apple Aperitif

450g double cream

125g salted caramel

-Triple line a 1lb loaf tin with cling film (or use individual silicone moulds if you prefer)

-Whisk the cream to very soft peaks – too thick and it will become over-whisked when the egg mix is added.

-Combine the egg yolks, sugar and Apple Aperitif in a metal bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. The bottom of the bowl must not touch the water or the eggs will scramble. Cook, whisking continually until the mix has quadrupled in volume and is light and fluffy. This should take around 15 minutes. It should be thick enough that the whisk, when lifted, leaves a trail in the mix- any less and the mix will collapse. Be careful not to get the mix too hot or it will become grainy and do not stop whisking!

-Transfer the egg mix to an electric mixer and whisk continually until cool. If you don’t have an electric mixer this can be done by hand, over a bowl of ice to speed up the process. The volume of the egg mix should be as big, if not bigger than the volume of the whisked cream.

-Carefully fold the egg into the cream, a little at a time using a large metal spoon, being careful not to knock out the air. Stir through 50g caramel, transfer to the loaf tin and swirl through the remaining 75g caramel. Freeze.

 For the Shortbread

325g unsalted butter

360g plain flour

100g caster sugar

4g salt

-Grate the butter onto a baking tray and place in the freezer for 10 minutes or so until frozen.

-Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter, using your hands to disperse the flakes through the flour but do not rub to a crumb. The butter and flour should remain separate.

-Spread out on a baking tray and bake at 120° for 30 minutes or until slightly golden.

-If using as a coffee biscuit, sprinkle with a little granulated sugar and cut while warm.

-To use as a crumb, leave to cool, then break up gently with your fingers.

For the Apples

Apples

 The first of the seasons English apples are beginning to creep onto the market, better still I plucked mine straight from a tree on the farm- a good old English variety.

4 tart eating apples

1tbsp Demerara sugar

15g unsalted butter

25ml Apple Aperitif

-Thinly slice the apples.

-Heat a frying pan over a medium heat until piping hot. Lay the apples in the pan in a single layer – you may need to do this in batches. Sprinkle with sugar and add the butter.  Turn the apples when they are nicely coloured and continue to cook until the sugar and butter have caramelised to a sticky toffee glaze on the apples. Finish with a dash of Apple Aperitif.

To plate the dish, paint a stripe of salted caramel across the plate. Top with a slice of parfait. Sprinkle with chunks of shortbread, decorate the plate with slices of apple and finish with drops of the apple pan juices.

Caramel 1

Alison Smith @chefalismith