Usually, parfait means perfect, in French, and has also been used as the name for a type of frozen dessert I've already covered in a few recipes here on this site. However, those were based on an American style parfait that is almost a separate entity from its French version. This version is considered a true parfait, not only because it originated in France, but also because at its core is a custard base (a liquid thickened with eggs).

No substitutes.

The custard in a French parfait isn't like the typical custard I've also had the chance to cover here. It's prepared by whipping egg yolks or whites with boiled sugar syrup to create a sabayon, then folding in whipped heavy cream and flavoring before it's finally frozen in a pan or some parfait glasses. Alternatively, there's even a variation that's made from a frozen mousse base. Below is a traditional recipe, complete with some tips for ensuring a well-made dessert.

The recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup water (120 g)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Fresh berries for garnish

Directions

  1. Chill a bowl in the freezer for an hour or overnight before starting on the parfait. This will be used for the whipped heavy cream to ensure a proper consistency.
  2. Whisk together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract together in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks form. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready.
  3. Beat the egg yolks in a stand mixer up fitted with the whisk attachment for 5 minutes or until they turn frothy. Start on the sugar syrup immediately after starting the stand mixer.
  4. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and cook the mixture over high heat until it reaches 116 °C. The mixture will start to thicken at this point which is referred to the softball stage.
  5. While the yolks are still beating, slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into them and keep beating for 5 additional minutes or until the mixture cools and increases in volume. This is your sabayon.
  6. Fold 1/3 of the whipped heavy cream into the sabayon until fully incorporated. Fold the reminder to complete the base.
  7. Pour the base into 8 parfait glasses, seal with plastic wrap and freeze for 4 hours or overnight.
  8. Serve topped with berries of choice.

Serves: 8

Tips

  • Always chill the bowl and whisk being used for preparing the whipped cream.
  • Invest in a candy thermometer to ensure the temperature doesn't rise above the limit or the sugar syrup will become too hot and thick for the proper consistency.
  • If you don't have parfait glasses, you can use ramekins, dessert jars or a baking pan (the last option will require a knife for cutting out the French parfait into portions to serve on a dessert plate instead).
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