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Almond parfait March 28, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Sweet things, Wolfe recipe.

As you may have noticed from the lack of posts about dessert, I’m not the world’s largest dessert fan. This is not to say I don’t enjoy dessert from time to time, but in general I am much more interested in savoury things. My general interest in savoury food means that when I cook at home, I become excited about a new savoury thing and run out of energy before I consider dessert! However, I understand there are strange people in the world who actively look forward to dessert, and I do cook desserts from time to time.

I was flicking through The Nero Wolfe Cookbook when I saw the recipe for almond parfait. Nero Wolfe eats it in In The Best Families, one of the first Wolfe stories I read, so I felt obliged to try it. Incidentally, the word ‘parfait’ can be used to mean two different types of dessert: one form, which is the one I was most familiar with, contains cream, sponge cake and (often) fruit in layers in a tall glass. The other form is the one I was making, which combines cream, eggs, sugar and flavourings, and is then frozen.

I began by making a sugar syrup with equal parts sugar and water. I brought it to the boil and stirred until all the sugar was dissolved. I made a bit extra, and saved it for making cocktails!

When the sugar was dissolved, I took it off the heat and let it cool down. As it turned out, it had lots of time to cool down, as my next step was to beat 4 egg yolks until they were ‘lemony’ in colour. This involved me beating the eggs with a whisk, stopping every 20 seconds to ask H, “do these look lemony to you?”. Well, they were yellow…

After a few minutes of whisking, the yolks were lighter and did indeed look lighter yellow in colour.

By this time the sugar syrup had cooled, and I added a few spoonfuls to the egg mixture to temper the eggs, and beat it again. The recipe then instructed to use a double boiler to slowly cook the sugar syrup and egg mix. As I don’t have a double boiler (and hadn’t planned far enough ahead to beg the use of a friend’s double boiler, as I had when making scrambled eggs), I improvised by using a larger saucepan for the water, and held a smaller saucepan over the top. While it didn’t work as well (or as quickly) as having a proper double boiler, the general effect was the same.

I continuously stirred the egg and sugar syrup mix, and after about 10 minutes it got thicker, and the eggs and syrup combined. Again I think this took longer than it should have, because of my imperfect double boiler! But it did still work in the end. After the eggs had thickened, I took the saucepan off the heat and kept stirring until they had cooled. Then I went onto the fun part – whipping the cream.

Every time I whip cream (which is not often, let me tell you!), I remember how much I hate it. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that kneading bread by hand is less painful than whipping cream by hand. Far, far less painful. Anyway, eventually, the cream was whipped, the eggs were cooled and it was time to move on.

I added some almond essence and some chopped almond pieces to the egg mixture, and folded in the whipped cream. The recipe instructed me to put the whole lot in a parfait mould, but as I didn’t have such a thing, I decided to use little ramekins to make individual(ish) portions. As I was afraid that the parfait would stick to the ramekins, I lined them with glad wrap.

The recipe said to freeze the parfait until ready to serve, which for me meant freezing it overnight. The next day, I was able to get it out of the ramekins easily thanks to the glad wrap, and I topped the parfait with more almonds.

Now, if I was a proper food photographer, I would have smoothed out the lines left by the glad wrap before taking the photo. However, I am not a food photographer, and I was more interested in tasting it!

Now this was definitely a dessert I could be interested in. It wasn’t overly sweet, and the chopped almonds throughout the parfait gave it a nice texture. It was not unlike icecream, although it was lighter and was of course not made in the same way as icecream.

I can’t wait to try this recipe again but using different flavourings – something like strawberry or raspberry with some chopped up fruit in the parfait would be delicious. And I always like finding a recipe that falls into the “dessert for people who are more fond of savoury dishes” category!


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