Parfait is the French term used to refer to desserts that are prepared by freezing the dish which is usually an ice cream or a cream- based dessert. The French meaning of the term is “perfect” implying that the dessert named as such should be a perfect one. Parfaits are prepared in tall glasses called parfait glasses. The visual appeal of these traditional layered desserts makes it a top feature of many party menus. The food is similar to a sundae. Popular parfait recipes include fruit, nuts, chocolate coffee, yogurt and other dessert ingredients. Strawberry parfait, mango parfait, apple parfait, peach parfait, yogurt parfait are all different kinds of parfaits that are served chilled as party or casual desserts. All parfaits are not desserts, and some are savory dishes made of seafood, vegetables, and even fois gras.
Origin of Parfaits
The origin of parfait can be traced back to the reference of a dessert in the French cuisine in 1894.
Ingredients Commonly Used in Parfait Recipes
A parfait may be made using a number of ingredients like different types of ice cream, cream fruits, nuts, coffee and other ingredients. Essentially, the original French version of the parfait is made by using cream, egg, sugar and syrup. The American parfait includes more ingredients like granola, nuts, yogurt, liqueurs and gelatin desserts made in combination with a topping of fruits or whipped cream. The yogurt parfait made with granola, fruit or other cereals has risen in popularity with the Americans. This healthy dish is not eaten as a dessert but as a delicious breakfast food because of its healthy properties.
Preparation of Parfaits
Preparation of the French parfait is different from that of its American analogue owing to the fact that both are not identical dishes. The French version, which is made using a technique called saboyan, involves boiling the ingredients in a liquid medium which may be water or oil. The French dessert is essentially a pureed dessert custard which is not mandatorily served in a parfait glass, unlike its American counterpart. The American version of the dessert is always made in a parfait glass and is more visually appealing than the French version. The ingredients are placed in layers one after the other in the parfait glass which is chilled before serving. The number of layers in the dish can be specified according to one’s liking as there is no fixed number of layers. The parfait glass chosen should be transparent fully as it best displays the layers of the dessert. Cakes, puddings and even granola can make delicious toppings. Parfaits can be prepared as comfort food and also as health food depending on the ingredients used. With ice cream, nuts and fruit it can be enjoyed as a high calorie comfort food. With yogurt, granola, and other cereals, it is also consumed as a delicious health food. Yogurt in different forms like low fat yogurt, organic yogurt and baby yogurt, to name only a few varieties can be chosen according to suitability and a parfait made out of it. It makes a delicious and nutritious breakfast dish. Savory parfaits are made in the same way as the dessert parfaits in the French cuisine, though using different ingredients. The common factor between the savory and sweet parfaits is that both have a creamy feel and their method of serving is the same. Savory parfaits are also served in tall, parfait glasses like their dessert counterparts.
Popular Parfait Recipes
A parfait is made up of yogurt, berries, sour cream, or a number of other ingredients as already mentioned. Parfaits vary greatly in variety and here a brief description of only some parfaits is given.
Yogurt Parfait – Parfait recipes of yoghurt are one of the most popular members of the family today, owing to their healthy attributes. These parfaits are made with unflavored yogurt or that which is flavored with strawberry, vanilla, chocolate or any other flavor. The recipe may be made with a variety of yogurts of different consistencies depending upon the requirements of the consumers. Thick and creamy yogurt may be preferred over the thin and flowy variety by people who do not have to be conscious about losing weight. Those who are inclined towards having organic food, they can choose to make their parfait with the bio and organic varieties, while others may opt for the normal varieties. Making a yogurt parfait is quite simple. A parfait glass is filled with a layer of yogurt, then with granola and then fruit. The layers are repeated and the final topping may be of fruits like blueberries. It should be noted that its always better to fix the parfait a little before it is served as otherwise the cereal may just get soaked in the yogurt which will make it lose its crunchiness and thus make the dish less palatable on the whole.
Gelatin Parfait- This parfait is enjoyed as a dessert. It is prepared by setting fruit in a parfait glass with flavored gelatin, freezing it for some hours, and then layering the top with whipped cream and nut topping. As the jellied fruits take time to set, which may be about 4-5 hours, this parfait is recommended for preparation when there is adequate time at hand before the occasion in which it is to be served.
Mixed Fruit parfait – Though, a number of parfait recipes include a single fruit or a combination of fruits, this fruit parfait is made with a base of sour cream and not ice cream or mixed cream base. The sour cream is mixed with sugar and a fruit juice containing an alcoholic ingredient (which may be the juice of tangy oranges, melons or any other fruit). The mixture is placed at the bottom of a parfait glass, fruits are placed as the next layer of the parfait, followed by a final layer of chocolate shavings. The dish is best served after being chilled for a couple of hours.
Dishes Similar to the Parfait
A parfait and a sundae are often mistaken for each other. But though apparently similar both sundaes and parfaits are different from each other in a number of ways:
• A parfait involves more culinary artistic skills in comparison to the sundae where the layering is comparatively simpler
• Parfaits may be savory too and even the sweet ones may not include ice cream as one of the constituent ingredients. The sundae, on the other hand, is always a dessert and contains ice cream as its mandatory ingredient.