12 July 2009

gorgeous stuff

One of the nice things of summer apart from the weather is that my garden supplies me with a constant, well-ordered stream of fruit that somehow I have to incorporate into our diet.

The strawberries are almost over now, the rasberries are in their last hurrah, coming up next are gooseberries and red currants. The peaches and grapes are coming along nicely. The cherries seem to have skipped this year, for whatever reason, but the berries and apples are more than we ever had.

As I couldn't stand the thought of yet another rasberry cake (and they are my absolute favourites) it took me a while to come up with an idea of what to make with the daily harvest and the last few lonely strawberries.

For quite a while now, homemade ice-cream has been on my mind, but my experiments had yet to yield any edible results. And as I had shied away from buying a machine so far, it didn't look like I was going anywhere that direction any time soon.

But, (You knew there was a but coming up, didn't you?) bless my colleague, I had a recipe for rasberry parfait lying around somewhere, gathering dust. It seemed like a good moment to try my luck and see if it was as good as she had promised me.

And boy, was it good. This parfait doesn't use cream as main ingredient, but eggs, and it yields a surprisingly smooth, delicate ice with that luxurious, more-is mouthfeel that so for I only thought possible with custard-based, machine-mixed ice-cream. And even after a few days in the freezer, it turns smooth again after an hour in the fridge.

Gorgeous stuff.

As a special bonus, our fraises des bois were ripe now, yielding a total harvest of almost three tablespoons. Three incredible aromatic tablespoons, though, enough to fill out whole kitchen with their scent. They went into the parfait as tiny, sweet frozen brittles to add some structure.

This parfait has instantly become a staple in our household, and I bet we'll see endless variations of it over the time. Try it, you'll be surprised how great an ice-cream you'll get for how little work.

rasberry parfait
(serves eight)

4 very fresh eggs
150g sugar

400g rasberries (or other mixed berries)
1 sachet vanilla sugar
a pinch of salt

250 ml cream

In a large bowl, mix the eggs and the sugar until white and very fluffy.
This is where most of the air comes into your parfait, so take some time for this. Put it in your mixer and start preparing the fruit, I don't think you can overmix this...

Clean your berries and set aside some for decoration. Puree the rest and run through a sieve, if necessary.
With rasberries, I strongly recommend the sieve. Also, while small berries like my fraises des bois keep afloat in the mix, larger ones might need to be cut into pieces or else will sink to the ground.

Whip the cream until almost stiff.
If it gets too hard, it'll either remain as tiny chunks in the later mix (not necessarily a bad thing, though) or you'll lose too much air while working it in properly.

Take a few spoonfull of the fruit puree and fold into the whipped cream, then fold the remaining puree into the egg mix.

Next, fold in the whipped cream and whatever berries's you've held back for decoration.

Pour into a container of your choice, cover and freeze for at least three hours.
Freezing time depends on size and shape of the container you use, and on the power of your freezer.
If bad comes to worse and it's not entirely frozen yet when you have to serve it, claim it's intentional and point out that German for 'parfait' is 'Halbgefrorenes', half-frozen. It definitely tastes good even if still slightly goopy.

Keeps well in the freezer, though hardens significantly after one day. If served then, it should be taken out into the fridge for an hour or so before serving, it'll be a bit coarse but nicely scoopable still.

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