The sugar cookie garnish on Martha Stewart's parfaits took the form of a cute little spoon. I was going to make spoons and then decided that cookies cut in the shape of stars and sprinkled with red, white and blue sugars would be more fun and a much better fit for the holiday. To make the cutouts, I used one of my favorite shortbread recipes (adapted from Emily Luchetti's Stars Desserts—I posted a Pistachio variation in March). Like the cookie spoons, the star shortbread cookies can be stuck into the parfaits as a garnish...or simply arranged on a platter (so people can eat as many as they want...).
For my raspberry sorbet, I just followed the formula I always use when I make a fruit sorbet. The method is outlined in my plum sorbet post from a couple of years ago. The raspberry sorbet is even easier than the plum. The fruit doesn't need to be pitted or cooked. Just measure, purée and strain the berries and then add a volume of chilled simple syrup (equal weights of water and sugar that have been brought to a boil) equivalent to 1/3 of the volume of the fruit. Place the mixture in a deep container and test the sugar density using the egg test. Add water or sugar syrup as needed. Taste and adjust with lemon juice. Be careful with the lemon...my raspberries were sufficiently tart and flavorful—I didn't need much lemon.
I think it is worth making your own sorbet and ice cream for this frozen holiday treat. But if you don't have the time...or an ice cream maker...then you can of course recreate these parfaits with purchased ice cream and sorbet. The important thing is to serve something that is delicious, refreshing and red, white and blue.... And, if you can squeeze in some of the delicious, in-season raspberries that are coming into the market right now (maybe built into an all vanilla ice cream parfait along with the blueberries), all the better. But no matter what you serve, I hope that you—and those you love—have a safe, fun and festive Independence Day celebration.
Fresh Raspberry Sorbet
1 1/3 c. (300 gr.) water
1 1/2 c. (300 gr.) sugar
1 1/2 to 1 2/3 lbs. fresh raspberries
1 T. fresh lemon juice—more or less, to taste
Make the simple syrup: Place the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute. Set aside to cool. You will have about 2 cups simple syrup, which will keep indefinitely in covered tightly in the refrigerator.
Gently wash the raspberries if they are dirty and spread on towels to dry. Purée the berries in the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pass the purée through a fine-meshed sieve. Chill until cold.
Place the purée in a deep, container that is large enough to hold 6 cups. Add a cup of the simple syrup and stir well. Wash a raw egg well and dry carefully. Drop the raw egg (in the shell) into the sorbet base. If the sugar saturation of the base is where it should be, the egg will float so that a dime- to quarter-sized portion of the shell is visible on the surface of the sorbet base. If an area larger than a quarter is visible, add water. If the egg is not visible at all, or the area that is visible is smaller than a dime, add simple syrup. (When I made my sorbet, I needed to add another 2/3 cup of syrup.) After the sugar density has been corrected, remove the egg. Taste the sorbet and add lemon juice to taste. The rule of thumb is 1 1/2 tablespoons per quart of sorbet base (my raspberries didn't need this much).
Freeze the sorbet according to the manufacturer’s instructions on your ice cream freezer. Transfer to an airtight container and place in the freezer until firm. Makes about a quart of sorbet.
Note: The weight of raspberries given in the recipe is equivalent to about 5 to 5 1/2 cups of berries...which will in turn make about 3 cups of strained purée. This is why the recipe begins by adding 1 cup of simple syrup (1 cup is a third of 3 cups). It is interesting to note that the final amount of syrup needed was 1 2/3 cup...which is a third of 5 cups (approximately the volume of the berries before they were puréed). I suspected that I would need this larger amount but started with the smaller—you can always add more sugar syrup...you can't take it away once it has been added.
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, at a cool room temperature (malleable, but not soft)
1/2 c. sugar (100 g)
a pinch of salt
2 1/3 cup all purpose flour (280 g)
Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and salt together just until combined and smooth...it is not necessary (or desirable) to cream until light and fluffy.
Add the flour and mix on low speed until the dough comes together.
On a lightly floured surface (working with 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough at a time and adding the scraps from each rolling into the next, fresh portion of dough) roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4-inch and stamp out cookies in whatever shape you desire.
Transfer the cookies to parchment lined baking sheets, spacing them evenly (about 1 to 2 inches apart—they can be pretty close together since they don't spread). Chill the stamped cookies until they are firm. If you like, sprinkle some granulated or decorative sugar over the cookies before baking.
Bake the cookies in a 300° oven until set—about 15 to 20 minutes. The cookies should not brown...although they may begin to take on a light golden color at the edges. Let the cookies cool briefly on the sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Store the cookies air-tight.
Depending on the size of your cutters, the recipe will yield about 4 to 5 dozen Shortbread Cookies.
(Recipe adapted from Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti)