Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Raspberry, Vanilla & Blueberry Parfaits with Shortbread Stars for Independence Day

As we head into July, we are nearing the height of raspberry season. Last week I had the privilege of tasting them freshly picked in the garden of a friend. On Saturday I noticed that they had begun to trickle into the farmers' market (along with the flood of blueberries). At my local grocery store raspberries are abundant (and on sale!). But even without all of these cues, the fragrance wafting my way from the mountain of raspberry boxes at Costco last Friday would have told me that the season for raspberries was upon us.

As I stood in front of that Costco display, I thought about the festive red, white and blue parfait I had seen that morning on Martha Stewart's Facebook page. So instead of just purchasing the one box of raspberries I needed for my private dinner client...I purchased two extra boxes so I could make fresh raspberry sorbet for parfaits to serve at my family's Fourth of July celebration.

The parfaits are perfect for the kinds of casual, out-of-doors, boisterous activities that are the norm for Fourth of July celebrations. Made up of the aforementioned fresh raspberry sorbet, along with vanilla ice cream, fresh blueberries and a sugar cookie garnish...they could hardly be simpler (or more festive). Recipes for each of the components were provided on Martha Stewart's site, but I of course wanted to use my own favorite recipes. Instead of vanilla ice cream I made the Orange-scented Honey & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream that I posted last year with my recipe for Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp. I love orange and honey with berries and I thought it would be a perfect foil for the tart raspberry sorbet (and it was).

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.

To build the parfaits, layer scoops of the vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries and scoops of the raspberry sorbet. Top with a sprinkling of more fresh blueberries. I think it looks best to build the parfaits with several small scoops of each flavor, rather than one large scoop of each. But if you don't have any small scoops (typically sold for scooping cookie dough), the parfait will still look very pretty. The parfaits on Martha Stewart's site are made with a large scoop of each and they look beautiful.

For an alternate—and more formal—presentation, you could make an ice cream/sorbet terrine by packing alternating, even layers of the sorbet and ice cream into a plastic wrap-lined loaf pan. Freeze the terrine until firm before turning out and cutting into thick slabs to serve. (Use a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry after each cut so you will get neat, clean slices.) Place the slabs, on individual chilled plates and scatter the blueberries over each slice. Instead of using fresh blueberries, you could make a blueberry sauce to pool on the plate under the terrine or a chunky compote to spoon across each slice. The stripes of red sorbet and white ice cream would be perfect for the holiday. As a bonus, this presentation would make it much easier to serve to a crowd.

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.

Printable Recipe

Shortbread Cookies

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)

Printable Recipe

No comments: