Sunday, August 17, 2008

Strawberry Cream Parfait

This is based on a recipe for a
Strawberry Ricotta Parfait on Epicurious/from SELF Magazine.

Recently, my bf and I had dinner with some friends of ours. My mission was to bring dessert, but as it turned out, the week was extremely busy w/ late work nights in order to meet a big deadline that week (Hah, what else is new?). I can never make up my mind about what I really want to do for a recipe, which just added to the stress of "WHAT AM I GOING TO MAKE FOR FRIDAY NIGHT?!?!" Then it hit me. A PARFAIT OF SORTS! Yes! I can buy some pound cake, throw together some layers of goo, make it look pretty and voila! Dessert in less than an hour--I just need prep time.

I knew I wanted to do something like strawberry shortcake, and I already had some ricotta waiting for me in my fridge. After watching the Food Network as much as I do, you eventually figure out that as long as you have a few of the following--ricotta and/or marscapone, pound cake, chocolate and/or Nutella, and an alcohol of sorts--your possibilities for dessert are endless. Hah, it actually feels like a rather Taco Bell-type approach to dessert--same ingredients everytime, just a slightly different formation.

I used the Epicurious/SELF magazine recipe as my "base recipe," but altered it for my own taste. I get yelled at lot for this. I alter the recipe to my liking before even trying the pure form of the recipe. Baking/cooking is probably the one area in life I can actually be spontaneous! Hell, why not throw in a little extra alcohol? Some pudding maybe? Sure, sounds great! As I read in a recent issue of EveryDay with Rachael Ray, a young but wise culinary student said that a recipe is merely a template for you to use as a guide to make your own creation--edit as you wish (something to that affect, anyway).


Strawberry Cream Parfai
t (I renamed it since I altered it. I guess that's okay.)

• For the strawberry layer

4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, or 1 cup frozen, sliced

(I totally used the frozen sweetened kind, due to lack of time and primo produce at my Kroger that evening)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

1 tbsp rosewater

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch, to thicken mixture (optional)

1 tbsp cold water (for cornstarch only)

• For the cream layer:

15 ounces lowfat ricotta

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 snack-cup of vanilla pudding (yeah, those little things you ate as a kid. one of those)

Sugar, to taste (I used about 4 tbsp, the original recipe recommends only 2.)

• For the cake layer

2 tbsp spiced rum

2 tbsp juice from strawberries (if using frozen)

1 pound cake (Sara Lee from the frozen section is pretty good. Entenmann's is a close second.)

• Garnish: This could be mint leaves, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, etc. I used a single Nilla Wafer cookie to top each parfait.

4-6 cups/glasses in which to distribute the parfaits.

• Directions:

Prep the strawberries, whether that means washing/chopping/hulling or just thawing and draining. If using frozen berries, reserve the juice. If your natural strawberries have been in a container and have juices, you can use that as well. If not, don't worry about it. I chose to boil the strawberries for a few minutes to bring the ingredients together and to thicken the sauce. I probably would not have done this if I were using fresh berries, but since my berries were frozen and mushy anyway, it seemed like a good idea. Either way, mix all the ingredient for the strawberry layer together. If simmering, mix 1 tbsp cornstarch + 1 tbsp cold water until completely dissolved, then add to strawberry mixture and simmer until mixture thickens. Let cool.

Remember the strawberry juice you reserved? Now's the time to do something with it. Mix 2 tbsp of juice w/ 2 tbsp spiced rum (you could also use wine, champagne, Grand Marnier, triple sec, schnapps, you get the picture.) and get out your pastry brush.

Next, slice pound cake anywhere from .75" to 1" thick. Obviously, slice enough to allow at least one slice per serving. If your cups (and the pound cake!) allow for multiple slice, then power to you. I was working w/ short small glasses, so I only fit one slice. Also, make sure you trim the slice to fit in the cup. Alternatively, you could also crumble the cake and use that as a layer instead of using a solid piece.

Mix cream filling ingredients together, adding the sugar slowly and occasionally tasting (with a clean spoon!) in between additions to make sure you get the sweetness you prefer. Blend well, until nice and smooth.

Here comes the fun. LAYERING. The assembly order:

1. Strawberry mixture. Spoon into glass/cup.

2. Pound cake

3. Juice + Rum mixture. Brush this onto the cake--I recommend brushing each slice a few times.

4. Ricotta Cream mixture

5. Garnish.

The longer these sit, the better the flavors will blend together. Whatever you do, make sure you refrigerate this stuff until you eat it.

You might also have some stuff leftover, like the ricotta cream mixture. Refrigerate and use however you like. Perhaps as a base for a cannoli filling? Another parfait? A delightful dip for cookies/wafers/biscuits? Use your imagination. Be wild!

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