In French, the word parfait means “perfect”, and in American English, the term almost exclusively refers to a sort of delicious, frozen dessert. If your idea of perfection involves ice cream, then you’ll have little trouble understanding the connection with the name. And why not have a day devoted to creamy, delicious indulgence? Shouldn’t there be at least one day of the year where you can indulge in something so rich and celebrate rather than feeling guilty about it?
History of Parfait Day
The parfait itself dates back to 1894, but it would be a huge stretch of the imagination to think that the holiday celebrating these delicious frozen concoctions would go back all the way to their origins. In fact, the origins of Parfait Day are quite obscure, and we suggest that rather than breaking your head over the origins of parfait day, you should just go enjoy a parfait. After all, if we couldn’t dig up the history, you think you would be able to?
Celebrating Parfait Day
The most obvious way to celebrate Parfait Day is by making or eating a parfait. You can host a parfait party (all the more doable with our handy French parfait recipe which follows), get a job in an ice cream shop (if you’re more interested in making and serving parfaits than eating them), or just go out to someplace where they sell parfaits and buy the damn thing so you can indulge without putting in the effort of making it. In fact, the only legitimate ways to celebrate Parfait Day all involve parfaits. Go figure!
How to Make a Traditional French Parfait
In France, a parfait is a frozen dessert made from a base of simple syrup, egg, and cream. Parfaits contain enough alcohol, fat, or sugar that they can be made without the frequent stirring required for ice cream. In other parts of the world such as Canada, the US, and Japan, a parfait is either the traditional French dessert, or another variant (known as an “American parfait”) which combines parfait cream, ice cream, and sometimes flavored gelatins which are served in a clear glass with whipped cream and fresh or canned fruit.
You also get variants on this with chocolate and/or cookies, and it goes without saying that there have been a number of delicious iterations on the cookies n’cream theme. There’s also a variant which combines yogurt with granola and nuts or fresh fruits, which is common in North America. But in Britain, parfait can refer to a very fine meat paste (like the French pâté), which is most often made from liver and then flavored with liqueurs. So apparently the British think that parfaits are something totally different – goes to show that you can’t always assume that names of dishes are the same everywhere.
Anyway, it’d be a shame for you to allow Parfait Day to pass without actually indulging in a parfait, and since you may well be far more familiar with the American parfait over the original French version, let’s shake things up a bit. Yup, that’s right, this here is a recipe for the traditional coffee-flavored French parfait. So try it out to celebrate Parfait Day.
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup whipping cream (must be very cold)
1 teaspoon coffee extract (or just use espresso or even instant coffee)
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar*
4 ounces ground praline**
1. Make a simple syrup by placing the sugar in a saucepan with two tablespoons of water and bringing it to a boil for two minutes.
2. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat them. Pour the simple syrup in a steady, thin stream whilst continuing to beat the mixture. Add the coffee extract, and continue beating until the mixture has cooled and become very thick (this would take about 10 minutes).
3. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla sugar, then continue whipping until it’s firm.
4. Fold the whipped cream into the whipped egg mixture, and the fold in the ground praline. Just keep folding things until everything is folded.
5. Carefully spoon the mixture into parfait glasses (this recipe should give you enough for six), cover, and freeze for at least four hours before serving.
6. Celebrate Parfait Day by eating parfaits. Call a few friends over, enjoy with your family, or simply hoard them all for yourself. The choice is yours.
*Vanilla sugar is commonly used in French desserts. It’s just vanilla-flavoured sugar, and you can either substitute using vanilla extract or make your own. To do that, split a vanilla bean several times and then put it in an airtight container with four cups of sugar. Keep it in a cool, dark place for several weeks. Congratulations, you now have vanilla-infused sugar.
** Praline is a popular dessert ingredient which contains candied almonds and hazelnuts which are ground finely to make a crunchy powder. You’ll need 3/4 cup hazelnuts, 3/4 cup blanched almonds, 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup of water. Bake the nuts for ten minutes or until they’re toasted, then make a caramel by stirring the sugar and water together and boiling until it becomes a light caramel color. Remove the caramel from the heat, stir in the toasted nuts, and then spread the mixture on a cookie sheet to cool. Then, once it’s cooled, break up the pieces and grind them smoothly. You now have ground praline.