Getting brownie points on Valentine's Day doesn't require you to bake actual brownies from scratch, and a perfectly frosted seven-layer cake isn't necessary either. Making a parfait -- a simple confection that includes layers of different ingredients -- can take mere minutes, and tailoring the treat to your loved one's tastes is a sweet way to show you care.
When preparing a parfait for your partner, think rich and luscious. The list of possible parfait ingredients is long -- just try to include at least three layers for maximum visual interest, and pick foods that are thick enough to stay in layers rather than oozing together into a mess. Give your parfaits some texture with chunks of store-bought pound cake or crumbled sugar cookies. If you're in the mood to make something homemade, tint yellow cake batter with red food coloring. Once cool, slice the cake into cubes. Next, pick one or two creamy ingredients. Tangy lemon custard, creamy vanilla pudding or rich chocolate mousse are all perfect parfait ingredients, and whipped cream adds lightness to your layered concoction. Include some sliced strawberries or raspberries to complete your parfait.
Though a parfait can be elegant, it's far from an adults-only dish. Delight your pint-size Valentine -- or your adult partner's inner child -- with a parfait made from kid-friendly ingredients. Layer raspberry or strawberry yogurt with vanilla yogurt, fruit and animal crackers or granola. For an old-school dessert, mix canned, chopped pineapple and apple chunks in strawberry or cherry gelatin and layer the cooled fruit cocktail with pudding. If the weather isn't too icy, make your parfaits with scoops of ice cream layered with chocolate cookie crumbs, mashed strawberries or strawberry sauce and whipped cream tinted pink using red food coloring.
A Word About Fruit
Fresh fruit adds a burst of flavor to any parfait, but February 14th is hardly prime time for in-season berries, and your grocery store's selection might be withered, tart or overpriced. If you can't find fresh berries that meet your standards, head to the freezer section and buy frozen berries instead. Simply let them come to room temperature before adding them to your parfait or blend them with yogurt to make a thick smoothie for a not-so-formal parfait. Another option is to make a simple fruit sauce. Chop frozen berries, mix them with a bit of sugar and a splash of lemon juice and bring the concoction to a boil, stirring constantly. You'll only have to cook the sauce at a boil for one minute, says the Penn State Extension. Chill the sauce for a few hours and spoon it in between parfait layers.
Because so much of a parfait's appeal is its colorful layers, it should always be made and served in a clear glass container. Arrange the layers in a glass bowl with straight sides if you're making enough to feed a crowd; if you're preparing a cozy celebration, make each person an individual parfait using a dessert glass, martini glass or even a traditional water glass. Gently lower each ingredient into the glass. If you end up with smears of pudding or cream, wipe them away with a clean paper towel to keep the parfait looking perfectly neat. Garnish the dish with chocolate shavings, toasted coconut or slivered almonds, more fruit or a perfect heart-shape cookie. Serve with a spoon long enough to reach the bottom of the glass.
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