National Strawberry Parfait Day & The History Of The Parfait - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures National Strawberry Parfait Day & The History Of The Parfait
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National Strawberry Parfait Day & The History Of The Parfait

June 25th is National Strawberry Parfait Day.

We just published a July 4th breakfast parfait recipe, but the original parfait was made from ice cream.

In the U.S., a parfait is a layered sundae. In France, it’s a different type of frozen dessert, as we’ll explain below.

A parfait (American) can be simple, with alternating layers of ice cream and syrup, or a mélange of ingredients.

A recipe template is below.

November 25th is National Parfait Day.

Parfait is the French word for “perfect.” The word means something different in France: It’s the original French sundae, made with a custard-base ice cream (“French” ice cream, made from a base of sugar syrup, egg, and cream); then flavored with fruit purée and whipped with a lot of air to a delicate texture.

The recipe can be made at home with no special equipment. It contains enough fat, sugar, alcohol, and whipped air to allow it to be made by stirring infrequently, as it freezes (granita is made the same way).

The process interferes with the formation of ice crystals: As in the production of regular ice cream, the mix is agitated constantly as it freezes (or chemically by adding glycerol) [source].

In a French parfait, the ice cream is not scooped but pre-frozen in individual serving containers—typically the long, tapered parfait glasses, narrower versions of sundae dishes.

The frozen dessert dates to 1894. In France, a parfait is a frozen dessert made from a base of sugar syrup, egg, and cream.

In America, a “parfait” became a particular type of sundae, different from the French parfait.

An American parfait layers syrup and other garnishes (originally, bright-colored fruit gelatin was used) between layers of ice cream, in a tall glass.

It is then garnished with whipped cream, fruit, liqueurs, nuts, and these days, sprinkles and gummy bears. instead of adding them all on top like a sundae.

The concept expanded to fruit, yogurt and granola parfaits; pudding parfaits; and even savory parfaits like this Mexican Parfait with tomatoes, beans, jalapeño, plain Greek yogurt and tortilla chips; and this Buffalo Chicken Parfait.

Check out the different types of ice cream preparations in our Ice Cream Glossary, along with the history of the parfait.

In the U.S., both ice cream desserts are made from the same ingredients. The difference is in how the ingredients are presented.

  • An American parfait shows its ingredients in layers: ice cream, syrup, and fruit. It is traditionally served in a tall, narrow, short-stemmed glass, and topped with whipped cream.
  • A traditional sundae dish is a wider, tulip shape with a scalloped rim. First ice cream is scooped into the dish, and it is topped with syrups, fruits, and wet walnuts, and crowned with whipped cream a maraschino cherry (today a fresh strawberry is often substituted). Crushed nuts and sprinkles can also be added. The sundae was invented in the U.S. Here’s the history of ice cream.
  • A French parfait differs from the American version. It is a frozen dessert made by folding fruits, nuts, and/or other ingredients into whipped cream or egg custard—more like a semifreddo or frozen soufflé. See the different types of ice cream.

    In the U.S., different types of parfait bases are used. Choose from this list to build your own, layer by layer:
    Parfait Base

  • Ice cream/frozen yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Yogurt
  • Whipped cream

  • Fresh or frozen berries
  • Other fresh fruit, sliced or diced (bananas, mango, anything goes)
    Cake & Cookies

  • Cake cubes, plain or toasted
  • Crumbled cookies

  • Custard
  • Fruit purée
  • Liqueur
  • Whipped cream

  • Berry
  • Chocolate shavings/chips
  • Coconut
    One great thing about parfaits: You’ll never run out of combinations!


    Strawberry Parfait
    [1] An American-style strawberry ice cream parfait (photo © Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board).

    Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
    [2] A fruit and yogurt parfait with granola. Here’s the recipe from Sugar Spice And Family Life.

    French Walnut Parfait
    [3] A French-style parfait: no layers, just frozen creaminess. This walnut parfait is made with walnuts and walnut liqueur. Here’s the recipe from Mondomulia (photo © Mondomulia).

    Blueberry Lemon Parfait
    [4] An American-style parfait with blueberry sauce and lemon custard. Here’s the recipe from Baking A Moment.

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