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Crushed Strawberry-Balsamic Fool Parfait

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Serves 6

  • by from Modern Sauces

Strawberries, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar are one of the dessert world's perfect combinations. Each element echoes the others and the sweet-sour-savory dynamic is irresistible. Your balsamic vinegar should be decent, but not artisanal, quality.

For the strawberry-balsamic sauce
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 12 oz. strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered lengthwise if large
  • 1⁄8 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Tiny pinch of kosher salt
For the parfait
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz. mild fresh goat cheese or fromage blanc, at room temperature
  • 1⁄3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2-1/4 cups coarsely crushed amaretti or gingersnaps
  • 6 strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
Make the strawberry-balsamic sauce

In a large frying pan, combine the vinegar and sugar over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring, until syrupy, about 1 minute or so once it’s come to a simmer. Watch out for the vinegar fumes, which can be startlingly potent! Add the berries and simmer, stirring gently, until they start to collapse and the juices are running but the berries have not turned to mush, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir in the vanilla and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You want a balance that is fruity and sweet, with just an intriguing edge of vinegar. Chill until cold.

Make the parfait

Have ready six parfait glasses or wineglasses.

Set aside about 1/2 cup of the sauce. Scrape the remaining sauce into a food processor and pulse until the berries are crushed. (I like to leave some texture to the berries, but you can pulse until smooth, too.)

In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat together the cream, goat cheese, sugar, and salt on medium-low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and beat until firm peaks form when the beaters are lifted (don’t forget to stop the mixer before lifting), about 2 minutes. Add the reserved sauce and the processed sauce and, using a rubber spatula, fold just until blended. (The mixture can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day before continuing.)

Spoon about 3-1/2 Tbs. of the cream mixture into each glass. Top with about 3 Tbs. of the cookie crumbs. Spread about 3-1/2 Tbs. of the cream mixture over the cookie crumbs in each glass. Top with the remaining crumbs and then with the remaining cream mixture.

Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 3 hours (the cookie crumbs will soften a bit). Top with the strawberry halves just before serving.

Make Ahead Tips

The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

The sauce can be folded together with the goat cheese-cream mixture 1 day ahead, and refrigerated, covered.

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Words cannot describe how good this recipe is. I've made it several times for different people, and it's always a hit. I use twice as much cream as recommended because there is a lot of extra sauce. The only down side is that it turns a weird shade of brown when the sauce and cream are mixed together, but once you taste it, the color no longer matters.

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