once upon a chef

Lemon Berry Parfaits


– 2 large eggs – 1¼ cups sugar – ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 3 large lemons – 4 tablespoons unsalted butter – 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (see note below) – 1 cup whipping cream, chilled – 5 cups assorted fresh berries (if using strawberries, cut into bite-size pieces) – A few springs fresh mint, for garnish – 4-6 shortbread or ginger cookies (optional)

Fresh berries are delicious on their own but if you’re looking for a way to dress them up, elegant parfaits are the way to go. Here, I’ve layered them with a luscious lemon cream – essentially a lemon curd lightened with whipped cream – to brighten their natural sweetness.

Step #1

Begin by making the lemon cream. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice.

Step #2

Next, set up your double boiler. You need it for this recipe so that the eggs don’t curdle. If you don’t have a double boiler you can make your own; simply place a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Just make sure the hot water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.

Step #3

Melt the butter, then add the lemon mixture and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat a metal spoon.

Step #4

Stir in the lemon zest and chill in refrigerator.

Step #5

In the meantime, whip the cream to firm peaks. You’ll know it’s ready when you lift the whisk out of the bowl and the peaks stand up and hold their shape without drooping over.  Keep a close eye on it; if the cream gets grainy, you’ve gone too far and should start over.

Step #6

Gently fold the chilled lemon mixture into the whipped cream, retaining as much volume as possible. To do this, use a rubber spatula to cut down into the center of the cream and sweep up the side of the bowl, scooping up cream from the bottom and bringing it to the top. This motion gently turns the mixtures over on top of each other, combining them in the process.

Step #7

Finally, assemble the parfaits. Spoon a handful of berries into each parfait glass and top with a generous dollop of lemon cream. Spoon in more berries and another layer of cream. Chill until ready to serve. (The parfaits can be assembled up to this point several hours ahead of time.) Right before serving, top each parfait with a cookie and sprig of fresh mint.

Step #8

Keep in mind that this dessert is only as good as the berries you make it with. I like to use a combination of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries but only if they’re all sweet and juicy. Enjoy!