Summer in a glass

April, with her sunny skies and hot, humid temperatures, fooled me into believing that summer arrives early in Paris.

May left me cold with her grey days and rainy nights.

June seems in the mood for redemption, so I thought I’d show my support with a bit of summer reminiscing.

The deck at our old Oak Street apartment in Ottawa was the backdrop for many of my best memories of the season. Waffle breakfasts, with maple syrup from the Abbott homestead in Orillia and fresh local berries from the Byward Market, taken leisurely with a cup of Monk’s Blend tea on the weekends. An after-work BBQ of grilled Alberta beef and roasted veggies, enjoyed with a glass of Argentine Malbec and a setting sun. Or, best of all, a deckful of friends jammed around the green plastic patio table (the unluckiest one stuck with the backless stool) piling their burgers high with condiments and their cobs of corn even higher with butter.

Here in Paris, we don’t have a deck, or a BBQ, or friends for that matter. But that didn’t stop us from capturing the spirit of summer in a glass with a delicious parfait.

A range of flavours, textures and colours stacked artfully in layers, a good parfait should look (almost) as good as it tastes.

Key Lime Pie Parfaits

½ cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup sugar 

¼ teaspoon lime zest

2 eggs 

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 

1 ½ cups crème fraîche
icing sugar, to taste
1 cup Speculoo* crumbs 

To prepare the lime custard, stir together the lime juice, sugar, lime zest, eggs and sweetened condensed milk in the top of a double boiler. Over simmering water, cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and place the pan in a large bowl filled with ice until the mixtures comes to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, crush your Speculoos into crumbs and small bits inside a heavy duty Ziploc bag. In a small bowl, mix the crème fraîche and icing sugar, to taste. (Depending on the “cream” product you’re using or your preferences, you can omit the icing sugar.)

In a clear glass, layer the lime custard, cream and cookie crumbs in a pattern of your choosing. Prepare the parfaits just before serving to ensure the crumb layer keeps its crunch.

Serves 6, depending on the size of your glass.

* Speculoos are a crunchy spice cookie that pop up just about everywhere I go these days. For some history, see this post on Chocolate and Zucchini.

Note: This recipe is ripe for substitutions. For the crumb layer, I’ve tried crushed graham crackers and gingersnap cookies, both with tasty results. The cream layer is your chance to amp up or tone down the richness, using anything from Cool Whip (if petroleum byproducts are your thing) to whipped cream.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light, August 2004.