A very sweet French Provencal Christmas tradition is Les Treize Desserts de Noël. For the sweet-toothed, this feast of the 13 desserts must be a highlight of the year. If that is, you can manage to get to the dessert course at all after ‘Gros Souper’, the earlier gastronomic blow-out in the meal.
Tradition also has it that all thirteen desserts are served at the same go, in portions tous petits, of course! I had a quick look through some sources on the desserts and candied fruits aside, there seems to be quite a leaning towards nuts, nougat and such combos. I’ve been meaning to experiment with a parfait I made in the summer; back then, it was a dark chocolate affair with liberal layer of pure cocoa on top. Christmas may not be white in Malta, but I wanted to lighten things up so opted for white chocolate and pistacchio as these nuts are traditional in our southern Mediterranean nougats. Also, pistacchio adds a colour pop to what would be an all-white dessert.
Les Treize Desserts de Noël is of course usually the Christmas Eve feast, not for a regular Friday earlier in the month. Today though in Malta was a feast day of sorts; Republic Day, and a public holiday. Any excuse really to indulge, a little before Xmas time! Parfait is easy to make yet quite special (and definitely on the sweet side) so perfect for one extra special dinner of the festive season, IMHO.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
- 140g quality white chocolate (Swiss or similar)
- 2 large egg whites
- 500ml whipping / double cream
- 1 level tbsp icing sugar
- 4 tbps shelled pistachios, finely ground plus more for serving on top
- Line the base and a little way up the insides of a plastic freezer container (around 20-25cm long x 12cm wide approx) with parchment paper.
- Prepare two bain marie over very gentle hob heat. In the bowl over one, place the broken up white chocolate adding 3 tbsp of the cream. In the other bain marie bowl, that’s scrupulously clean, place the separated eggs white and a scant level tablespoon of icing sugar.
- While the chocolate is melting gently, use electric beaters to whisk up the egg whites and icing sugar while it’s over the simmering bain marie. Once the eggs whites form soft peaks, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Give the white chocolate a good stir, ensure it’s all melted gently and remove from the heat. Add 4 tablespoons of the ground pistacchio (ground finely in a blender or food processor) and beat in well. If the mixture is too stiff, add a bit more cream to loosen.
- Take another clean bowl and whisk up the cream until it forms soft peaks.
- First add the whisked cream to the pistacchio-white chocolate mix, folding in well. Then, add the meringue-like egg whites to the mixture, folding in very gently in deep scooping movements from bottom to top. Ensure all the meringue is folded in (don’t rush this stage), then pour the parfait into the lined freezer container. Give it a little shake to even out, then place on lid and freeze.
- Serving: Remove from the freezer around 10 minutes before you need to serve. Lift the parfait out using the excess parchment, place on a board and then slice up. Serve with more ground pistacchio sprinkled over and some grated white chocolate. Ideal with some small dessert biscuits, brandy snaps etc. Keeps for 1 month if returned to the freezer asap.