Apple Crisp Parfait

serves: 10 servings, or more

A parfait is a great party dessert—elegant looking but essentially quite simple. This one is really fun to put together and I have the kids help me: they love to crack and crumble up into hundreds of pieces the big brown sugar crisp I've baked, then layer them in the parfait glasses (and pop lots of crumbles into their mouths, too, I've noticed). Like the crisp, the poached apple cubes are delicious all by themselves. You want to use flavorful, tart-tasting apple that will keep their shape when cooked but soften up nicely and remain moist too. Good varieties are Greenings, Granny Smith, Northern Spy and Golden Delicious. Some of the heirloom cooking apples that orchards are growing again would be fine too—we can never have too many varieties of apples to enjoy.

4 pounds firm tart apples, for baking
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed and strained
1½ cups sugar
½ cup water

For the Parfait
3 cups heavy cream, for whipping
3 cups Brown surgar crisp crumbles, (See recipe for Brown Sugar Crisp Crumbles)

Poaching the Apples

Cut the apples in thick wedges, peel and cut away the core and seed. Slice the wedges into chunks and cubes, an inch thick or larger (don't cut them too small or they over-cook). As you work, put the apple chunks in a mixing bowl and toss with some of the lemon zest and juice, to prevent browning. When you're finished, you should have about 10 cups of apples mixed with all the zest and juice.

Pour the sugar over the apples and toss gently to coat the pieces. Turn all the fruit into the saucepan, slosh the bowl with the 1/2 cup water to rinse out all the sugar and pour that into the pan too.

Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Stir the apples gently (so they're all heating), cover the pan, and cook about 2 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to boil, reducing the juices, stirring the apple chunks around a couple of times, but not mushing them up. After 5 or 6 minutes, when the apples have softened and turned translucent on the outside (they won't be cooked all the way through) remove the pan from the heat. If the chunks have started to fall apart, turn them out of the saucepan into a bowl to stop cooking, otherwise let the apples and the remaining liquid cool to room temperature (the chunks will reabsorb some of their juices as they sit).

The apples can be cooked a day ahead and refrigerated; let them warm up a bit before serving.

Assembling the Parfaits

Have the apples, crumbled-up crisp, and serving glasses ready.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form, by hand or in an electric mixer. (No sugar or flavoring is needed since the apples and crisp are quite sweet).

Spoon about 1/2 cup of apple chunks into each glass, making a thick layer that fills the bottom. Scatter crisp crumbles on top-anywhere from 2 to 5 tablespoons, since you'll have plenty-to make a layer that will be visible on the glass. Plop 1/2 cup or so of whipped cream on top of the crisp crumbles.

Now repeat the layers-apples, crumbles, cream-in each glass. These can be smaller amounts or as ample as the bottom layers, for an impressive and generous dessert.