Colorful nuts and fruits dot slices of velvety vanilla- and fig-scented mousse, a wonderful dessert for a dinner party since it may be made a few days in advance and frozen.
- Blanched Almonds - 1 cup (4 ounces), coarsely chopped, toasted
- Pistachio nuts - 1 cup (4 ounces), coarsely chopped, toasted
- Candied Orange Peel - 3/4 cup, coarsely chopped
- Brandied Cherries - 3/4 cup, coarsely chopped
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 4 cups
- Egg Yolks - 8
- Vanilla Beans - 2, split lengthwise
- Sugar - 1-1/4 cups
- Water - 1/2 cup
- Fig Jam - 1 cup (recipe follows)
- Bittersweet Chocolate - 6 ounces, chopped
- Bananas - 2
- Caramel sauce - 2 cups, warmed
- Fig Jam (Makes 1-1/2 cups)
- Turkish figs - 1 pound dried, quartered
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Water - 1 cup
To make the parfait: Line two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with parchment paper or waxed paper and set aside.
Toss the almonds, pistachios, orange peel, and cherries together. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet and place the pan in the freezer. Whip the heavy cream in a deep bowl until it reaches soft peaks. Set aside.
Place the egg yolks in a mixer bowl. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the eggs, drop in the pods, and beat with a whisk attachment on medium speed until the mixture is foamy. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan, swirl gently to moisten the sugar, and brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Boil over high heat until the syrup reaches 250 F or 260 F on a candy thermometer, or to the “firm ball” stage (a drop of the hot syrup placed in a cup of ice water will form a ball that feels hard when picked up and pressed between the fingers).
Turn the mixer to high speed and slowly stream the hot sugar syrup into the beaten egg yolks. Continue to beat at high speed until the mixture is thick and cool. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the vanilla bean pieces. Fold in the fig jam, whipped cream, and nuts and fruit. Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm.
To make the garnish: Preheat the oven to 250 F. Place the chopped chocolate in an ovenproof baking dish and place it in the oven. Turn off the oven and let the chocolate remain there for 5 to 7 minutes, or until melted. Stir the chocolate and spread an even layer 1/16-inch thick onto a piece of parchment paper. Allow to cool until almost hard. Using a pastry scraper or putty knife, scrape the chocolate into wide ruffled bands. Set aside. Peel the bananas, cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and stir the slices gently into the caramel sauce.
To serve: Remove the loaf pans from the freezer, invert onto platters, and peel away the parchment or waxed paper. Place a chocolate ruffle to one side on each chilled serving plate. Place a slice of parfait in the center of each plate, leaning against the chocolate. Spoon caramel-coated bananas on the other side of each parfait slice.
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer the figs until the water is absorbed and the figs are tender. Puree in a food processor or blender, then push through a sieve. Cover and refrigerate to store. Bring back to room temperature to use.