- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas markets where you can buy decorations, little gifts and traditional sweets spring up in most major cities, and the weather usually cooperates by providing at least a light dusting of snow to make things look even more festive.

I visit Zurich often, and though I haven’t spent Christmas there for a long time, I asked one of my friends there, executive chef Fredi Nussbaum of the Hotel zum Storchen, if he had a good idea for a holiday dessert.

Fredi’s dessert turned out to be a winner: a frozen cinnamon parfait served with brunsli cookies (they’re a specialty of nearby Basel) and a chunky raspberry sauce. I’m giving you a cranberry variation in the sauce recipe in case you want something more seasonal - even a shower of pomegranate seeds would be great.

For this dessert, you can get everything ready days in advance and avoid any last-minute preparations at such a high-pressure time of the year. The parfait will keep well in the freezer for 10 days, the cookies the same, and the sauce will be fine in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days in a closed plastic container.

On the big day, all you’ll need to do is slice the parfait and arrange it on the plates, surrounded by the cookies, sauce and a light sprinkling of ground cinnamon. It might not be snowing where you are this holiday season, but you’ll still enjoy a sweet taste of Switzerland.

Below you’ll find the parfait, cookies and sauce in separate recipes because you’ll most likely prepare them at different times. Refer to the photo for arranging the dessert on plates.

Frozen cinnamon parfait Hotel zum Storchen

Makes an 8 1/2-inch loaf, 8 to 10 servings.

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 3-inch pieces cinnamon stick, crushed

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

6 large egg yolks

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

One 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by 2 3/4-inch loaf pan, buttered and lined with plastic wrap

Combine the water, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan and bring them to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. At the boil, remove the pan from the heat and allow the cinnamon to steep in the syrup for 10 minutes.

Whisk the ground cinnamon into the egg yolks in a mixer bowl and strain the cooled syrup over them. Whisk well to mix. Stand the bowl on a pan of gently boiling water and whisk the mixture constantly until it is thickened and fluffy it will not become extremely thick. Place on mixer with the whisk and whip until completely cooled.

Whip the cream with the vanilla to a very soft peak and fold it into the cooled yolk-and-syrup mixture. Scrape the mixture into the prepared mold and cover the dessert with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 24 hours.

Brunsli

Makes about 24 cookies, depending on the size of the cutter used

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (about 3 1/4 ounces) whole almonds, hazelnuts or a combination, with or without skins

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 large egg white

A cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan covered with parchment or foil

Combine the sugar and almonds in a food processor and pulse repeatedly until finely ground. Add the chocolate and pulse again until as finely ground as the sugar-and-nut mixture. Add the spices and egg white and pulse to form a firm dough - it need not form a ball.

Invert the bowl to a sugared work surface and remove the blade. Scatter some sugar on the dough and press it out with the palm of your hand to about 1/4-inch thick. Run a long knife or spatula under the dough before cutting to make sure it isn’t stuck. Use a decorative cutter dipped in sugar to cut out the cookies and place them in the prepared pan about an inch apart.

Press the scraps together and cut more cookies until you have used all the dough.

Let the brunsli dry at room temperature for 2 or 3 hours.

Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Bake the cookies until they puff slightly and look dull, about 12 to 15 minutes. Don’t bake them until they’re completely firm, or they will be very hard after cooling.

Slide the paper off the pan to a rack to cool the cookies. Store the cooled cookies in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Chunky raspberry sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 half-pint baskets fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon kirsch or white rum

Place a quarter of the berries in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Use a large rubber spatula to crush everything together until the berries are liquid. Gently fold in the remaining berries, leaving them whole.

Pack the sauce in a plastic container, cover and chill it until needed.

Variation: Substitute 2 cups cranberries for the raspberries. Place them in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients, increasing the sugar to cup. Place on medium heat and cook, stirring, until about half the berries have popped open. Cool and refrigerate as for the raspberry sauce, above.

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