Strawberry, Rhubarb & Vanilla Yoghurt Parfait Recipe

parfait glasses zoomedStrawberry, Rhubarb & Vanilla Yoghurt Parfait

The following is a guest post by Brenda.

This visually striking dessert was inspired by the beautiful spring produce that has recently appeared in the farmers markets. When the stalks of brilliant red rhubarb appear in late April and early May, it means that the summer fruit season is just around the corner. Often my eyes are bigger than my stomach though so I end up buying too much and looking for new ways to use them.

Strawberries and rhubarb are a perfect match and I wanted to make something that showed off their pretty colours. With the uptick in warm weather, I ruled out recipes that required turning the oven on so that meant no pies, cobblers, crisps or cakes. One of my favourite dessert cookbooks, The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming, had a picture of a crème fraîche panna cotta served with a vivid rhubarb, ginger & strawberry fruit soup and garnished with a red rhubarb crisp.

I found recipes in other cookbooks that paired elderflower with strawberries and this sounded delicious. Elderflowers are difficult to find but St Germain is a sweet liqueur made from elderflowers, and its taste and aroma remind me of lychees. I also contemplated making verrines (small dishes with multiple components served in a glass cup) but no existing recipe jumped out. I still liked the idea of the serving glass, and the fruit soup’s colour reminded me of red jello. Googling for “dessert parfait” turned up pictures of layered jello desserts and some had appealingly tilted layers.

The presentation is all about careful positioning of layers, and waiting for gelatin to set. The most difficult part was figuring out how to keep the glasses at a tilted angle while the rhubarb layer set. If my puny condo refrigerator had wire racks, I could have angled the stems in the slots and leaned the glasses against the walls. A cooling rack with wide spacing ended up working just as well. (Note: In the picture below, the strawberry baskets are only there to add extra weight to the wire rack and to act as a buffer in case the glasses tipped while the rhubarb liquid was being poured in. The stems of the glasses are not touching the baskets at all.)

tilted glassesJerry rigging the tilted rhubarb layer on the bottom of the refrigerator

The bottom layer is adapted from the rhubarb & ginger soup recipe in The Last Course, and then set with gelatin. Rhubarb is simmered with water, sugar and a few slices with ginger. The resulting liquid is strained, gelatin is added, and then poured into glasses to set.

Strawberries and cream always go hand in hand, and a white creamy layer contrasts beautifully against red rhubarb. I kept the panna cotta idea from The Last Course but didn’t have crème fraîche on hand so I adapted the recipe to use yogurt instead and added vanilla. Panna cotta is simply sweetened whipping cream set with gelatin so this was also easy to put together.

For the top layer, well, remember when mom would open a can of fruit cocktail and make Jello with it? I wanted to play off this idea with a clear jelly and strawberry pieces. I liked the elderflower and strawberry pairing so I made a simple jelly with water, sugar, gelatin and flavoured with St Germain; the liqueur also makes this dessert a little more grown-up. In the fruit cocktail Jello of my youth, the fruit would float to the top of the Jello and start to dry out after a few days.

The floating fruit problem was solved by placing a single layer of strawberry pieces and then pouring in just enough jelly liquid to come partly up the sides of the strawberries but not so much that they floated. Once the strawberry pieces were set in their partially-submerged state, the rest of the elderflower liquid was poured on top and set the rest of the way. This kept the fruit fully covered by jelly and also made for a cleaner presentation.

I had leftover rhubarb pulp from making the rhubarb & ginger layer and wanted to see if I could make a garnish from it. The Last Course’s rhubarb crisp recipe was essentially rhubarb cooked with sugar and dried in the oven so I figured the technique would probably work for the pulp. I smeared the leftover pulp in a thin layer onto a silicone baking mat and left it to dry in a low temperature oven overnight. This worked like a charm; the pulp had completely dried into a giant crisp by morning. All that was left to do was garnish the parfaits with a little whipped cream, stemmed strawberries, and cut rhubarb crisps.

I’m thrilled with how well this recipe worked out, especially the presentation. The instructions below seem detailed but all of the components are easy to make and the most time consuming part is waiting for things to cool and set. Remember, this is a fancier jello so have fun with experimenting! Rhubarb and strawberries are in season until late June and early July so it would be a great dessert to serve for Canada Day. This recipe can also be easily adapted to use different fruits and any brightly coloured juice can be substituted for the rhubarb liquid. The top layer would look beautiful with whole blueberries or fresh currants.

parfait glassesStrawberry, Rhubarb & Vanilla Yoghurt Parfait

Makes 6 x 250mL servings


Rhubarb & Ginger Jelly

  • 150g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
  • 175g (¾ cup) water
  • 20g (3 Tbsp) peeled & sliced ginger
  • 350 g (3 ½ cups) sliced rhubarb
  • 2 gelatin sheets
  • lemon juice to taste (optional)

Vanilla Yogurt Panna Cotta

  • 250g (1 cup) Greek yogurt or full fat yogurt
  • 250g (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 60g (⅓ cup) sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 gelatin sheets

Strawberry & Elderflower Jelly

  • 250g (1 ¾ cups) strawberries
  • 125g (½ cups) St Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 250g (1 cup) water
  • 60g (⅓ cup) sugar
  • 4 gelatin sheets

Rhubarb Crisps

  • Leftover rhubarb pulp from Rhubarb Jelly


  • 6 pieces of Rhubarb Crisps
  • 6 small whole strawberries with stems attached
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Notes for success

  • The parfaits can be made up to several days before serving. It can also be started the morning of serving and made in stages throughout the day. Most of the time is spent waiting for the layers to cool and set before pouring on the next layer. The total setting time is approximately 6 hours. The Rhubarb Crisps will need at least 6-8 hours to dehydrate in the oven; this component can be started immediately after the rhubarb pulp has been strained from the Rhubarb & Ginger Jelly step.
  • The parfaits can be garnished with the whipped cream and stemmed strawberries in advance but the Rhubarb Crisp should only go on just before serving. (They will soften and start to dissolve from the liquid in the whipped cream if placed on too early.)
  • The Rhubarb Crisps will stay crispy for a day or so if stored in an airtight container. If they start to soften, they can be re-crisped in the oven at 250F for 1 hour.
  • The easiest way to make the tilted rhubarb layer is in a refrigerator with wire racks; this allows the glasses can be held securely in place by leaning against the refrigerator walls. Alternatively, a wire cooling rack can be used or a tall narrow rectangular plastic container. You only want the glasses to be tilted at shallow angle, 20 degrees or so. Test out the stability by arranging a glass and pouring 45mL of water into it to see if the glass is stable enough to stay in place on its own.
  • Have the glasses arranged in the refrigerator when pouring each liquid layer in. This omits the need to carry the glass from the kitchen counter to the refrigerator and minimizes sloshing of the liquids up the sides of the glass.
  • Excess rhubarb liquid is delicious in smoothies, lemonade, cocktails or with sparkling water.
  • Pour each liquid layer slowly into the glass so that the layers set into clean lines with no slosh marks.
  • Start making the next layer as soon as the previous layer has gone into the glasses. The mixtures need time to cool before being poured on the layer below so that the layers don’t melt into each other.
  • Fruit will naturally float in liquid. In order to get the strawberry pieces completely submerged in elderflower jelly, the jelly layer needs to be poured in two stages. The first pour will partially come up the sides of the strawberries; once set, the jelly will anchor the berry pieces in place. The second pour will cover the strawberries the rest of the way for a smooth jelly surface.
  • If elderflower liqueur is not available, then the liqueur and water can be replaced by an equal volume of white wine. Any aromatic dry or off-dry white wine would work well, i.e. Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, or Semillon.
  • Some of the leftover pulp from the rhubarb jelly layer is used to make the Rhubarb Crisps. The pulp is essentially rhubarb jam and any remaining leftovers are delicious with yogurt & granola, vanilla ice cream or a coffee cake.
  • This dessert can easily be scaled up or down to make smaller or more portions. To get an idea of how the layers will look in your own glasses, use water in a test glass to get an estimate of how much liquid will be needed. If you are making a tilted rhubarb layer and unsure of the proportions, err on the side of less rhubarb jelly and more vanilla yoghurt panna cotta so that the rhubarb layer is completely covered by the yoghurt layer.
  • The photographed parfaits were made in Champagne coupe classes, each holding 250mL of liquid. (Spiegelau brand, Vino Grande line.)


Rhubarb & Ginger Jelly

  1. Arrange six Champagne coupe or serving glasses on a roomy shelf in the refrigerator. Each glass should hold at least 250mL in volume. There should be enough space above the glasses so that you can comfortably pour the liquid layers in. For a tilted rhubarb layer, arrange the glasses so that they are tilted at a shallow angle but stable enough to stay in place.

rhubarb jelly mise 1Rhubarb & Ginger Jelly mise en place

  1. Combine the sugar, water and ginger slices in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the rhubarb pieces and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to break down the rhubarb.
  2. Meanwhile, place the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of cold water to soften.
  3. Remove the ginger slices from the rhubarb mixture and discard the ginger. Strain the rhubarb mixture through a sieve into a liquid measuring cup and allow the liquid to drip through. (Pushing on the solids will make for a cloudier liquid.) There should be around 250-275mL of rhubarb liquid. (If there is more than 275mL of rhubarb liquid, set aside the excess for another use. If there is less than 250mL, add additional water to make up the necessary volume.) Taste the rhubarb liquid for acidity; it should be sweet/tart. If it is too sweet, add ½ tsp of lemon juice and taste again for balance; add a little more if needed. Reserve the rhubarb pulp for the Rhubarb Crisps.

rhubarb jelly mise 2Softened gelatin & rhubarb liquid

  1. Remove the softened gelatin sheets from the water and squeeze out any excess. Add the gelatin sheets to the rhubarb liquid while it’s still warm.
  2. Slowly pour 40-45mL of rhubarb liquid into each glass, being careful not to slosh the liquid up the sides. The easiest way to do this is to measure out each 40-45mL portion into a small liquid measuring cup with a pouring spout.
  3. Allow the rhubarb layer to set for at least 2 hours or until firm.

Vanilla Yogurt Panna Cotta

  1. Measure out the yogurt and set aside to allow it to come up to room temperature.
  2. Place the vanilla bean on a small cutting board and use a thin sharp knife to cut it in half lengthwise. Run the back of the knife along the split pod to scrape out the vanilla seeds.

vanilla yoghurt panna cotta miseVanilla Yogurt Panna Cotta mise en place

  1. Combine the whipping cream, sugar, vanilla seeds, vanilla pod, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until it is barely simmering, stirring to dissolve the sugar and disperse the vanilla seeds. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the vanilla to infuse for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of cold water to soften.
  3. Remove the vanilla pods from the cream mixture. (The pods can be saved to flavour tea, hot chocolate or steamed milk.)
  4. Remove the softened gelatin sheets from the water and squeeze out any excess. Add the gelatin sheets to the cream mixture while it’s still warm.
  5. Allow the cream mixture to cool until it is room temperature or barely warm to the touch.
  6. Whisk in the yoghurt until it is evenly incorporated. The vanilla seeds should be evenly dispersed through the mixture. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Give the mixture a quick stir before pouring it on top of the rhubarb layer; the vanilla seeds should be suspended evenly throughout the liquid.
  7. If the glasses were tilted in the refrigerator, rearrange them so that they are sitting level. Pour 80mL (⅓ cup) of the cooled yogurt mixture into each glass.
  8. Allow the yogurt layer to set for at least 2 hours or until firm.

Strawberry & Elderflower Jelly

  1. Remove the stems from the strawberries and finely dice them into ⅓” pieces. The pieces need to be small enough so that they do not stick above the edge of the glasses once they are placed on top of the yogurt layer.

strawberry jelly miseStrawberry & Elderflower Jelly mise en place

  1. Combine the elderflower liqueur, water, and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove the saucepan from the heat to allow the mixture to begin cooling.
  2. Meanwhile, place the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of cold water to soften.
  3. Remove the glasses from the refrigerator and arrange the strawberry pieces in a single layer in each glass. Try to minimize moving the pieces as much as possible so that the vanilla yoghurt layer remains undisturbed.
  4. When the elderflower liquid has cooled to room temperature, pour a thin layer of it (2-3mm) into each glass so that the strawberry pieces are only partly covered but not enough so that they float. Move the glasses back to the refrigerator for 45 minutes – 1 hour to allow the elderflower jelly to set and hold the strawberry pieces in place.
  5. Once the elderflower jelly has set, evenly divide the remainder of the elderflower liquid into the glasses. The strawberry pieces should just be fully covered by the liquid. Allow the strawberry layer to set for at least 2 hours or until firm.

Rhubarb Crisps

  1. Heat the oven to 200F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a silicone non-stick baking mat. Place 2 Tbsp of rhubarb pulp onto the baking mat. Use a small offset spatula to spread the mixture into a very thin and even layer (1/16” or less). Spread the mixture into a 8” x 10” rectangle, adding additional pulp if needed. Remove any large lumps if they cannot be broken up by the spatula.
  3. Bake at 200F for 6-8 hours or overnight. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely. The rhubarb should have completely dried out and dehydrated into a firm sheet.
  4. Remove the baking mat with the entire rhubarb crisp still attached. Flip the baking mat upside down onto a large cutting board. Gently peel the baking mat away from the rhubarb crisp by gently holding down the crisp with one hand while slowly peeling the baking mat away with the other hand. Keep moving your hand along the crisp so that it does not break away from the mat.

 cutting rhubarb crispsSlicing the Rhubarb Crisps

  1. Once the baking mat has been completely removed, flip the crisp back over so that the presentation side is up. Use a long sharp knife to cut the crisps into rectangles that are approximately 1 ½” x 3” in size, then cut each rectangle diagonally in half.

To Finish & Serve

  1. Whip the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla together to soft peaks.
  2. Place a small scoop of whipped cream on top of each glass.
  3. Garnish each glass with a small strawberry and a piece of Rhubarb Crisp. Serve immediately after garnishing.

single parfait



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