Pie or parfait? These apple dessert jars give you the best of both

These scrumptious dessert cups are layered with apple pie flavours, writes Ellie Krieger

Friday 01 October 2021 12:00

When I am asked the would-you-rather question “cake or pie?” I am pie all the way, no hesitation. But as much as I love a freshly baked, double-crust apple pie, most days of the week I want a dessert that’s lighter, healthier and easier to make.

These dessert cups answer that call scrumptiously. They centre on the fresh apples that, to me, are one of the most exciting things about this season. Simmered in a frying pan with a touch of maple syrup, lemon juice and cinnamon, the fruit becomes tender, aromatic and pie filling-like, with a nuanced flavour that comes from using a variety of different apples, each with its own unique taste profile. I like to leave the apple peels on for their lovely colour, rustic texture and nutritional value, but you could certainly peel them if you prefer.

Once cooled, the cooked apples are layered in jars or glasses with digestive crumbs and my go-to creamy topping of vanilla-spiked, fresh whipped cream folded with Greek yoghurt. I developed the cream topping years ago as a way to accommodate a bigger dollop in a better-for-you way, but I’ve come to prefer it on most fruit desserts for its taste alone, as it adds a complementary, gentle tang. I also find it to be more stable than regular whipped cream, lasting several days in the refrigerator.

With digestive biscuit crumbs on the bottom of each parfait absorbing the lovely juices from the apples, and an extra crunchy sprinkle of them on top of the soft cream, this treat is a delightful way to cap off an autumn meal or savour as an afternoon pick-me-up. In fact, depending on my mood, I might even choose it when given the option “pie or parfait?”

Apple pie parfaits

Active time: 35 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

Serves: 4-5

These scrumptious dessert cups are layered with apple pie flavours, with apples simmered until tender and aromatic with maple syrup, cinnamon and a touch of lemon juice, then piled over digestive biscuit crumbs and topped with a lovely, gently tangy blend of vanilla-spiked whipped cream and Greek yoghurt. It’s a better-for-you treat that is a delightful way to cap off a fall or winter meal or to enjoy as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Storage notes: Leftover parfaits can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.


4 medium apples (700g total), such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or Grimes Golden apple, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Braeburn or a mix, unpeeled, cored and sliced into 0.5cm thick slices

60ml maple syrup

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch table or fine sea salt

43g digestive biscuits

60ml very cold heavy cream

2 tsp confectioners' sugar

¼ tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp plain Greek yoghurt (nonfat, low-fat or whole)


In a large, deep frying pan, combine the apple slices, maple syrup, water and lemon juice. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and salt, and set the skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples soften but still retain their shape, and most of the liquid has evaporated, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

While the apples are cooking, place the digestive biscuits into a ziptop bag and, using a rolling pin or mallet, crush them into a fine crumb. You should wind up with about ½ cup of crumbs.

In a large bowl, combine the cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and, using a hand mixer, whip until stiff peaks form. Using a flexible spatula, fold in the yoghurt until well combined.

Distribute the digestive biscuit crumbs on the bottom of 4 or 5 (240ml) jars or glasses, reserving 1 tablespoon of the crumbs for garnish. Add the apple mixture, then top each with a dollop of the whipped cream, finish with a sprinkle of the reserved digestive biscuit crumbs and serve.

Nutrition per serving (using whole fat Greek yoghurt), based on 5 | Calories: 211; total fat: 6g; saturated fat: 3g; cholesterol: 18mg; sodium: 128mg; carbohydrates: 38g; dietary fibre: 4g; sugar: 27g; protein: 2g.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian's or nutritionist's advice.

© The Washington Post

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