The peach melba (sans parfait) is an Escoffier original. In the early 1890s, Escoffier topped vanilla ice cream with peaches for Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer. Supposedly, she loved ice cream but believed eating cold things could harm her vocal chords, so he made a dessert that wasn’t quite as cold. Later, when making the dessert for the Carlton hotel, he topped the peaches with raspberry puree.
Gelatin was not on the menu. Actually, globally speaking, fruit-flavored gelatin is considered something of an abomination. Given that it’s an animal-derived product, most places haven’t rushed to make it berry flavored.
A family recipe provided by Jennifer Kiel of Washington, DC, from her mother-in-law’s collection, started in Kent, Ohio.
Peach Melba Parfait
1 (3 oz.) package raspberry flavor gelatin
2 cups hot water
1 (10 oz.) package frozen raspberries (1 1/4 cup)
1 (3 oz.) package peach flavor gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 pt. vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 cups diced fresh peaches
Dissolve the raspberry gelatin in 1 cup hot water in bowl. Add unthawed raspberries. Stir occasionally to separate berries. Let thaw. It will begin to set.
Pour 1 cup hot water over peach gelatin in another bowl; stir to dissolve. Add 1/2 cup cold water. Add ice cream in 8 chunks; stir to melt. Refrigerate until thick enough to mound up.
Spoon slightly thickened raspberry mixture into 8 dessert dishes.
When ice cream mixture has thickened, fold in peaches and spoon over raspberry mixture. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.
Variation: double recipe for ice cream mixture. Put half in the bottom of a 9″ square dish. Cover with raspberry mixture. Top with the rest of the ice cream mixture.