Cool and delectable, it's a make-ahead wonder.

By Victoria Spencer
July 07, 2020
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Whether you're looking for an elegant, unexpected dessert for a dinner party or want something cool and delicious to enjoy on summer weekends, the answer is semifreddo. You're likely sold just by the name—after all, anything Italian is alluring and this dessert is just as good as its name makes it sound. Semifreddo translates from Italian as "half-cold," and this classic marries the richness of ice cream with the ethereal texture of frozen mousse.

Another reason to love semifreddo? Deputy food editor Greg Lofts says it doesn't melt as quickly as ice cream and is easier to make. Plus, you don't need an ice cream maker or other special equipment, just a freezer, to create this frosty, fanciful treat. It's the ideal dessert for a small summer party as it needs to be made in advance; it's then sliced and plated at the table.

Semifreddo invariably contains whipped cream and eggs—sometimes just the beaten whites, sometimes a yolk-based custard, and sometimes both. Flavorings range from nuts, like the hazelnuts in this northern Italian-accented Torrone Semifreddo, to coffee, chocolate, liqueurs and fruit, like the Strawberry Pistachio Semifreddo shown above. It's made with purées of pistachios and strawberries, egg yolks, sugar, and heavy cream. Lemon-Raspberry Semifreddo is an easy take, made with fresh raspberries and store-bought lemon curd as a quick route to lemon flavor.

Making semifreddo at home requires a few pointers: First, be careful when beating the egg whites and whipped cream and in preparing the custard. For whipping egg whites, beaters and bowls should be clean and dry; you should also note that egg whites are easier to beat at room temperature, so you'll want to take them out of the refrigerator ahead of time. For whipping cream, both beaters and bowls should be chilled. Custards must be cooked precisely and removed from the heat once thickened but before the delicate egg yolks curdle from excessive cooking.

Fancy molds can be used for these desserts, so if you happen to have one in your collection, now is a great time to use it. And if you don't, there's no need to worry. Semifreddos are frequently frozen in plain metal loaf pans, and this makes for easy unmolding, garnishing, and slicing. A cool sauce such as chocolate, caramel, vanilla, or fruit can enhance a semifreddo, as can a garnish of fresh summer berries or other fruit. One final touch: Chill the plates to be used to serve a semifreddo, especially in hot weather.

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