Need an elegant way to cap off an evening? Enter semifreddo, a classic Italian dessert that I describe as a frozen mousse. (Though it’s fully frozen, its name roughly translates as “half-frozen.”) Instead of being churned in an ice cream maker, semifreddo is lightened with whipped cream and/or beaten egg whites. Then it’s frozen in a loaf pan until solid, unmolded, and cut into neat slices.
Although we had heard of a semifreddo, neither one of us had ever eaten, or made, one. But we liked the fact that, unlike ice cream, it can sit out of the freezer for an extended period of time without melting, which makes it ideal for serving to company—the perfect balance of decadent and refreshing. Rich and satiny. Elegant. Deeply chocolaty. Make-ahead (you can even slice off a portion and freeze the rest for later). No ice cream maker required. Oh, and low-carb. Need I say more?
The semifreddo needs to be frozen for at least 6 hours before serving. You definitely want to use a high-end dark chocolate such as Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Bar. And, make sure not to whip the heavy cream until the chocolate mixture has cooled.
If the semifreddo is difficult to release from the pan, run a thin offset spatula around the edges of the pan or carefully run the sides of the pan under hot water for 5 to 10 seconds. If frozen overnight, the semifreddo should be tempered before serving for the best texture. To temper, place slices on individual plates or a large tray, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
As a topper, try this simple, five-ingredient strawberry sauce which boasts a vivid color and a balanced combination of bright and sweet flavors. Time to plan another dinner party…
Add a sprig of chocolate mint for a pop of color.
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 3 large eggs
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
- ¼ cup water
- Lightly spray loaf pan with vegetable oil spray and line with plastic wrap, leaving 3-inch overhang on all sides. Place chocolate in large heatproof bowl; set fine-mesh strainer over bowl and set aside. Stir vanilla and espresso powder in small bowl until espresso powder is dissolved.
- Whisk eggs, sugar, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Heat ½ cup cream (keep remaining 1½ cups chilled) and water in medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Slowly whisk hot cream mixture into egg mixture until combined. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and scraping bottom of saucepan with rubber spatula, until mixture is very slightly thickened and registers 160 to 165 degrees, about 5 minutes. Do not let mixture simmer.
- Immediately pour mixture through strainer set over chocolate. Let mixture stand to melt chocolate, about 5 minutes. Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth, then whisk in vanilla-espresso mixture. Let chocolate mixture cool completely, about 15 minutes.
- Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 1½ cups cream on low speed until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat until whisk leaves trail, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until nearly doubled in volume and whipped cream forms soft peaks, 30 to 45 seconds longer.
- Whisk one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Using rubber spatula, gently fold remaining whipped cream into chocolate mixture until incorporated and no streaks of whipped cream remain. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread evenly with rubber spatula. Fold overhanging plastic over surface. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.
- When ready to serve, remove plastic from surface and invert pan onto serving plate. Remove plastic and smooth surface with spatula as necessary. Dip slicing knife in very hot water and wipe dry. Slice semifreddo 1 inch thick, transferring slices to individual plates and dipping and wiping knife after each slice. Serve immediately. (Semifreddo can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 weeks.)
Yields about 2 cups.
- 12 ounces frozen strawberries
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cognac
- 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Combine strawberries and sugar in bowl and microwave for 1½ minutes. Stir, then continue to microwave until sugar is mostly dissolved, about 1 minute longer. Combine cognac and cornstarch in small bowl.
- Drain strawberries in fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan. Return strawberries to bowl and set aside.
- Bring juice in saucepan to simmer over medium-high heat. Stir in cognac mixture and bring to boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened and appears syrupy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in strawberries and lemon juice. Let sauce cool completely before serving. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)
Adapted from recipes by Cook’s Illustrated