semifreddo al cioccolato, ciliegia, lampone e mandorla
dark chocolate, cherry, raspberry & almond semifreddo
I was once envious of those who celebrated a White Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere; open fires, mulled wines, rightfully eating copious amounts to kill two birds with one stone – in celebration & to keep warm! Now, however, I am grateful for our peppery seasonal Christmas, which offers swims, seafood & cold desserts! Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the pasta on our Christmas table! With an Italian heritage, Nonna’s (aka my mum’s) lasagna is a traditional feature every Christmas and perhaps our only link to an Italian Winter celebration! But back to cold desserts: our warmer climate allows for more options to keep us cool; Panna Cotta, Zuppa Inglese (Trifle), Bombe Alaska, Zuccotto, Cassata gelato, Tiramisu, and my favourite, Semifreddo!
Semifreddo literally translates to ‘semi-cold’ or ‘half-cold and got its name because of its unique texture. Even though it’s technically frozen, semifreddo stays soft and creamy. Unlike ice cream and gelato, semifreddo does not require any churning, and where ice cream is scooped, semifreddo is molded and sliced, usually from a metal loaf pan.
There are typically only a few ingredients needed to make semifreddo; egg yolks, egg whites, sugar, a liqueur, cream and your choice of flavours in the forms of fruit, nuts and chocolate! There are many recipes available highlighting a method that is very simple and quick. You many have seen or even made a semifreddo this way: whisk egg yolks with sugar (& a spirit or liqueur) until pale in colour and thick – this is called a zabaione. Then you fold through the flavours of your choice, such as nougat, chocolate, nuts, fruits, etc. Cream is whipped next (till almost stiff peaks) and folded into the zabaione mixture. Lastly, egg whites are whisked to form stiff peaks and then folded through the mixture. This is then poured into a prepared loaf tin, lined with baking paper or cling wrap, which is then placed in the freezer overnight or until firm (about 6 hours). This is how I made semifreddo working as a Pastry Chef at Cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh in Waterloo many moons ago. However, over time, with more research and experience, I have learnt to make a very lovely textured semifreddo! If you would like to make a true Italian Semifreddo, then an Italian Meringue is required in place of whisked egg whites.
A Italian Meringue is when a hot sugar syrup is drizzled into egg whites as they whip. The use of a sugar (candy) thermometer helps to secure the hot sugar syrup at the right temperature before adding it to the whipped egg whites. The benefits of the Italian Meringue include:
- you will have a more stable meringue;
- it’s also safe to eat without additional baking;
- provides a wonderful light creamy texture.
The flavours I have chosen here are my favourite at Christmas – dark chocolate, cherry, raspberry and roasted almond slivers. I recently shared this recipe for dessert at my cooking class ‘An Italian Christmas Lunch’. It was well received and there was much talk of it being replicated for their own Christmas day lunch; on a warm summers day!
2 egg yolks, free-range
20g or 4 tsp castor sugar
15g or 1 tbsp kirsch (or whatever you like)
3 egg whites or 100g (roughly), room temperature
140g castor sugar
90ml water, from tap
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped finely or into chunks
125g raspberries, fresh that you have frozen
200g cherries, (note use 2/3 cherries, pitted and cut into half. Rest for decorating)
80g roasted almond silevers, toasted
500ml pouring cream
- For the Italian Meringue:
- Pour the water into a very clean, grease-free saucepan (small to medium size) and slowly add the sugar while gently stirring, making sure all the grains of sugar get wet. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook to soft-ball stage (112-115°C on a sugar thermometer or alternatively, drop a small amount of sugar syrup into cold water and if it forms a ball that you can shape in your fingers, then it’s ready).
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites in an electric mixing bowl on high speed until they hold medium peaks. With the whisk still turning, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream. Continue to beat until the meringue is completely cool. Set aside.
- For the Zabaione:
- Sit a medium size bowl over a Bain Marie of simmering water and whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and rum until slightly thickened and pale in colour. Take off the Bain Marie and set aside.
- To assemble:
- Prepared mould/tin – use a 1.5 litre terrine mould or loaf tin and spray with canola or olive oil. Line with a sheet of baking paper, large enough to cover all tin and allow overhang on all sides. Set aside.
- Stir into the zabaione mixture, the chocolate, cherry pieces, raspberries and almond silvers. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the cream until almost stiff peaks. Gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
- Now fold in the Italian Meringue, in 2-3 batches.
- Pour into your prepared loaf tin and place in freezer overnight or at least 6 hours until firm.
- To serve, turn out onto a long platter and remove baking paper. Top with chocolate coated cherries, cherries and raspberries. Serve in slices with fresh raspberries and cherries