‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ goes the old English proverb. Well, of course, I didn’t invent semifreddo but my venture into making one came because I still haven’t got round to buying a new ice-cream maker. I lent my old one to my daughter at Christmas when she wanted to make a clementine sorbet for the Christmas meal and then said I didn’t want it back. I’d been wanting for some time to buy a slightly bigger one so this seemed an excellent excuse to do so. It’s just I haven’t got round to the actual buying yet! With a family meal planned for today, a dessert made in advance seemed like a good plan.
I did a bit of research on semifreddo (I guess the Italian plural would be semifreddi) and there seemed to be a possible link to the Veneto, but I’m not certain of that. However, I did find some semifreddo recipes in the Veneto section of Claudia Roden’s The Food of Italy and pretty much followed her chocolate one.
One of the great things about semifreddos is that you can freeze them in a mould and then cut slices easily for serving. Semi is of course, half; freddo is Italian for cold – thus ‘half cold’, though actually meaning ‘half frozen’. The whipped cream and egg whites add to the lightness and stop the mixture setting into a hard, solid block. It doesn’t need churning like ice cream and so is very easy to make – and you don’t need an ice-cream maker!
I decided to freeze my semifreddo in a 2-litre loaf tin. I lined the tin with cling film so that the frozen dessert would come out of the tin easily. Once the tin was prepared, I started making the semifreddo. I melted 250g dark chocolate with 3 tablespoons milk in a bowl over boiling water.
When the chocolate has melted remove from the heat and add 6 egg yolks (keeping the whites for later), one at a time, beating each yolk in well.
Claudia Roden adds 4 tablespoons of cognac at this stage but I didn’t want my semifreddo to be that alcoholic. I added just one and, on the spur of the moment, decided to add an orange flavour note. I finely grated the zest of 1 tangerine into the chocolate and then squeezed in the juice. Chocolate and orange go together so well.
Next, whisk 300ml whipping cream till thickening then fold into the chocolate.
Now whisk the 6 egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the mixture.
Now pour into the prepared tin and put in the freezer.
I made the semifreddo a day ahead – but you could make it more in advance if you wanted to. That’s the great thing about frozen desserts: you can prepare them well ahead. Not long before I wanted to serve it, I made the raspberry coulis. I used a hand blender to purée 150g raspberries with a squeeze of lemon juice and a heaped teaspoon of icing sugar.
Then I sieved the mixture to get rid of the little pips and make a smooth coulis. I tasted it to check whether it needed more sugar and it did, so I added a little more.
When we sat down for our meal I got the semifreddo out of the freezer so it would soften a bit. When we were ready to eat it, I tipped it out onto a long wooden board – the only thing that I could immediately think of that would take the length of the dessert.
Then I cut slices and lay them on plates with a spoonful of the raspberry coulis. I dusted just a little icing sugar over the top and added a raspberry to make it look nice!
It was a great success. It tasted delicious; wonderfully chocolatey. It was smooth and lighter than ice cream. The smoothness was particularly good as just freezing a normal ice cream recipe, with no churning or stirring, leaves an icy effect that isn’t smooth. But I guess this is where all of the air of the whipped cream and whisked egg whites give a great effect. I’d still like to buy that new ice-cream maker but can see I could become quite addicted to making semifreddo. It was so easy but also so easily served to a few guests – easy slices and easily cut.