A Sweet Spring Breeze: Strawberry Semifreddo

May 16th, 2007

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The last few times I’ve posted about ice cream, I always get a few e-mails from people bemoaning the fact that they don’t have an ice cream maker and therefore can’t try making the recipe. In the interest of providing equal access to sweet, frozen, creamy treats to all regardless of whether you’ve got one of these little babies, I decided to try making that magical dessert known as semifreddo.

Semifreddo means "half cold" in Italian, and like its name this creation seems to straddle various dessert categorizations, defying easy definition. It typically means a semi-frozen dessert made by chilling a light custard in the freezer. To prevent the custard from freezing solid and to keep it edible, air is incorporated into the mixture, usually by folding in a meringue or some whipped cream. This gives the final result a fluffy, mousselike texture similar to ice cream without it needing to be churned in an ice cream maker.

True to its name, semifreddo is softer, less frozen than ice cream, and melts quickly in the mouth, leaving only the lightest and airiest of sensations; eating the semifreddo I made on a warm day was like catching the sweetest of snowflakes on my tongue – a little pleasant tickle of winter to chase away the heat.

There are several ways to make semifreddo: most involve making a classic crème anglaise of milk, eggs, and sugar or a sabayon (zabaglione if we’re staying Italian) of egg yolks and sugar, and combining that with a meringue or whipped cream. There are also versions using simply an Italian meringue enriched with whipped cream with no egg yolks at all. However, with all these various methods once you’ve made the mixture you’re practically there; all that’s left is to pour the mixture into your desired mold, leave in the freezer for a few hours, and then you’ve got some frosty, frothy bliss.

The semifreddo I made is taken from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking, and she makes hers with a crème anglaise, enriched with both a meringue and whipped cream, plus a bit of mascarpone cheese swirled in for richness. It’s a bit more complicated than most, but I found the result satisfying substantial to the taste and meltingly ephemeral in the mouth.

You can make semifreddo in any form you like – you can even freeze the entire batch in a large container and scoop it out to serve just like ice cream, but I found a trick that works well is to pour then into individual waxed paper cups. After the semifreddo has firmed up, you can simply peel off the paper and have some very cute little cups of cold ready to be eaten.

As we are getting some beautiful strawberries at market, and I am helpless before anything including them, making this sweetly pink semifreddo has been a marvelous way to embrace the ongoing flowering of spring – no ice cream maker required.

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Strawberry Semifreddo

adapted from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking

makes about 8 3-oz cups

1 pint strawberries

1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup (4 1/4 fl oz) milk

2 large egg yolks

1 3/4 oz sugar

pinch of salt

1 large egg white

pinch of cream of tartar

1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) sugar

1/4 cup mascarpone

1/2 cup (4 1/4 fl oz) heavy cream

Wash, hull, and slice the strawberries in half. Combine them in a large bowl with sugar and lemon juice and let sit for about 20 minutes.

Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside.

Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove.

While the milk is heating, whisk the eggs, sugar and salt together in a bowl.

When the milk is boiling, pour about half of it into the egg mixture while whisking vigorously.

Pour the tempered eggs back into the rest of the milk and place the saucepan back on the stove.

Heat the milk and egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent eggs from cooking, until the mixture reaches 170 degrees F. The mixture should thicken into the consistency of heavy cream, and if you draw your finger down the back of the spoon coated with the mixture, you should leave a clear trail.

Remove the saucepan from heat. Stir in the strawberries and mix with the spoon to combine.

Pour the mixture into the bowl which contained the strawberries and place into a ice bath (made by filling a larger bowl with ice cubes). Let the mixture cool to about 40 degrees F.

While the strawberry mixture is chilling, whip the egg white in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until frothy.

Add a pinch of cream of tartar and continue whipping until medium peaks form.

Scrape the whipped white into a bowl and set aside.

Place the mascarpone and heavy cream into the mixer bowl and whip with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form.

When the strawberry mixture is cool, fold in the whipped egg white very gently with a rubber spatula.

When the egg white is almost incorporated, add the whipped cream and mascarpone and gently fold to combine. Be as gentle as possible to avoid deflating the mixture and losing air.

Pour the mixture into a large container or molds of your choosing, cover, and place in the freezer for about 4 hours or until firm.

The semifreddo will keep covered in the freezer for about 2 weeks.

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27 Comments so far ↓

  • rachel #1

    Yum! I’ve been wanting to make a semifreddo for some time now. Your’s looks great.

  • Lynn #2

    huh, a waxed paper cup, who would’ve thought! that’s such a nifty little tip. thanks, Anita!

  • kate #3

    hey Anita…did i ever tell u i don’t have an ice cream maker..haha..well ..now i guess i don’t have an excuse…have to try these lovely semifreddo’s.I must admit I’ve never tried making them at home.But with your lovely description i don’t see why i shouldn’t now!BTW i love that plate!

  • Kat #4

    I don’t have a machine, so maybe this version will be easier for me to make. Although, I am trying to convince my husband that we NEED an ice cream maker :)

  • cheryl #5

    First of all that is the cutest plate I have ever seen.

    I have an ice cream maker, but I will still try this. It looks so light and creamy. The perfect strawberry color.

  • Patricia Scarpin #6

    Anita, I’m always in awe with your photos – the semifreddos look so lovely!

  • Mo #7

    Looks amazing!

  • Lisa #8

    And this is why you now have my undying love.. *happy sigh*

    xoxo

  • ryan #9

    i love this recipe, and semifreddo is my newest bff, i cant wait to try it this weekend…and thanks for all the technical information, im like a sponge and i love it!

  • eraine #10

    Gorgious, I love it. Mascarpone + Heavy Cream??

  • Helen #11

    A lot of us seem to be on an ice cream/ semifredo/parfait kicks. I am always amazed out the marvelous recipes ailing from different countries like semifredos or parfaits that let te fruit or flavor take center stage. What I am trying to say is that my banana parfait wants to marry your strawberry semifredo and have plenty of gelato babies!

  • Jerry #12

    See what happens when you can’t sleep and explore your favorite food blogs, you find a new one, which adds to your long list already. So I’m intrigued by the recipe, because I mainly make baked desserts. I’ve never done creme brulee, semifreddo, ice cream, pudding, etc. But while studying the photos, I see your cute little plate and I have to ask, where did you get it?!

  • Kelly-Jane #13

    Aren’t they so pretty and cute? Mmm!

  • Dilip #14

    wow…semifreddos look so lovely…thanks for sharing

  • leonine19 #15

    yummy ! it’s so beautiful!

  • valentina #16

    I have seen so many semifreddo recipes and I always fell in love with them. However I have never tried making one. I love the way you explain it. It makes it possible.; o )

  • ^cherie #17

    Lovely semifreddo!!

    Sorry but how many gram is 1 pint of strawberry?

    Thanks!

  • Anali #18

    I had never heard of semifreddo before. Yours looks lovely and I love the confetti plate!

  • Anita #19

    Rachel,
    Thanks! I hope you get to try making some soon!

    Lynn,
    My pastry teacher taught me that trick – it works really well!

    Kate,
    Thanks! It’s nice to know you don’t need an ice cream maker to make something frozen and yummy!

    Kat,
    I hope this doesn’t prevent you from getting that ice cream maker:) I think it’s still a very important tool in the kitchen:)

    Cheryl,
    thank you! I picked the plate up at a dishware store in our Japantown – they always have the most amazing dishes!

    Patricia,
    Thank you! This was a fun recipe to do!

    Mo,
    Thank you!

    Lisa,
    I’m flattered! Your blog inspires similar swooning from me:)

    Ryan,
    Thanks! I’m glad you like the background info, I love learing that stuff myself!

    Eraine,
    I’ve never seen that combination in a semifreddo recipe before, but Sherry Yard knows what she’s doing – it was tasty!

    Helen,
    My strawberry semifreddo would definitely love to pair up with your banana parfait – love all the fruity desserts popping up!

    Jerry,
    Thank you for visiting! I’m flattered. The plate I got from a Japanese pottery/ceramics store (I live in the San Francisco Bay Area). If you have a Japantown around where you live, you may find something similar – I always find amazing dishes in those stores!

    Kelly-Jane,
    Thank you! I thought it was a tasty little recipe!

    Leonine,
    Thank you! I’m glad it turned out so well!

    Dilip,
    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed reading about it!

    Valentina,
    It is surprisingly simple and I think the result is so lovely!

    Cherie,
    Thanks! 1 pint of whole strawberries is about 360 grams. Hope that helps!

    Anali,
    Thank you! I am glad I found that plate – I like it too!

  • veron #20

    The first time I had a semifredo was at the Zuni Cafe where they had a creme fraiche one paired with their apple tart. It was heavenly. I can’t wait to try a strawberry one specially since they are in season now.

  • Gel #21

    How Yumm!!! The presentation is absolutely delightful!!

  • peabody #22

    Semifredo kicks butt. I think it is so under rated in the frozen dessert world.

  • Freya #23

    I love semi-freddo much better than normal ice cream – strawberries and mascarpone – could this be any better?

  • monica #24

    so beautiful! very interesting her recipe is both meringue and whipped cream…i bet it was very light, yet sturdy, and of course yummy!

  • Ivonne #25

    Oh my goodness, Anita! They’re just so sweet. I can’t wait for strawberry season in Ontario and excellent point about semifreddo being an option for those who don’t have ice cream makers!

  • Daniel Chow #26

    made this last evening and just had them this morning. just as described. so delightful.

    (my freezer was a bit too cold so i had to let it thaw for about 10 or 15 minutes.)

  • Anita #27

    Veron,
    The Zuni Cafe semifreddo sounds fabulous, I’ll have to check it out!

    Gel,
    Thank you! I liked how the cups worked so well as molds!

    Peabody,
    Awesome to find another semifreddo supporter!

    Freya,
    So great to find other lovers of semifreddo! I liked how the mascarpone worked in this recipe!

    Monica,
    Thanks! It looked like a more involved recipe than most, but I think it’s worth the effort!

    Ivonne,
    I am so happy when strawberries are in season! With semifreddo, no excuse not to have frozen treats!

    Daniel,
    I’m so glad you liked them! I should have noted that it is a good idea to let the semifreddos thaw for a few minutes to soften them up – good you figured that out!

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