Semifreddo is one of the sweets that means a lot to us, since it is the sweet for which we wrote our first article! Since then, time has passed, with sweet articles and much more… We remembered it and made it for Valentine’s Day on February 14 and we decided to dedicate a new article to it, as it deserves!
In our new article we learn about semifreddo and its history is, but also about spumone, another Italian iced dessert, we see various ideas for delicious semifreddo combinations and we make our own semifreddo with vanilla and fresh strawberries.
What is semifreddo? It is a semi-frozen dessert, as its name implies, made with eggs, sugar and sour cream. It is an easy dessert, but we do not need an ice cream machine to make it, we can make it all in our kitchen. It may look like ice cream as it enters the freezer, but its texture remains creamy and soft, like an iced mousse. Another difference with ice cream is that the semifreddo is usually made in a mould and served sliced. In order for it to be easily unmolded from the mold, we put a clingfilm around it and so the result is that the semifreddo has an outer surface with “wrinkles”; if we do not like it, it can be flattened if we pass it with a hot metal spatula.
As we have read, semifreddo recipes first appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and were clearly a variation on the classic French parfait which means perfect. But according to Italian chef, journalist and historian Marino Marini, semifreddo is more perfect than French parfait!
Semifreddo is the evolution of gelato.Marino Marini
A 1987 New York Times article describes how a dessert called semifreddo has started appearing in some of New York’s Italian restaurants. This dessert is often made with a base of meringue or zabaglione, with liqueur or pieces of cake. In fact, chef Andrea de Merano chose a semifreddo with amaretto for the 13th G7 summit in Venice in June 1987.
Semifreddo is, as we conclude, a dessert originating from Italy. Another iced dessert, spumone, comes from Italy too. As we have learned, spumone means foamy in Italian and its name refers to its airy texture. It is also, like semifreddo, a dessert that was made recently, in the 19th century. It is usually made in hemispherical moulds and contains two or three layers, such as nuts, chocolate and sponge cake soaked in liqueur.
Elsewhere we read that today the term spumone -spumoni in plural- refers to any dessert consisting of layers of ice cream. It was traditionally made with ice cream with nuts or fruit surrounding a sponge cake kernel with liqueur. The most common spumone today consists of a combination of cherry, peanut and chocolate or vanilla ice cream. The ice creams are chosen, as the columnist claims, because they refer to the original recipe and because the colors are reminiscent of the Italian flag. Spumoni also have their world day, on the 21st of August!
Back to our semifreddo now… The history of semifreddo may be relatively recent, but we find it today in infinite flavor variations. We have selected some of our favorites!
Semifreddo with amaretti cookies
Semifreddo with limoncello and raspberries
Chocolate semifreddo with figs and hazelnuts
Semifreddo with chocolate and forest fruit jam
Semifreddo with honey, cherries and nuts
Semifreddo with apricots and thyme
Semifreddo with raspberries and balsamic vinegar
Semifreddo with avocado, strawberries and basil
How many wonderful flavors and how many more there are! We also made a variation with vanilla and fresh strawberries, which have started to appear this season and we really like them…
Semifreddo with vanilla and fresh strawberries
120 gr sugar
200 ml sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
250 gr fresh strawberries
The first step you have to do is to separate the yolks from the whites carefully. With the yolks we will make a pâte à bombe, something similar to the meringue, but with yolks that are cooked together with sugar in a bain marie.
First prepare the bain marie. Fill a pot with one centimeter of water and bring to a boil. Next, lower the heat so that the steam comes out but does not boil – this is so that the yolks do not reach a very high temperature suddenly and are cooked.
Put the yolks together with 80 gr sugar in a metal bowl (not plastic because it will fit on the pot) and place it on top of the steaming pot. Beat the yolks constantly with a hand whisk; it is very important not to stop so that they do not cook. In order for the eggs to be pasteurized, they must reach 60°C. It is good to have a simple kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature. If you do not have one, you will wait until the mixture has whitened and doubled in volume, about 4 minutes.
Next, follow the same procedure for the egg whites. Put the egg whites with the rest of the sugar in a metal bowl and beat them over the bain marie until they reach 60°C. The process took us about 3 minutes and the goal was to make the egg whites a white foam.
Now we want to beat our egg whites into a glossy, white meringue. Remove the bowl from the bain marie and beat the egg whites with the mixer; it can be done by hand but it will take patience and strength!
The third ingredient that you will add to your mixture is whipped cream in a texture that looks like thick yogurt. To beat well, the cream must be well frozen in the refrigerator and the utensils must be cold – you can place them in the refrigerator for a while.
It’s time to combine your ingredients: mix the meringue with the beaten yolks and then add the whipped cream and mix lightly, folding with a spatula, so that the mixture does not lose its volume. Finally, add the vanilla extract and mix gently.
Your mixture, if frozen as it is, will be a vanilla semifreddo. But we want to add a fruity dimension to it, so we will add fresh strawberries. Beat the strawberries in the blender until they become a pulp. Add this pulp to the semifreddo mixture and mix gently, folding with the spatula.
As we mentioned at the beginning of our article, the semifreddo freezes in a mold, which must be covered with a clingfilm, so that it can be easily unmolded. Our mold was heart-shaped, since it was Valentine’s Day, but usually the semifreddo is made in an elongated cake mold.
Ready for the freezer! The mixture should be refrigerated for at least 6 hours or better yet overnight. This makes semifreddo a dessert that can be prepared in advance for a celebration!
To enjoy the semifreddo in its proper texture, it is recommended to leave it at room temperature for 10 minutes. If you do not have the patience, of course, you can devour it immediately! Enjoy our dear friends! ❤️
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