It's getting just warm enough outside to do some serious thinking about making ice cream. Or something as good as (or maybe better) than ice cream.
Even if you have an ice cream machine at home, you might want to whip up a batch of luscious semifreddo instead. A lot less equipment is required.
Semifreddo is a frozen dessert that means half-cold in Italian. Americans are more familiar with another icy Italian import, gelato, but semifreddo is easy to make at home. No ice cream machine, churning, or, in most cases, cooking, is required.
Food writer Joe Gray, of the Chicago Tribune, described semifreddo as having a texture that "is less dense than ice cream and feels lighter on the palate (but make no mistake, it can be as rich). Usually frozen into loaf pans, then sliced after unmolding, a semifreddo makes an elegant presentation that shows off layers and mix-ins."
The trick to making it lies in following simple directions. Recipes typically use egg yolks, egg whites and whipped cream. Each is whipped or beaten separately, then carefully folded together.
All the recipes here, save two, use raw eggs. Pasteurized eggs can be used instead if you are worried about any contamination.
And while loaf pans are the common mold for semifreddo, you can make it in any form you like. Freeze the entire batch in a large container and scoop it out to serve just like ice cream. For individual portions, put it in waxed paper cups. After the semifreddo has firmed up, you can simply peel off the paper and have some very cute little cups ready to be eaten.
4 eggs, separated
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
3/4 cup crushed amaretti cookies
1. Line two 8 1/2-by-4-inch loaf pans with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
2. Put the 8 egg yolks and the sugar in a bowl; whisk until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Put the 4 egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer; whisk on medium speed until firm peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Pour into the yolk mixture, but wait to fold it in.
4. Whip the cream and amaretti on medium-low until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Gently fold the whipped cream and egg white mixtures into the yolk mixture using a rubber spatula. Pour into loaf pans; level. Cover and freeze until firm, 6 hours or overnight.
5. Unmold on a serving dish; cut into 1-inch slices. Serve with chocolate sauce, more cookies or fresh berries.
Servings: 16, each with 179 calories, 14 grams fat, 134 mg cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 33 mg sodium.
CHOCOLATE AND AMARETTI SEMIFREDDO
This semifreddo has a chocolate layer on the bottom with an amaretti cookie layer on top. Essentially, it divides the original recipe's egg mixtures in half, flavoring one with melted chocolate, the other with the ground amaretti cookies.
Make the recipe as above, but with these variations:
Chocolate: Melt 3 ounces dark chocolate in a glass or metal bowl over very gently simmering water, stirring continuously. Allow to cool slightly, but not so much that it begins to harden again.
Yolks: Make the egg yolk and sugar mixture; divide between two mixing bowls. Gently fold a little of the melted chocolate into the yolk mixture in one of the bowls. Fold in more, in stages, until all is combined.
Whites: Whip the egg whites; divide between the two bowls, spooning gently on top of the egg yolk mixture, but don't combine yet.
Whipped cream: Whip the cream; spoon half into the bowl with the chocolate. Gently fold the whipped cream and egg whites into the yolk and chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. Gently stir the ground amaretti into the remaining whipped cream. Then gently fold that whipped cream into the second bowl with the egg whites and yolks.
Divide the amaretti mixture between two loaf pans, prepared as before, leveling with an offset spatula. Freeze until firm, 30-45 minutes. At the same time, refrigerate the chocolate mixture. When the first layer is set, gently spoon the chocolate mixture over it, smoothing the top. Freeze until set, 6 hours.
-- "Rustic Italian Food," by Marc Vetri, who serves the dessert with chocolate sauce and chopped almonds
MILK CHOCOLATE MALT SEMIFREDDO
10 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) malted milk balls
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup malted milk powder
5 large eggs
2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Line two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with plastic wrap, allowing for generous overhang on all sides. Pulse the malted milk balls in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Sprinkle the bottom of the loaf pans with one-quarter of the malted milk balls.
2. Whisk 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, the malted milk powder and the egg yolks in a large bowl until the mixture turns pale, 1-2 minutes.
3. Whisk or beat the whipping cream in a bowl, 1 minute; sprinkle remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and the vanilla over the cream. Beat until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with electric beaters), beat the egg whites with the salt just until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the yolk base. Add half the remaining egg whites; gently fold until almost incorporated. Fold in remaining whites.
5. Fill loaf pans halfway with the semifreddo mixture. Smooth the tops. Freeze, 10 minutes. Remove pans from freezer. Sprinkle first layer with remaining malted milk balls. Cover with remaining semifreddo. Smooth top. Cover the pans tightly with the plastic wrap overhang. Freeze until firm, about 6 hours.
6. To serve, invert each semifreddo onto a platter; remove plastic wrap. Drizzle with chocolate syrup. Cut into 1-inch slices.
Servings: 18, each with 236 calories, 15 grams fat, 91 mg cholesterol, 22 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 130 mg sodium, 1 gram fiber.
-- "Baked Elements," by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Chocolate-Coffee Semifreddo with Salted Caramel Sauce
For the Chocolate Semifreddo:
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons powder sugar
1 cup pistachios, chopped
1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1/2 tablespoon hot water
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Line a 9-by 4-1/2 loaf pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap, set aside.
Heat 1 cup of heavy cream in a sauce pan. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, cocoa powder, coffee and egg yolks. Slowly, pour the hot cream into the mixture whisking constantly until well combined. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and cook over low heat, stirring continuously until the mixture is thick (custard-like consistency) about 3 minutes. Be careful not to boil the mixture. Remove from the heat and cover (the surface) with plastic wrap. Let it cool for about 30 minutes. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a clean bowl, whip the remaining heavy cream until soft peaks form, add the powder sugar and whip until stiff and glossy. Gently, fold in the whipped cream into the chocolate custard, then fold in the egg whites. Carefully, fold in the chopped pistachio. Transfer the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 24 hours.
For the sauce: Mix the water and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves then Increase the heat and boil until the sugar turns a golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the butter. Once the butter is melted, carefully pour in the cream and milk (it will bubble up) and continue to cook for another minute or two. Add the salt and mix well.
Note: The caramel will be a little on the runny side, so add milk if needed. When the caramel cools down, it will thicken more.
Honey Yogurt Semifreddo
14 ounces plain Greek yogurt (2 percent)
1/2 cup honey, plus additional for serving
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup crushed pistachios
Whisk together the yogurt and honey until blended and smooth.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the wire whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and sugar until you have whipped cream with stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the honey yogurt with a spatula. Divide the mixture into 6 ramekins, smooth the tops, and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for at least 4 hours, or until the semifreddo is firm. This may be done one or two days in advance.
When ready to serve, dip each ramekin into a bowl of hot water. Slide a thin knife or spatula along the edges and invert over a serving dish. Smooth the semifreddo if necessary. Serve with a drizzle of honey and pistachios. Serves 6.
Most semifreddo recipes call for heavy whipping cream as the base. In this case, evaporated milk is used and saved 31 calories and 3.5 grams fat per tablespoon. That's a savings of 744 calories and 84 grams of fat in this dessert.
The one down-side of the substitution is that you need to work quickly and make sure that your ingredients and equipment are thoroughly chilled because evaporated milk does not whip up as stiff and will not hold its form for as long as heavy cream. Aside from that, it still yields a rich, creamy goodness.
Ginger Peach Semifreddo
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk, chilled
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 large peach, peeled and cut into small pieces
1. Place whisk attachment of mixer and bowl in freezer for 30 minutes to chill. Spray a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a food processor, pulse gingersnaps until they become fine crumbs. Pour and gently press half of the crumbs into bottom of baking pan.
3. Pour evaporated milk into bowl and whisk for 1 minute or until frothy. Add confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract, ginger, and nutmeg. Beat about two minutes or until mixture becomes stiff.
4. Gently fold in yogurt and peaches until combined. Pour half of the mixture on top of gingersnap crumbs. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top. Top with remaining whipped mixture. Smooth top. Freeze for 4 to 6 hours or until set.
5. Invert semifreddo onto plate. Slice and serve. Store leftovers in freezer.
-- kitchenaddiction.com, loosely adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network