Consider a semi freddo to be ice cream without the tediousness of the three Cs to contemplate – Custard, Chilling and Churning. At this time of year, baking verges on madness. With heat hitting 45 deg c at 8 am, I wanted something cold, soft and smooth, that could be constructed fairly quickly without too much waiting around. Ice cream needs more management – of my time and my dental sensitivity. Lobbing a frozen nugget of cold custard from cheek to cheek in a futile attempt to thwart the throbbing of dental nerves makes me feel as stupid as I probably look. I am not always a fan, except when it’s a good coconut one, or chocolate, oooh or coffee with hot fudge sauce and toasted almonds. They don’t count.
Semi freddo is a more compassionate, delectable, ease-loving route. It’s all about texture, it’s seductive. Velvety, smooth, instantly melting on contact with your mouth, without painful teeth or brain freeze. Pleasure is instant.
It doesn’t require anything more than a bit of arm muscle. You make, effectively, a sabayon/zabaglione, without the traditional alcohol content. If you are smart, you’ll use an electric mixer. Having streaks of masochism in my character, I take the old fashioned, balloon whisk route. Reckon around 15 minutes of continuous, but not stressful, whisking of egg yolks with sugar, until, as Nigella puts it, the sabayon is ‘voluptuously swelling’. Heady stuff. Fold the cooked eggs into some whipped cream, flavour as you please and freeze.
Nigella’s Honey Semifreddo is beyond excellent, if you are a honey lover. I used her base recipe for this dessert, divided the sabayon into three, flavoured with pistachio, strawberry and vanilla. In a loaf tin, I layered the pistachio first (which becomes the top layer when inverted), froze it for 15 minutes, then did the same with the other two, finishing with the vanilla last. I love this combination of flavours, it reminds me of Indian Kulfis. Pistachio calls the Middle East to mind and strawberries are the fruit of British summers. The two are brought together harmoniously with vanilla. The mouthfeel is dense yet light, the flavours fruity and fragrant and the feeling is brightly summery.
My kids and The Scotsman polished off the loaf tin. The kids went a bit batty seeing the tri coloured stripes which of course, made mum look very clever. Semi freddos fashioned in a shaped tin also bolster credentials enormously when placed in front of guests at the dinner table. Scoops of ice cream are always assumed to be shop bought, forcing subtle hints from the cook, arhem. A semi freddo however, always declares its origin. Yes, I know…I am a glutton for a foodie compliment! And by golly, a semi freddo deserves it.
Ps: The boy never raised his eyes to the camera!
Pistachio, Strawberry & Vanilla Semi Freddo
Note that frozen strawberries are a bit more problematic as they have an even higher water content and the result would be quite icy. Your call.
For the Sabayon (as per Nigella’s Honey Semi Freddo)
120 gm caster sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
300 ml double cream
For the flavours
150 gm hulled strawberries with 1/4 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 tsp strawberry syrup (optional)
50gm ground pistachios
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
First, get everything ready. Wash the strawberries and dry in a tea towel. Blitz in a food processor, pour into a fine sieve over a bowl to catch and discard the seeds. Mix the smooth puree with 1/4 tsp of vanilla. If you feel the berries are a little lacking in flavour as the ones here, add the strawberry syrup. Set aside along with the pistachios. Keep three medium bowls aside. Place ice cubes in water into a large bowl. Set aside. Line a 2 pound loaf tin or two 1 pound loaf tins with cling film, with a fair bit of overhang to aid decanting later. Whisk your double cream by hand, electric hand held mixer or with your food mixer. Whisk until the cream moves from soft peaks to slightly firm. Set aside.
Pour an inch worth of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Place the egg yolks, egg and sugar in a heat-proof bowl that will fit over the saucepan but not touch the simmering water. Begin whisking gently, to allow the sugar to dissolve. You will know it’s melted when the mixture becomes quite liquid. Begin whisking in earnest, but not maniacally, either by hand or with a hand held electric mixer. Continue to whisk until the liquid mix starts thickening, getting lighter in colour, and increases in volume. By hand this would take around 12-15 minutes and around 10 with an electric mixer. What you should have is a pale, ‘voluptuous’ mix that falls in ribbons from the whisk. Take the pan off the heat, and using oven gloves, remove the bowl (watch out for the steam) and place into the iced water. Mix every now and again gently, to aid cooling. You want this to be close to room temperature but not cold.
When the sabayon is cool enough, fold it into the cream in two stages. Once it’s a smooth, amalgamated mix, divide it into the three bowls. Adding strawberry to one (due to a higher liquid content, you will have more of this sabayon), pistachio to another and vanilla into the third. Fold each to mix. Pour the pistachio cream into the tin and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. If your room isn’t too hot, the other two bowls can remain on the counter, covered with clingfilm, otherwise place it into the fridge until needed. Once the 15 minutes are up, top the pistachio layer with an equal amount of strawberry semifreddo. There will be excess left over. Allow this layer to freeze for 20 minutes. After that, finish off with the vanilla layer, fold the overhanging cling film onto the surface of the semi freddo and freeze for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
To serve, hoike out the semi freddo using the excess cling film and invert onto a serving dish. Top with sliced strawberries and strew over jade green slivers of pistachio. Don’t hang about as semi freddos melt sooner than ice creams. Serve in thick slices.
This semi freddo will keep in the fridge for three days.
Printed from http://thepatternedplate.com/