So you don’t have a fancy ice cream maker? Well neither do I, but you can still make the best frozen treat on the block. Let me introduce you to semifreddo, it sounds daunting but it’s not. In Italian, semifreddo literally means “half frozen”, which is probably the best way to describe it. It’s somewhere in between a frozen mousse and a frozen custard. Because it’s not made with the churning method of an ice cream machine, the consistency is slightly different, but I promise you will love it. You begin by making a sabayon (light, whipped custard – another thing that sounds hard to make but isn’t) fold that into whipped heavy cream, and then freeze. Simple, right?
3 egg yolks
4 oz (1/2 cup) honey or agave nectar
1 Tsp vanilla extract, or the seeds from ½ of a vanilla bean
2 cups heavy whipping cream
The first step is the sabayon. In a double boiler, (or a stainless bowl placed on top of a pot, which is what I use) whisk the egg yolks, honey and vanilla extract. Turn heat to medium high and start to whisking. Whisk until your arm feels like it’s going to fall off, and then keep whisking. If you don’t, the eggs will scramble. It might hurt now, but it will greatly improve your arm wrestling skills later.
What will happen is the mixture will turn from a dark egg yolk color to a pale yellow, thick sauce. It will increase in volume and density. This will take between 3 and 5 mins. Below is the picture of the before and after.
After you have completed the sabayon, set it aside to cool while you make the whipped cream. Cream is easiest to whip if its cold, really cold. So leave it in the fridge until you are ready to use it, and if you have a stand mixer or a metal bowl place it in the freezer beforehand. Pour two cups of heavy cream into the bowl and start mixing on low, build to a higher speed as it starts to thicken. The cream will eventually come to stiff peaks (which means when you pull out the whisking blade(s) the peaks of cream will stand straight up and not fall).
Next, check to be sure the sabayon is cool to the touch, and then give it one more good whisk to make sure none of the honey has separated. Fold the sabayon into the whipped cream, do this in at least 3 steps. The key is to keep in all of the air you just whipped in. The best tool for this is a spatula with a curve to it. Continually sweeping the sides of the bowl is the most effective way to fold it in without compromising the texture.
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving 3 inches hanging on each side. This should only take one piece of plastic wrap, you don’t need to worry about the short ends of the loaf pan. The point of this is to make the semifreddo easy to remove and serve. You could also put it in individual containers to freeze. I however, do not have the luxury of a large freezer. Pour the mixture into the lined loaf pan and cover with the flaps of plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
To serve, unfold the flaps of the plastic wrap and use these to lift the semifreddo out of the loaf pan. This is a dessert I serve at my restaurant, I simply slice it and topped it with a few amarena cherries and slivered almonds. If you haven’t tried amarena cherries, you should. They are an Italian cherry preserved in an amaretto flavored liquor, they have a meaty texture to them and they are absolutely divine. I like the almonds on top for a bit of texture.
Two notes on this:
1. You could top this with nuts before you freeze it, or you could even fold in chopped nuts, frozen fruit, or chocolate chips. Get creative!
2. I use this wonderful vanilla extract called vanilla crush extract from Sonoma Syrup company.
It has vanilla bean seeds in it, not only is it a wonderfully tasting extract but it gives those beautiful little specks of vanilla bean in your final product. Those little specks are what makes this white dessert stand out. So if you have it available, use either vanilla bean seeds, or vanilla crush extract.