Semifreddo desserts are easy to make but look and taste like you took a class at Le Cordon Bleu! Semifreddo is an Italian word meaning “half cold” or “half frozen.” It refers to a class of frozen desserts that are similar to ice cream, but made with heavy cream instead of churning air into the mixture while it freezes. Semifreddos are very similar to mousses and are often served in the form of ice cream cakes or tarts.
There are many different recipes for semifreddo, that use different bases to mix with the cream. In Italy, semifreddo is commonly made with gelato. Cooked custards and custard-based sauces are another common choice to mix with the cream. One of the biggest benefits of making semifreddo is that you don’t need an ice cream maker or other specialty equipment to make it. Many semifreddo recipes involve no cooking at all. The most difficult part of making semifreddo is waiting for it to freeze, which typically takes from several hours to overnight in your freezer.
Semifreddos are a great base for just about any flavor or combination of flavors. Once you learn the basics of the recipe, you can customize your semifreddo with your favorite blends of fruits, chocolate, coffee, spices and more! Best of all, the texture and flavors are delicious. For semifreddos with a crust, use a springform pan so it’s easier to remove and present. But you could just as easily form the crust in the bottom of a loaf pan and mold your semifreddo on top of that. Using individual ramekins works well, too.
Raspberry & Chocolate Semifreddo
- 1 (9 ounce) box chocolate wafer cookies
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 5 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, unsweetened raspberries (if using frozen berries, thaw before use)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Break cookies into pieces and place in a food processor; process to finely ground crumbs. Combine crumbs with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the butter. Press crumb mixture evenly over bottom and halfway up sides of a 9 inch round and 3 inch deep springform pan. Bake 10 minutes or until crust is set; cool on wire rack 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in large bowl of electric mixer, using the whip attachment, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cream; beat at medium speed until soft peaks form; transfer to another bowl and chill.
In clean bowl of electric mixer, combine egg whites and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl); whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 130 degrees F. Place bowl on the stand mixer; using the whip attachment, beat on high-speed until meringue forms and mixture is room temperature, 3 to 4 minutes.
Place raspberries and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor. Process until pureed. Place mixture in a strainer placed over a large bowl. Press firmly on the raspberry mixture to extract all the juice. Discard seeds. Gently stir in half the meringue. Gently stir in half of the whipped cream mixture. Repeat stirring in remaining meringue and whipped cream until well combined.
Pour mixture over cooled crust, smoothing top. Cover tightly with foil. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.
To serve, run a thin spatula between semifreddo and edge of rim to loosen. Remove rim from spring-form pan. Cut semifreddo into wedges; serve immediately. If there is any remaining semifreddo, reattach the rim of the springform pan, cover and return to the freezer for up to 1 week.
Pistachio, Strawberry and Vanilla Semifreddo
- 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
- 4 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus 1/2 cup
- 1 cup whole milk, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
- 1 cup fresh strawberries (about 4 ounces), hulled, halved
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups chilled heavy(whipping) cream
Line a metal loaf pan (approximately 9x5x3″) with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang on all sides.
Grind pistachios and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer pistachio mixture to a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; strain, discarding solids. Stir in almond extract; set pistachio mixture aside.
Place remaining 1/2 cup milk in a separate small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over another medium bowl; strain, discarding solids, and chill vanilla mixture.
Purée strawberries and 2 Tbsp. sugar in a food processor until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over another medium bowl; strain, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Stir in vanilla extract and set strawberry mixture aside.
Whisk eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Beat egg mixture at high-speed until it triples in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170°, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water and continue beating until thick and cool, about 3 minutes. Add one-third of egg mixture to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend.
Beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add one-third of cream to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend. Cover vanilla and strawberry mixtures separately; chill. Pour pistachio mixture into pan; smooth top. Cover; freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over pistachio layer; smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently fold vanilla mixture to blend; pour over and smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Fold plastic wrap over; seal tightly and keep frozen.
Uncover semifreddo. Using plastic wrap as an aid, lift from mold. Invert onto a chilled platter; peel off plastic. Slice crosswise.
Triple Layer Berry Semifreddo
- 1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1⁄3 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1⁄2 cups halved and hulled fresh strawberries (6 ounces)
- 1 1⁄2 cups fresh blueberries (6 ounces)
Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch metal loaf pan lightly with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap extending generously over edges of pan.
In large bowl of electric mixer, using the whip attachment, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cream; beat at medium speed until soft peaks form, scraping down bowl once. Transfer to another bowl and chill.
In clean bowl of electric mixer, combine egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl); whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 130 degrees F. Place bowl on the stand mixer; using the whip attachment, beat on high-speed until meringue forms and mixture is room temperature, 3 to 4 minutes.
Combine milk and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl; set aside. Place strawberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor; puree until smooth. Transfer to a second medium-sized bowl. Place blueberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in clean food processor; puree until smooth. Place strainer over another medium-sized bowl; sieve blueberry mixture through strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard blueberry skins.
Gently stir 1/3 of the meringue into each of the three bowls. Gently stir 1/3 of the chilled whipped cream into each of the three bowls. Pour blueberry mixture into bottom of prepared loaf pan. Refrigerate the bowls of vanilla and strawberry mixture. Freeze loaf pan until firm, 45 minutes. Gently pour vanilla mixture over blueberry mixture; freeze 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over the vanilla layer, smoothing top with a spatula. Pan will be full, so do not cover with foil until top is firm, about 45 minutes. Continue freezing at least 3 ½ hours or overnight.
To unmold: wrap sides of pan with a hot, wet cloth or dip briefly in a sink of warm water to loosen. Using plastic wrap as an aid, remove semifreddo from pan; place on a serving platter; discard plastic wrap. Cut into slices; serve immediately. To store, cover and return any extra semifreddo immediately to the freezer for up to 1 week.
Apricot Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce
A healthier version.
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 1/2 cup dried apricots
- 1 ½ cups sliced fresh apricots
- 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 pint fresh blackberries
- 1/2 pint fresh blackberries
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
To make the Apricot Semifreddo:
Line 4-cup loaf pan with plastic wrap. Whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until thick and light yellow, about 1 minute.
Bring milk to a boil in saucepan. Slowly pour hot milk over egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to saucepan; cook over medium-low heat (do not boil), stirring often, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain, and cool.
Meanwhile, place dried apricots in heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water, and let stand 15 minutes, or until softened. Drain, and cool. Put in food processor with fresh apricots, and purée until smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Add custard, sour cream and almond extract.
Put egg whites in large bowl; beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into apricot mixture.
Pour half of mixture into prepared pan. Place 3 rows of blackberries on their sides down the center of loaf pan; top with remaining mixture. Cover; freeze at least 4 hours.
To make the Blackberry Sauce:
Press blackberries through fine-meshed sieve into bowl. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Set aside.
Remove Apricot Semifreddo from freezer; let stand 10 minutes. Unmold onto plate, and cut into 10 slices. Drizzle with Blackberry Sauce and serve.
Espresso Semifreddo with Dried Cherries
- 1/3 cup freshly made strong espresso or coffee, hot
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon amaretto
- 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- Pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature, yolks and whites separated
- 6 crisp amaretti cookies
- 1/4 cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Zest of 1/4 lemon, in strips
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 cups (1/2 pound) dried cherries
While the espresso is still hot, add all but 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir until dissolved. Cool.
Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and with a wooden spoon or a spatula, push ricotta through. Add half of the espresso mixture, amaretto, lemon zest, and salt, and whisk until well combined.
Combine egg yolks and remaining espresso in a stainless-steel bowl and whisk until eggs are foamy. Set the bowl over, not in, a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Continue whisking until the mixture is foamy, light-colored, and tripled in bulk. This could take up to 10 minutes. If cooking too quickly, turn heat off and work over the hot water. Cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whip egg whites until foamy. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whip to stiff peaks.
Stir 1/4 cup of cooled yolk mixture into the ricotta mixture to lighten. Fold in the remaining yolk mixture and 1/3 of the whites. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan and gently smooth top. Crumble the amaretti cookies and spread over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least 24 hours.
For the fruit: Combine Kirsch and sugar in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 2 hours or overnight at room temperature.
Remove semifreddo from the freezer 20 minutes before serving. Uncover top; invert semifreddo onto a serving platter and remove plastic wrap. Cut into 1-inch slices, spoon on cherries, and serve.
- Plum Semifreddo (meatballsandmilkshakes.com)
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- Honey Semifreddo with Berries (theglobeandmail.com)
The name cranberry derives from “craneberry”, first named by early European settlers in America, who thought the cranberry flower resembled the neck, head and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called “bearberries” as bears were often seen feeding on them.
In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. The Pilgrims learned about cranberries from the Native Americans, who recognized the natural preservative power in the berries and often mixed them into pemmican (dried meat mixture) to extend its shelf life. In the 1820s cranberries were shipped to Europe where they became popular for wild harvesting in the Nordic countries and Russia. Cranberry sauce came into the picture via General Ulysses S. Grant who ordered it served to the troops during the battle of Petersburg in 1864. Cranberry sauce was first commercially canned in 1912 by the Cape Cod Cranberry Company which marketed the product as “Ocean Spray Cape Cod Cranberry Sauce.” A merger with other growers evolved into the well-known Ocean Spray corporation now famous for their cranberry products. Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.
Cranberries grow on vines in boggy areas. Fresh whole berries are hand-picked and are more expensive. The remainder is harvested by machine. Damage to the berries from the machines is unavoidable, making them suitable only for juices, sauces and drying. The bogs are kept dry until harvest time and then are flooded with water to a knee-deep level. Special machines run through the bog, shaking the vines to loosen the berries and they are skimmed off. The collected berries are bounced down a stair-stepped processor to separate out the old berries (which do not bounce) from the fresh berries.
Purchase cranberries that are quite firm to the touch. They should be shiny and plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. Shriveled berries or those with brown spots should be avoided. Dried berries are also available and are similar to raisins. Canned cranberry sauce is a holiday favorite and is available in a smooth or a whole-berry sauce. Frozen cranberries are also available year-round. One 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries will yield about 3 cups of whole berries or 2-1/2 cups chopped.
Store fresh cranberries for up to two months in a tightly-sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. As with all berries, if one starts getting soft or show signs of decaying, it will quickly spread to the rest. Be sure to sort them out, if you plan on storing them for any length of time.
Cooked cranberries can last up to a month in a covered container in the refrigerator. If a liquor or liqueur is added to the cooked mixture, it can last up to a year in the refrigerator.
Fresh whole berries may be washed, dried and frozen in airtight bags up to one year at 0 degrees.
Cranberry Cooking Tips
• Cranberries are not only good in desserts, but also in savory dishes.
• To help neutralize their acidity, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda when cooking cranberries. You’ll find you will need less sugar.
• Try substituting sweetened, dried cranberries in place of raisins in recipes for a tangy change.
• Reconstitute dried cranberries just as you would raisins, by soaking them in hot water and letting them stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
• Cranberries should be cooked only until they pop. Otherwise, they will become mushy and bitter.
• Frozen cranberries need not be defrosted before using.
• Cranberries are easily chopped by pulsing in a food processor.
Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups coarsely chopped onions
- 3 tart apples – peeled, cored and chopped
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 1 cup frozen cranberries
- 12 cups Italian bread, cubed, baked until slightly dry
- 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Cook and stir sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling coarsely, for about 10 minutes. Remove sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Clean out the pan.
Into the same pan heat the oil. Add the onions, apples, celery and poultry seasoning; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cranberries and cooked sausage.
Mix the sausage mixture with the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken stock.
Pour stuffing into a large covered greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the top.
Chicken Breasts with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce
- Olive oil
- 6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
- Salt & pepper
- 2 cups cranberries – fresh or frozen
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill to medium heat.
Brush chicken breasts with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill pan or outdoor grill, cook until both sides are browned and the center is no longer pink, about 7 minutes each side or until a meat thermometer reaches 160 degees F (depending on thickness).
In a saucepan combine cranberries, water, sugar and balsamic vinegar and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 more minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Serve warm over grilled chicken breasts.
Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
- 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup dried or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup chopped pistachio nuts or almonds
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and orange extracts; then beat in the eggs and orange zest.
Combine flour, salt and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Fold in cranberries and nuts.
Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12×2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky so wet your hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.
Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven or until logs are light brown. Remove baking pan from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay slices on their sides back on the parchment covered cookie sheets. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry.
Cool before storing.
Fig and Cranberry Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce
- 8 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
- 2 3/4 cups chilled whipping (heavy) cream
- 1/3 cup dried Calimyrna figs, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
- 1 16-ounce bag frozen unsweetened blackberries, thawed
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons blackberry brandy (optional)
Line a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, extending the wrap over the sides by 3 inches. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and white wine in a metal bowl to blend. ( I use the electric mixer bowl.) Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; whisk egg mixture constantly until a candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in orange peel.
Beat chilled whipping cream in a separate bowl until peaks form. Add egg mixture and gently fold together. Fold in chopped figs, chopped cranberries and minced ginger. Transfer mixture to the prepared loaf pan. Cover with the plastic wrap overhang; freeze overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)
To make Blackberry Sauce: Puree all ingredients in processor. Strain into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids and cover and refrigerate liquid until cold. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Turn semifreddo out onto platter. Peel off plastic wrap. Let stand 5 minutes to soften slightly. Slice semifreddo. Place slices on serving plates and drizzle Blackberry Sauce over each slice and serve.
Cranberry Almond Crostata
For pastry dough:
- 1/4 pound whole raw almonds, toasted and cooled
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For filling and assembly:
- 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (10 ounces)
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup orange marmalade
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour just until finely ground.
Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Remove 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg to a small bowl and refrigerate the for egg wash. Beat the remaining egg into the butter mixture, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well.
At low speed, mix in almond mixture, lemon zest, salt and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour until mixture forms a dough consistency.
Halve dough and form each half into a 5- to 6-inch disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Bring cranberries, orange juice, marmalade, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium pot, stirring, then simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool filling quickly by spreading it in a shallow baking dish and chilling in the refrigerator until lukewarm, about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F with a foil-lined large baking sheet on the middle rack. Generously butter a 9 inch springform pan.
Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch round (dough will be very tender). Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into the springform pan. (Dough will tear easily but can be patched together with your fingers.) Press dough over bottom and up the side of pan. Chill crust lined pan in the refrigerator.
Roll out remaining dough into a 12-inch round in the same manner. Remove top sheet of paper, then cut dough into 10 (1/3-inch-wide) strips with a pastry wheel while still on the parchment paper and slide the paper onto a tray. Freeze strips until firm, about 10 minutes.
Spread filling in chilled shell and arrange 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart on filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart diagonally across the first strips to form a lattice with diamond-shaped spaces. Trim edges of all strips flush with the edge of the pan. Brush lattice top with reserved beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Place the crostata pan on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pastry gets too brown after 30 minutes, loosely cover crostata with foil.) Cool crostata completely in pan on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to allow juices to thicken).
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- Mint sprigs (optional)
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Let sugar syrup cool completely.
Combine cranberries and juices in a food processor and process until pureed. Combine pureed mixture and cooled sugar syrup in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; stir well.
Cover and freeze at least 8 hours or until firm.
Remove mixture from the freezer; scrape entire mixture with the tines of a fork until fluffy. Place in serving dishes and garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.
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