26 May 2011

AUNTI PASTA: Very Berry Semifreddo

SARONNO, Italy – My project for this sunny Sunday afternoon in May is to make strawberry semifreddo. Semifreddo is a type of frozen mousse that is a lot like ice cream, but eaten slightly softened. Not soft like Mr. Softee, but softer than ice cream. 
 Hope mine looks a little like this one
So far I have cleaned, cut and cooked about a cup and a half of fresh sliced strawberries in a plain sugar syrup to which I added a drop of almond flavoring. After the berries cooked, I let them drain into a small bowl to reserve the syrup. In the meantime I whipped a pint of heavy cream in a cold bowl, and set that aside.

When the sliced and cooked berries were cool, I beat the the strawberry sugar syrup into 250 grams of marcapone cheese, added the whipped cream and the berry slices and mixed it all together.  Then I tasted it. It was very berry.  
 Torrone Semifreddo

The idea of flavoring the marscapone with strawberry syrup came from a YouTube video of Amelia Chiarla, Chef at the Hotel Al Cardinal Mazzarino, in Cherasco, in the province of Piedmont. The Hotel is a former Carmelite convent with a newly added 35 seat restaurant headed by Chef Chiarla. She is a disciple of the Slow Food movement, which got its start in a town nearby, which guarantees all of the ingredients she uses are local, fresh and seasonal.   

Her YouTube recipe was semifreddo with torrone, the almond nougat candy you find in Italy during the Christmas holidays. http://www.cookingvideo.org/italian-cooking/italian-dessert-mascarpone-semifreddo-al-recipe-ac.html  She was the only chef I found that used marscapone.  Most of the others used an egg yolk custard which takes forever to make, except one young, cute Italian chef who used whipped egg whites. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7FakIcP93s&NR=1&feature=fvwp
Peaches and nut crumble Semifreddo
The egg whites are a rather bland choice, but her flavor ingredient was Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut cream devised by the calorie devil, that literally makes me swoon. But whether you use custard, marscapone or egg whites, they all get blended with a flavor agent and whipped cream.

But to get back to my semifreddo project, when the marscapone, berries and whipped cream were completely blended I put the mixture into an empty plastic ice cream container that I had previously lined with clear plastic wrap. I sliced some berries and put them on top of the semifreddo for decoration, wrapped it up and put it in the freezer. Now all I had to do was wait. 

The plastic wrap is an ingenious idea that serves two important purposes. First of all, the trick is to use enough so that there you end up with about three or four inches of overhang so that after the semifreddo is frozen, you can lift it out of the container easily and peel it off.  Secondly, if your container doesn’t have a cover, wrapping the plastic wrap over the semifreddo will protect it from developing unpleasant ice crystals as it freezes.   

Any size or shape container will do
I’d spent about 20 minutes the other day looking for a metal bread pan that I wanted to use as a mold for the semifreddo. I was convinced I had one, but I couldn’t find it.  I must have had it in another house, or maybe another life, I’m not sure. Anyway, that’s what happens when you move around a lot. After considering other possibilities, it dawned on me that I could use the plastic ice cream containers that I always save.  That was easy.
Mmmmm, chocolate
After waiting, somewhat impatiently, for the semifreddo to freeze, it was finally ready.  Ahh, Taste No. 1.   It was good, actually quite good, but during the freezing process it lost some of its strawberry taste.   So I took the whole strawberries that were left over, the ones I was going to use for decoration, and cooked them in a simple sugar syrup until the syrup reduced to half. Then I let it cool and crossed my fingers that it would thicken up. It did. 

 My Strawberry Semifreddo
Then I cut another slice of the semifreddo and topped it with the cooled strawberry sauce. Taste No. 2 was definitely better, much berrier, which made me very happy. Truth be told it was down right delicious.

So now I know that by increasing the amount of cooked berries and syrup that I mix into the marscapone and whipped cream, I can increase the flavor of the semifreddo, but I would still make  strawberry syrup to put on top. Not only does it look nice, but it tastes sooo good. I’d give this one five stars. 

What I learned from my little experiment is that it is possible to put together almost any combination of flavors and textures you want and still get a great tasting semifreddo. Let's see, coffee with a chocolate crumble hazelnut base might work, or how about fresh cherry and amaretto cookies? Hmmmm, looks like I've got my summer cut out for me.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Your semifreddo recipe was nominated as one of the "Best 300 Semifreddo Recipes on the Net". To vote for it, please visit http://easyitalianrecipes.org/dessert-recipes/best-300-italian-semifreddo-recipes-on-the-net-vote-for-your-favorite/ - your recipe is positioned at #44 (random order).