CHIAVARI, Italy – A few weeks ago I received an email telling me that my Strawberry Semifreddo had been chosen as one of the best semifreddo recipes on the internet. Needless to say it was a big surprise, but a nice surprise. I have to say it is one of my favorite frozen desserts. It looks and tastes a lot like ice cream but it’s faster and easier to make and you eat it slightly softened, not soft like Mr. Softee, but softer than ice cream.
The other day, there were so many beautiful berries in the market I decided this was a good time to make it again. To begin with I cleaned, cut and cooked about a cup and a half of fresh sliced strawberries a plain sugar syrup to which I added a drop of almond flavoring. After the berries cooked, using a small colander I let them drain into a small bowl and saved the syrup.
While the berries were draining I whipped a pint of heavy cream together with a tablespoon of powdered sugar in a cold bowl and set it aside. XWhen the sliced and cooked berries were cool, I beat the strawberry sugar syrup into 250 grams of marscapone cheese, added the whipped cream and the berry slices and mixed it all together. Then I tasted it. It was very berry.
|Yummy Chocolate Semifreddo|
The idea of flavoring the marscapone with strawberry syrup came from 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 35 seat restaurant headed by Chef Chiarla. She is a disciple of the Slow Food movement which got its start in a town nearby. That fact alone guarantees that the ingredients she uses are local, fresh and seasonal.
She is the only chef I know of who uses marscapone in their semifreddo recipes, Most of the others use an egg yolk custard which takes forever to make, so you know which recipe I chose.
I guess you could also use whipped egg whites, but truly the egg whites are a rather bland choice. You would have to use a strong flavor agent like Nutella, that chocolate hazelnut cream devised by the calorie devil that literally makes me swoon in order to get a decent flavor. 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 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.
After waiting, somewhat impatiently, for the semifreddo to freeze, it was finally ready. Ahh, Taste No. 1. Yum. It was good, actually quite good, but during the freezing process it had lost some of its strawberry taste. So I took the whole strawberries, 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.
|Any Type of Container will Do|
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 much happier. Truth be told it was downright delicious.
So now I know that to increase the flavor of semifreddo, all I have to do is increase the amount of cooked berries and syrup that I mix into the marscapone and whipped cream, And even if I increase the flavor of the semifreddo, I would still make strawberry syrup to put on top. Not only does it look nice, but it tastes really, really good. I’d give this one five stars.
|My Very Berry Semifreddo|
What I’ve learned from my semifreddo making is that it is possible to put together almost any combination of flavors and textures 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, good thing I got a jump start on summer, it looks like I’m going to need it.