Semifreddo is Italian for half frozen. A semifreddo is a delicious frozen dessert similar to ice cream and gelato. It is a combination of a custard and a mousse that is frozen in a pan. This dessert is a very popular dessert in both Italy and Spain. The Spanish call it semifrio. Some people like to refer to this decadent dessert as an ice cream “cake” because it is frozen in a pan and sliced like a cake would be sliced, but there is no cake in this dessert at all. It is similar to ice cream, but it is not churned like ice cream is, and is not frozen hard like ice cream would be. The main ingredients are eggs, sugar and cream, just like what you would use to make ice cream, but then it is also mixed with something not frozen, most often whipped cream, to make it a soft or half freeze, which gives it that creamy mousse-like consistency. Also just like ice cream, the possibilities are endless, and you can use any flavor combinations you like, once you get the techniques for making it down pat.
The other day, we went to our friends Janet and Bob’s house for a simple summer dinner. It was yet another scorcher, so for dessert, I thought this cool and refreshing chocolate hazelnut semifreddo would be a welcomed reprieve from the heat. It was a delicious, decandent treat loved by all. Because the semifreddo just wasn’t decadent enough on its own though, we decided to make it even more decadent by adding even more whipped cream, and of course … ice cream. It definitely cooled us down though, that’s for sure. The semifreddo definitely needed something added to it because it is very, very rich on its own. A little bit goes a long way.
Chocolate Hazelnut Semifreddo
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBSP milk
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder, preferably dark
1/2 cup Nutella or hazelnut spread
2 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
dash of salt
Line a 9×5 baking pan with plastic wrap, with enough plastic wrap hanging over the sides so you can fold it over the semifreddo later and place in the freezer to make it very cold.
In a chilled bowl, with chilled beaters, beat the whipping cream until firm peaks form, then place it in the refrigerator while you make the rest of the dessert.
Make the custard or zabaglione part of the dessert by mixing the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of sugar and the milk together in a metal, non-reactive bowl placed over a pot of simmering water and whisk constantly for about 5 or so minutes until the custard starts to thicken and doubles in size. You need to whisk the custard constantly so the eggs don’t scramble and cook.
Once the custard is ready, thoroughly mix in the hazelnut spread and the chocolate, making sure all the lumps are gone and the mixture is smooth. You can also mix the hazelnut spread and chocolate into the whipped cream, again, making sure it is thoroughly mixed in and smooth. Mix the custard and the whipped cream together thoroughly and place back in the refrigerator while you make the meringue.
Clean and dry the beaters again to make the meringue. Mix the egg whites, cream of tartar and a dash of salt in the metal non-reactive bowl, and again place it over the simmering water and beat for about 3 minutes or until the egg whites are stiff, light and shiny. Remove the mixture from the simmer water and continue to beat for about another 2 minutes until the meringue is thick and billowy. Once the meringue is made, gently fold it into the chocolate custard mixture then evenly spoon it into the chilled pan. I topped it with chocolate chips then wrapped the plastic over the top and froze it. Let the semifreddo freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.
When the semifreddo is ready to enjoy, slice it in thin slices and serve immediately. It can stay in the freezer for up to a month too.
Larry made his semifreddo particularly decadent by adding two kinds of additional ice cream and a heavy topping of extra whipped cream. It was definitely delicious though and worth all the calories.