Semifreddo is my new favorite frozen dessert. It might even be better than the gelato I ate twice a day when we were honeymooning in Italy, and I don’t say that lightly. It has all the rich creaminess of gelato, while somehow being light and airy and sliceable for easy, elegant serving. And you don’t need an ice cream maker! Just a little patience and a trusty hand mixer, and you can have a fine dining dessert anytime you want.
Now that it really feels like summer, with daylight lasting until after the kids go to bed and our south-facing back deck heating up by mid-morning, I have been craving homemade ice cream so much. But I don’t own an ice cream maker and, being the frugal bordering on stingy woman that I am, I still refuse to buy one. So I did what any self-respecting millennial would and tried to Google my way out of this conundrum.
Which is how I found my way to semifreddo. Fine Cooking has a bunch of great recipes for it, along with a handy step-by-step on how to make the three components of the dish. The long and short of it is you need whipped heavy cream, a zabaglione (egg yolks and sugar mixed and heated over simmering water until creamy), and a Swiss meringue (egg whites and sugar mixed and heated until glossy and marshmallow-y). These three elements get folded together, along with whatever flavorings you like, then frozen until firm. The end result is a creamy, light, addictive delight of a frozen treat.
I was delighted to find a basket of the season’s first strawberries at the farmer’s market last weekend, so I decided to roast them along with rhubarb (also from the market), a little sugar, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Then I pureed everything together to make a sweet and tart puree that I folded into the semifreddo. It turns the whole thing a lovely pink, and you can reserve a quarter cup of the fruit puree until the very last step and swirl it in for a more marbled look. My family all agreed that it’s one of the more impressive things I’ve made. It would be at home at a fancy summer dinner party, or you could be like us and slice it up for a weeknight dessert and feel extra classy.
- 1 pint strawberries
- 1 cup diced rhubarb, from about 3 stalks
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature and separated
- ½ cup sugar, separated
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Hull and halve the strawberries. Place the strawberries and rhubarb in a glass baking dish, sprinkle with the sugar, and toss together.
- Roast for 30 minutes, turning once.
- Place the roasted fruit, including the liquid, into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside to cool completely. You should have about 1 cup.
- Line a 9” by 5” loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving lots of overhang on the long sides. It’s okay if the plastic wrap doesn’t cover the short sides. Set this aside.
- In a large bowl and using a hand mixer on medium-high speed, whip the heavy cream until it forms firm peaks. Set the bowl in the refrigerator.
- Clean and dry the beaters of the hand mixer. Bring a medium saucepan filled with two inches of water to a simmer. Place the 4 egg yolks and ¼ cup of the sugar in a heatproof bowl that fits over the saucepan so that the bowl isn’t touching the water. With the mixer on medium speed, beat until the mixture becomes thick and almost doubles in volume, about 5 minutes. The beaters should leave a trail when this is ready. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and gently fold in all but ¼ cup of the strawberry-rhubarb puree with a rubber spatula. Set the remaining puree aside.
- Clean and dry the beaters of the hand mixer one more time. Keep the water simmering in the saucepan and get another clean bowl. Place the egg whites, the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl and place it over the simmering water. Beat at medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until the meringue is white, shiny, and fluffy like shaving cream, about 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue beating for 2 minutes more.
- Use a rubber or silicone spatula to fold the egg yolk mixture into the meringue (egg white) mixture, then fold in the chilled whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Dollop the remaining ¼ cup of strawberry-rhubarb puree over the top and swirl a few times with the spatula to make pretty swirls.
- Pour into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top with the spatula, and freeze for at least 4 hours or several days. To unmold and serve, lift the semifreddo out using the extra plastic wrap. Garnish with additional strawberries, if desired.