Caramel and Whiskey Semifreddo


Makes up to 10 servings

A few years ago my family and I were visiting Ville Franche, a lovely city built into a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean and very close to the Italian border.  After sunbathing, swimming in the sea and marveling at the snap shot Daniel was able to take of an octopus, with his GoPro, we set off to find food.  We settled on an Italian bistro on the boardwalk where we had a wonderful meal of fresh seafood linguini and pizza. The highlight was a caramel semifreddo with nougatine.  Happily, the chef  gave me his recipe although I added the whiskey and my own recipe for caramellized nuts.  I hope when you taste this semifreddo it will transport you to Ville Franche were you can smell the salt water and feel the sun on your face.


To make the Semifreddo I use a 5″ x 9″ loaf pan, lined with plastic wrap and cut slices from the frozen loaf. You can also forgo lining the pan with plastic wrap (which can produce wrinkles on the final product but they are not very visible because they are on the sides, so really, who cares) but then you’ll have to either dip the mold in hot water for 10 seconds or heat the sides with a blow torch to release the semifreddo from the mold. You can of course use any other mold you like. Silicone molds are nice because they release the semifreddo easily.

Semifreddo is best served slightly softened. By the time you cut the slices and finish plating them they will be at the right consistency.

A note about the use of glucose in this recipe.  If you can’t find glucose you can substitute light corn syrup but keep in mind that corn syrup is sweeter and has more water. The additional water might affect the texture.   Honey or Golden Syrup might be an interesting substitution for the glucose with the same caveat.  Glucose syrup has a neutral flavor and the lowest water content. It can be purchased on line.

This is one of those recipes you can play with. I think a pecan nougatine would be nice Instead of the hazelnuts. It might be fun to substitute some maple syrup for the glucose syrup and black walnuts for the hazelnuts. You can also substitute another spirit for the whiskey. Cognac or calvados or Couintreau.


Whiskey Caramel Semifreddo Components

Caramel Semifreddo
Caramelized Hazelnuts
Caramel sauce

Make Caramel Sauce

  • 100 g (1/2 cup) superfine sugar
  • 80 g (¼ cup) liquid glucose
  • 60 grams (¼ cup) water
  • 360 grams (1 1/2 cups) heavy cream,
  • 60g (¼ cup) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, room temperature
  • Fine sea salt or Fleur de Sel to taste (between 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream warm.

In a small saucepan with high sides, combine sugar and water. Cook over low heat, grasping the handle and swirling the liquid from time to time until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear. Add the glucose and stir until dissolved.  The reason for swirling the liquid instead of stirring is that stirring can develop sugar crystals which can populate and crystallize your syrup.

Continue to cook, without stirring. Wash down the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in water if you see crystals forming on the sides but at least one time before you pour the syrup.  When the caramel attains a nice amber colour, carefully stir in the warm cream (be very careful as the mixture will bubble up and splatter). The caramel may sieze up but don’t worry it will all smooth out as you continue to cook it. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat; boil for 4 minutes, whisking constantly until slightly thickened and all bits of caramel are melted. Remove from heat.

Whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time and add the fleur de sel to taste.  Strain the caramel through a fine mesh sieve.

Prepare Cream

  1. 360 grams (1.5 cups) heavy whipping cream
  1. Wisk, bowl and cream should be chilled.
  1. Beat cream to soft peaks.
  1. Cover and place in refrigerator until needed.

Pâte à bombe

  •  108 grams (6 ) large pasteurized egg yolks, room temperature
  •  25  grams (2 tablespoons) superfine sugar
  •  250 grams (7 ounces) hot caramel sauce
  •  1-3 Tablespoons good whiskey, depending on how strong you want the flavor.  I used 1 tablespoon.
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Place egg yolks in a heat proof glass bowl and wisk with the sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Heat the 7 oz of caramel sauce to boiling and pour slowly over egg yolks, wisking vigorously.
  3.  Add vanilla, salt and whiskey. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and set aside to cool in an ice bath, wisking until cool.

If you don’t use pasteurized egg yolks,  I would recommend wisking this mixture in a Bain Marie until the temperature reaches 140 Fahrenheit at which point the eggs will be pasteurized.  For my Bain Marie I use a heat resistant bowl placed over a pot of simmering water. There should be 4″ of water in the pot and the sides of. The pot should come about 1/3 to 1/2 up the sides of the bowl.  The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl or you risk getting scrambled eggs!

Prepare Italian Meringue  

  • 215 grams Italian Merinuge

Please  refer to master recipe on my Italian Meringue Page

Prepare Semifreddo

With a balloon wisk, fold 215 grams Italian Meringue into Pâte à bombe.  Then fold in whipped cream. Pour into loaf pan lined with plastic wrap and freeze at least 10 hours.

Prepare Candied Hazelnuts

  • 55 grams (1/3 cup) blanched hazelnuts run through a nut grinder or chopped small
  • 75 grams superfine sugar
  1. Line a cookie sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  2. Pour sugar into a 10″ skillet and cook on a medium flame until it starts to melt and turn light golden.
  3. Stir in nuts and toss to coat.  Stir them until they are a nice gold color.
  4. Pour onto  a silicone mat and spread thin. Let cool and break and chop into small pieces

Assembling Semifreddo Dessert

Remove semifreddo from freezer. Cut into slices, or remove from molds if they were used, and put on plates. Drizzle with caramel sauce and sprinkle with candied nuts.

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