I love ice cream, almost more than anything. Almost any dessert can be enhanced by a scoop of gorgeously silky cold ice cream. A crisp, a tart, a pie, even a cookie is better with a bit of ice cream especially if the dessert your pairing it with is hot and crunchy. Cold, hot, creamy and crunchy is irresistible.
I recently purchased an ice cream book called ” Hello, My name is Ice cream “, by Chef Dana Cree. Its a wonderful book, laid out in a logical way with clear instructions. She is very thorough in her discussion of the science of ice cream with useful information on stabilizers, emulsifiers and other elements necessary for turning out silky ice cream. She goes over the variety of frozen desserts: sorbets. sherbets, Philadelphia and custard style ice creams. At the beginning of each chapter she gives you what she calls a blank slate recipe. This allows readers to create recipes beyond those that Chef Cree has offered. For me, that’s the best kind of book because it allows me to create.
Chef Cree’s recipe for banana ice cream is amazing and has inspired a few iterations. I have spun it and added a thin stream of melted bittersweet chocolate at the end so I get a banana stratiatella. I have served it with a rum caramel ribbon and a fudge ribbon. But the prettiest plate I’ve done is a rif on a banana split. I love the flavor of bananas in a banan split but not the incorporation of banana slices. This banana split has banana ice cream as the base, scooped up into three little scoops and each served with its own sauce: caramel/rum, bittersweet chocolate and fresh strawberry.
A word about ice cream machines. I use an ancient Simac Gelataio Boy. It churns ice cream in about 15 minutes. The day it dies will. be a sad, sad day for me. It has a built in compressor which keeps the base chilled while you are churning it. Since my Simac was manufactured, they EPA made it illegal to use this particular type of freon in non commercial ice cream machines, or so I was told by Simac. I had purchased another Simac a few years ago with a removable bowl, thinking it would be easier to clean and I did not like it. It didn’t get as cold and took longer to churn the ice cream. Therefore, the ice cream was not as creamy. I can’t recommend another built in compressor machine. Perhaps Lussino or Lello or another Italian company.
I also have a freestanding Cuisinart unit where you need to chill the bowl before you use it. For some ice creams they may be interchangeable but for at least one of my ice creams, the Simac gives it a much better texture. So, I used the Simac for this banana ice cream and I don’t know how it will turn out with the Cuisinart. Let me know if you try it. The advantage of the Cuisinart is that if you freeze multiple bowls you can make several quarts of ice cream. My Simac heats up so I can do two batches and then I have to let it cool down before I can use it again. Yep, I need a commercial ice cream maker. I just don’t happen to have 10k lying around.
The first time I ate a Semifreddo was at Vivoli Gelateria in Florence Italy many years ago. While the gelato was wonderful, the Semifreddo had a unique texture that was silky, light and completely captivating. Semifreddo means ” half cold ” and it feels less cold than ice cream or gelato. Personally I feel that I taste the flavors more intensely because there’s no numbing effect of your tastebuds as there is with colder confections.
Semifreddo consists of a flavored base folded together with Italian Meringue and whipped cream. The base can consist of a Crème Anglaise (yolks cooked with milk and sugar), Pâte à Bombe (a base of yolks beaten with cooked sugar syrup) or a base of puréed fruit. However, the key component which needs to be included for the best texture is Italian Meringue.
So, as I often do, I tried to find Semifreddo in my hometown to no avail. Then I began to collect recipes and try them, still without success. Finally I stumbed upon the answer to my failures in an article authored by Marino Marini titled ” More Perfect than a Parfait”. According to the article a semifreddo derives its origin from a French Parfait which is a Pâte à Bombe (egg yolks and sugar syrup beaten to a creamy consistency) into which whipped cream is folded. The Semifreddo can be differentiated from a Parfait because it includes Italian Meringue, the missing ingredient in all the recipes that I had tried. Italian Meringue doesn’t freeze at zero temperature and has a silky mouth feel. Without it, you never get the correct texture. This history feeds nicely into my narrative that the Italians (me and my ancestors) taught the French (my husband and his ancestors) how to cook, which began when Catarina d’ Medici brought her pastry chefs to France when she married Henri II of France. Clearly the Italians continued to school the French into the early 20th century when the Italians transformed a very nice desert, the Parfait, into a spectacular dessert, the Semifreddo. Ha!
This is a dessert that you can definitely play with. An easy modification would be to do a raspberry coulis or a blueberry sauce. Other flavor combinations come to mind: lime Semifreddo with blackberry coulis, passion fruit Semifreddo with mango coulis, orange/Cointreau Semifreddo with candied walnuts or pine nuts and caramel sauce; grapefruit Semifreddo with, well, I leave that up to you. You can also forgo the daquoise and place the semifreddo directly on the plate or use a thin shortbread cookie, a ginger snap or cookie crumbs. Try different combinations and make this recipe yours.
A special thanks to blogger and author Grace Massa Langlois of gracessweetlife.com for inspiring the design of this dessert. Check out her book and her blog. Her recipes are well written and trustworthy.
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.