Semifreddo – literally “half-cold” in Italian – is a dessert with varied interpretations. Basically it’s a creamy frozen mousse, sometimes layered with sponge cake or cookies and sometimes flavored with nuts or fresh fruit.
Making semifreddo forges a lazy path to homemade ice cream; all the benefits of a gelato or frozen custard without hauling out the old ice cream maker.
Well… not so much lazy as it is a savvy shortcut. Because while there is no churning involved in the making of this recipe, there is some melting (chocolate), whipping (cream) and folding (together) that needs to be done.
Typically, a semifreddo is set in a loaf pan or deep dish and sliced or scooped family-style for serving.
In honor of the Valentine’s Day tradition of shared desserts (how sweet), I molded this semifreddo in mini springform pans, which makes a nice serving portion for two. Using a springform pan makes it simple to unmold, but a regular 8-inch pan works perfectly, too.
Each 4-inch dessert is the perfect size for sharing with another. If you have some warm chocolate sauce on hand, feel free to gild the lily.
30 chocolate wafer cookies
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup sugar
4 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
4 egg yolks *
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¾ cup mascarpone cheese
Chocolate shavings and freshly whipped cream to garnish
- Make crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the cookies, sugar and salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is moistened and holds together when you pinch it. Press about 2 tablespoons crumbs onto the bottoms of each of four 4 x 1 ¾-inch mini springform pans (or use one 8 – inch springform pan). Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake 5 minutes.
- Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the water simmers and sugar is dissolved; add the chocolate and cocoa off the heat and stir until completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and cool 10 minutes.
- Beat the egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar with an electric mixer and the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until light colored and thickened enough to form a ribbon, about 5 minutes. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the cooled chocolate until evenly blended.
- Wash the mixer bowl; add the cream and mascarpone and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the chocolate mixture.
- Divide the mixture among the 4 pans (or, if using one 8 – inch pan, scrape it all in).
- Cover pans with plastic wrap and freeze at least 6 hours or overnight
- Remove semifreddo from the freezer 15 – 30 minutes before serving, depending on how firm it is. Unmold and serve with some whipped cream and chocolate shavings over the top, if you like.
Inspired by a recipe in Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma
* The egg yolks in the recipe are not cooked; you can use pasteurized eggs if you have concerns about using raw eggs.