I'm all for food that is delicious and genuinely easy to prepare, but I really hate recipes in magazines or on certain food television shows (you know who you are, Landra See) that are billed as some sort of culinary trickery. You know: FAST! EASY! TIME-SAVING! STORE-BOUGHT MADE SPECIAL! SO SIMPLE IT WILL FOOL YOUR FRIENDS INTO THINKING YOU SPENT TIME COOKING! Doesn't it give you the heebie jeebies? If you want people to think you spent time cooking, spend some time cooking. Otherwise, just make something homemade and straightforward. A simple pasta and salad will almost always be better than something doctored up from a jar or box, or a shortcut version of a labor-intensive dish.
That said, this semifreddo? So simple, so fancy-seeming. And it took all of 15 minutes to assemble.
(Am I overselling?)
Semifreddo means "half cold" in Italian, and its texture is fluffy and melty like a frozen mousse. To make it, you mix egg yolks and sugar with the flavoring of your choice, then fold in a good amount of whipped cream. You pour the mixture into a Saran Wrap-lined loaf pan, freeze it overnight, then cut it into wedges and serve with or without extra garnishes like sauce, more whipped cream, fresh fruit. (It's good straight out of the freezer as well. Not that I have eaten it that way.)
Before my friend Joanna came over for dinner, I had a little crisis of confidence about what type of semifreddo to make. There are a lot of recipes out there in Internet-land. So I emailed her to ask the all-important question "chocolate or lemon?" and she replied that she liked both. I decided on lemon because it sounded a little more interesting.
And then I forgot to buy lemons at the grocery store. Smart. Luckily I had cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and hazelnuts in my cabinet, creating the happy accident of chocolate-hazelnut semifreddo. In the end, I inadvertently made the right choice. Slightly spiked with rum, crunchy from a layer of toasted hazelnuts, and drizzled with raspberry sauce, this dessert was just perfect. And really, truly simple to make.
Adapted from the Meyer lemon version, from Bon Appetit.
(Serves 8 to 10 people)
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted (or chopped pecans, or sliced almonds)
1 3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I used 60% cacao)
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. light rum (or vanilla)
1/4 tsp. salt
Line a 9 x 5 x 3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang. Sprinkle nuts evenly over bottom of pan. Using electric mixer, beat whipping cream in large bowl until soft peaks form. Refrigerate whipped cream while making custard.
Whisk 1 1/4 cups sugar, egg yolks, chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt in large metal bowl to blend. Set bowl over large saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until yolk mixture is thick and fluffy and the chocolate chips melt, about 5 minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture will read 170 degrees F.) Remove bowl from over simmering water. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until cool, thick, and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Fold in chilled whipped cream.
Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Tap loaf pan lightly on work surface to remove air pockets. Fold plastic wrap overhang over top to cover. Freeze semifreddo until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight. Semifreddo can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.
Unfold plastic wrap from top of semifreddo and invert dessert onto platter; remove plastic wrap. Dip heavy large knife into hot water; cut semifreddo crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Transfer to plates; spoon raspberry sauce over the slices, if using, and serve.
(Makes about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
2 Tbsp orange juice (or Triple Sec or Cointreau)
1/2 cup sugar
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and stir until combined. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to a week.