As spring approaches, I start thinking semifreddo.
It is a delicious and creamy rendition of an Italian ice cream, easy to make and serve and better yet, there is no need for an ice-cream machine! I love to add fruit and nuts to the base, which offer a variety of flavors. Torrone—or nougat—is loved by Italians, and it gives this semifreddo a quality and taste almost like a gelato.
Be sure to buy hard torrone for this dessert—the soft kind is difficult to chop and won’t give you the crunch that makes this recipe such a treat. For best results, freeze the semifreddo overnight before serving.
Soft Ice Cream with Nougat – Semifreddo al Torrone
Serves 8 to 10
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon brandy or cognac
- 2 cups chilled heavy cream
- 1 cup finely chopped torrone or other hard nougat candy with nuts
Line a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan snugly with plastic wrap.
In the top of a double boiler, or in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks, ½ cup of the superfine sugar, and the white wine until smooth. Continue beating (switching to a handheld electric mixer if you prefer) until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy and falls in thick ribbons when the whisk or beaters are lifted, about 8 minutes if you are whisking by hand or about 4 minutes if you are using an electric mixer. Whisk continuously, or the egg yolk will cook and the mixture will appear curdled. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat, and set it in a large bowl of ice water. Whisk constantly until it’s chilled, and then whisk in the brandy.
In a large bowl, whisk the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted. (You can also whisk it in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment.)
In a clean mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until foamy. While continuing to beat, gradually add the remaining ½ cup superfine sugar, and beat until the whites are glossy and form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Add about a fourth of the beaten egg whites to the chilled white-wine mixture, and with a rubber spatula gently fold them in, scraping the wine mixture from the bottom of the bowl over the whites. Fold in the remaining whites in the same way. Fold the lightened wine mixture and the torrone into the whipped cream in the same way.
Transfer the mixture to the lined loaf pan, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Rap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Cover securely with plastic wrap, and freeze overnight. (Semifreddo, if tightly wrapped, will keep up to one week in the freezer.)
To serve, remove the top layer of plastic wrap and invert the pan onto a platter large enough to hold the semifreddo. Tap the bottom of the pan sharply to loosen the frozen mixture. Remove the plastic wrap, and with a long, thin knife cut the semifreddo into slices. (You can warm the knife in hot water first to make slicing easier.)