If you’ve been following this blog, you may have noticed that I love cream. A lot. Like many people, I especially like it in its frozen incarnations. And I recently discovered the joy of semifreddos, which I need to share with you. Semifreddos are in the ice cream family, but they’re usually made in a loaf pan and served up in frozen slices. Here’s the best part about them: you don’t need an ice cream maker!
I know some of you might shudder at the amount of cream in this recipe. And before you run away screaming, I encourage you to consider two things: one is the amount of store-bought ice cream the average person consumes in a summer. Have you looked at the ingredients on a container of ice cream? It’s a long list of un-pronouncable words, usually not a good sign. At least when you make your own, you can control what goes into it. The second consideration is the quality of the cream. I like to use organic cream from grass-fed cows, and here’s why: cows were designed to eat grass, not grains. Milk fat from grass-fed cows is much healthier for us, containing a better ratio of omega 6 to 3 fats and more beneficial nutrients. So while I’ll make no pretense that this semifreddo is a “healthy” dessert, I’m pleased to say I experience zero guilt eating it, only pure pleasure, and I hope you will too. That’s what summer is for!
As for the raspberries. Oh the raspberries! Picking raspberries is such a great summertime treat. As soon as I starting puréeing the raspberries for this recipe, the fragrance of the mashed-up berries vividly brought me right back to my Grammie’s kitchen. She had a wonderful berry patch and I have great memories of the raspberry jam she made each summer, the heavy pot bubbling away with ruby red goodness, the smell wafting through the entire house.
Initially, I was just going to make a simple raspberry pistachio semifreddo, but then I saw this triple layered recipe from Bon Appétit which I couldn’t resist. I made a few modifications and voila!
Now, it must be said, the 3 layers do make this recipe a bit time consuming since each one has to freeze solidly before adding the next layer, taking about one hour per layer. If you’d like to simplify this semifreddo, I’ve provided a short-cut version at the bottom of my recipe that doesn’t involve making 3 separate layers. Instead, you simply make one uniform raspberry vanilla mixture and add the whole pistachios to that. I’ve made it this way as well, and it’s just as delicious. Here’s what that version looks like.
Raspberry, Pistachio, and Vanilla Semifreddo
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
- 2/3 cup sugar + 4 tbsp sugar
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean + 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup fresh or thawed raspberries
- 2 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Make the pistachio base: Grind 1/2 cup of the pistachios with 2 tbsp. of the sugar in a food processor. Add the whole milk and purée until smooth and thick. Place this mixture in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. If there are still chunks of pistachios, you can run it through the food processor a second time if you wish. Fold the other half of the pistachios into this mixture, leaving them whole. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make the vanilla base: Place 1/2 cup of the whipping cream in a small saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds out. Add the scraped seeds and pod into the saucepan with the cream. Heat the cream to just before it simmers and then remove from heat. Allow to steep for about 15 minutes, then remove and discard the empty vanilla pod. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make the raspberry base: Purée the raspberries and 2 tbsp. of the sugar together in a food processor. If you prefer to remove the seeds, you can strain this mixture over a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids (this is optional). Stir the vanilla extract into this mixture. Set aside until ready to use.
- Make the semifreddo base: Beat the eggs, egg yolks, and 2/3 cup sugar in a metal bowl on top of a saucepan with a few inches of gently simmering water (over medium heat). The bottom of the bowl should not touch the hot water. Beat the mixture constantly, preferably using a handheld electric mixer set on its highest speed. After about 4 minutes of beating, the egg and sugar mixture will have thickened, doubled in size, and reached a pale color. When it reads 170° on a thermometer, you can remove it from the heat. Place the bowl into a shallow pan filled with iced water and continue beating for another 3 minutes until the mixture is cool and quite thick. (Don't allow any water to get into the mixture). Whip the remaining 1 1/2 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Once the egg and sugar mixture is fully cooled, incorporate the whipped cream and gently fold the two together until uniform.
- Divide the semifreddo base equally into 3 parts and fold each third gently into the raspberry base, then the pistachio base, and then the vanilla base. Refrigerate all 3 until ready to use.
- Line a metal loaf pan (about 9 x 5 x 3") with parchment paper or plastic wrap. For parchment paper, cut two pieces of paper, one for the width and one for the length and criss-cross them on top of each other so there are no folds which would give your semifreddo a crinkled surface. First, pour the vanilla mixture into the pan and freeze until solid, about an hour. Pour the pistachio mixture on top of the frozen vanilla base and freeze for another hour. Finally, pour the raspberry mixture on top of the frozen pistachio base. If you wish, you can sprinkle on some additional whole raspberries before pouring the raspberry mixture, as I did in the video. However, the frozen raspberries can be tricky to slice across and can make the semifreddo slices a little messy. Freeze the whole semifreddo for 4 to 6 hours. This dessert can also be made several days in advance and removed from the freezer when ready to serve.
- To serve the semifreddo, dip the bottom and sides of the loaf pan in a bit of hot water for a few seconds. Invert it onto a platter and peel off the paper or plastic lining. Cut it with a sharp knife into slices about 3/4 inch thick. (The knife can be dipped in hot water to help the slicing).
Tips/TechniquesFor a simplified version of this recipe (no layers), simply omit the pistachio base altogether. (You won't need the 2 tbsp of sugar and the 1/3 cup of milk). However, do keep the cup of whole pistachios. Make everything else following the directions, but the raspberry, vanilla, and semifreddo bases can all be mixed together to make one uniform mixture. Fold the whole pistachios into this mixture. Freeze for 6 hours or more.
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series was nominated for a 2014 James Beard Award. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.