You probably have all the ingredients in your refrigerator needed to whip up semifreddo, one of the most texturally delightful but underrated frozen treats. Easier to make than ice cream, semifreddo doesn’t require any special equipment and has the same satisfying richness combined with the lightness of a mousse.
Frozen desserts always seem to impress, and any semifreddo you make will be the highlight of a summer gathering. With plenty of flavor combinations possible, there’s also lots of room for creativity.
What is Semifreddo?
Semifreddo is an elegant frozen dessert that translates to ”half-cold” or “half-frozen” in Italian. Dating back to the 19th century, semifreddo is still popular today and can most often be seen on menus at Italian restaurants. It’s akin to a frozen mousse and relies on a short list of simple ingredients that transform into a perfect summer treat.
There’s no ice cream maker or churning required, making it easy and accessible for any home cook.
Similar to ice cream, the flavor combinations for semifreddo are endless. This semifreddo recipe is the perfect base for any additional flavors or add-ins. Consider folding in cookie pieces, cake crumbs, or chopped nuts before freezing. Avoid fresh fruit, since it can become icy and hard.
Once the semifreddo is unmolded, it can be topped with a variety of fruits, jams, sauces, or whatever you desire. The strawberry compote recipe below is easy to adapt to a variety of berries (like raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries), and can be embellished with a drizzle of chocolate sauce, melted white chocolate, or toasted slivered almonds.
Try topping semifreddo with these sauce recipes:
- Caramel Sauce
- Blueberry Sauce (from our Blueberry Cheesecake recipe)
- Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Custard Sauce)
- Raspberry Sauce (from our Chocolate Chip Pancakes recipe)
Tips and Tricks for the Best Semifreddo
While semifreddo is simple compared to many frozen desserts, there is some technique involved in bringing this dessert together.
- It’s imperative to whip the cream to stiff peaks but not to over-whip it, making it clumpy.
- The egg mixture must be cooked to the proper temperature—not only to cook the eggs, but also to ensure that the mixture whips to the right consistency. Use an instant-read thermometer and make sure the tip is submerged at least an inch.
- When folding the whipped cream into the egg base, take caution to gently fold the cream in so you don’t deflate all of the air you’ve carefully added.
Making It Ahead
One of the benefits of making a frozen dessert is being able to make it ahead and store it in the freezer. Semifreddo can be made up to 2 weeks in advance without having any adverse effects on the flavor or texture.
Whether you keep it in the freezer for two days or two weeks, make sure to tightly wrap the dessert with plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn. When you’re ready to serve the semifreddo, it can usually be served right away, but depending on how cold your freezer is, you may want to let it stand for 5 minutes at room temperature before cutting into it.
Prepare the pan:
Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer.
Make the whipped cream:
Add the heavy cream and vanilla extract to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl and place it in the refrigerator.
Wash and dry the stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment to use again.
Cook the egg mixture:
Add a few inches of water to a saucepan. The bowl of your stand mixer should fit on top without touching the water. Bring to a simmer.
Combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer and whisk to combine. Set the mixer bowl over the simmering water.
Cook the mixture over the simmering water, whisking constantly, until it registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. The sugar will dissolve and the mixture will be foamy. This process will take somewhere between 5 and 8 minutes.
Whip the hot egg mixture:
Once the mixture reaches temperature, transfer to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the egg mixture is thick, glossy, lightened in color, and cool to the touch.
Fold in the whipped cream and freeze:
Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the yolk mixture using a flexible spatula, then fold in the remaining whipped cream until just combined (do not overmix). Transfer the semifreddo mixture to the prepared loaf pan and use a small offset spatula to smooth the top.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until solid enough to slice, at least 8 hours or overnight.
Make the strawberry compote:
Place the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the strawberries are broken down into a thick, chunky jam, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Let the compote cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. It will keep for up to 2 weeks.
Serve the semifreddo:
When ready to serve, unwrap the semifreddo, invert it onto a platter, and remove the plastic wrap. Top with strawberry compote, sprinkle with nuts (if using), and slice. Serve immediately.
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