Semifreddo agli amaretti

Frankdessert32 Comments

Semifreddo agli amaretti

This little blog started out 11 years ago, to the day. Over the years since, we’ve presented recipes for gelato, sorbetto and granita. But for some reason, in all this time, we’ve neglected another wonderful category of Italian frozen desserts, the semifreddo.

It’s an odd omission, since the semifreddo may be the easiest of all frozen desserts to make at home. It requires only eggs, cream and sugar. And no need for churning or fancy special equipment, either, just a loaf pan.

Semifreddo means ‘semi cold’. The name is a reference to the fact that it’s served at a slightly lower temperature than gelato. Essentially a frozen mousse, it remains beautifully fluffy and creamy because the eggs and cream are whipped separately with the sugar until frothy. The air and sugar, along with liqueur in some recipes, keeps the semifreddo from getting so cold it forms crystals or hardens too much. That said, like other frozen desserts, a semifreddo still improves with a few minutes at room temperature before serving.

Once you learn the basic technique, you can mix and match endless flavorings, toppings and even sauces for your semifreddo. This one has amaretti cookies (which adds some crunchiness along with lovely flavor) and amaretto liqueur inside, along with sliced almonds on top. It might well be my personal favorite kind of semifreddo, but it’s only one of many, many possibilities. It’s all up to you.

Ingredients

Makes a large loaf serving at least 6

  • 3 eggs
  • 350ml (1-1/2 cups) heavy cream
  • 50g (2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2-3 Tbs confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 75-100g (3-4 oz) amaretti cookies, crumbled
  • Sliced almonds, q.b.
  • 2-3 Tbs amaretto liqueur, or to taste (optional)

Directions

Separate the eggs.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until the sugar has entirely melted and the yolks have taken on a light, frothy texture.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with heaping spoonful of the confectioner’s sugar until they form stiff peaks.

In yet another bowl, whip the cream with a heaping spoonful of the confectioner’s sugar until it, too, forms stiff peaks.

Now fold the crumbled amaretti into the whisked yolks, along with the liqueur if using, with a spatula.

Add the whipped whites and cream into the bowl with the egg yolk mixture, gingerly folding them, too, into the mix. Use a circular motion, scooping up from the bottom of the bowl until you have a uniform batter.

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap (cling film) and pour in your batter. Smooth out the top as much as you can, then lay some plastic wrap over the top.

Place the loaf pan in the freezer and leave it for at least 4-5 hours, or overnight.

Uncover and then unmold your semifreddo on to a serving plate. Gently remove the plastic wrap. Cover the top of the semifreddo with the sliced almonds, pressing them gently so they stick to the surface.

Let the semifreddo rest for about 15-20 minutes before slicing to serve.

Semifreddo agli amaretti

Notes on the Semifreddo

In the interest of simplicity, I’ve overturned a bit of tradition here: The oldest recipes call for making your semifreddo with sugar syrup, still warm but not hot, rather than sugar, for whisking into your eggs and cream. This may improve the texture of your semifreddo a bit. But I find that caster sugar and confectioner’s sugar melt nicely if you whisk it up with enough vigor. This saves an extra, rather tricky step and produces a perfectly acceptable texture.

What counts as a semifreddo is actually a complicated topic. Allegedly, a true semifreddo italiano includes just the egg whites whipped with sugar syrup, called a meringue, folded together with whipped cream. But semifreddo recipes can call for just the egg yolks whisked with sugar syrup, called a pâte à bombe, mixed with whipped cream. For the nerdy, you should properly call this form of semifreddo a “parfait“. Yet another subcategory called biscotto ghiacciato is made with meringue, whipped cream and fruit purée.

For my semifreddo, following a recipe I found in Il cucchiaio d’argento, one of the great encyclopedic Italian cookbooks, I’ve included both the egg white meringue and the egg yolk based pâte à bombe. I like the lift that the meringue brings to the table, but I also like the richness of the pâte à bombe. And in any event, why let either yolks or whites go to waste?

Variations

As mentioned in the intro, the possible flavorings for your semifreddo are practically endless. Il cucchiaio d’argento includes semifreddo recipes with raspsberry purée, marron glacé, chocolate and torrone. Other fruit purées or crumbled nuts are lovely, too, as are coffee or lemon flavored semifreddi. And so on and on. Just fold your flavoring into the batter as you would the crumbled amaretti cookies here and you’re good to go. If you like, you can hold some in reserve for a topping or, as here, use another ingredient as your topping.

And if you want to get fancy, you can make a sauce to go with your semifreddo. Chocolate or caramel, for example, or perhaps one based on a fruit purée.

And if you want to get even fancier, you can make semifreddo in individual molds, which makes for a perhaps more elegant, if less convivial, presentation than a family-sized loaf. These mini semifreddi need less time to firm up in the freezer, perhaps 2-3 hours.

Storage

Like gelato, you can keep a semifreddo in the freezer for more or less as long as you like, provided you wrap it well to prevent freezer burn. Or so I’m told. I can’t speak from experience as it’s ever lasted that long in our house…

Semifreddo agli amaretti

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: frozen
Servings: 6 or more

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 350ml (1-1/2 cups) heavy cream
  • 50g 2 oz caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2-3 Tbs 2-3 Tbs confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  • 75-100g 3-4 oz amaretti cookies crumbled
  • Sliced almonds,  q.b.
  • 2-3 Tb 2-3 Tbs amaretto liqueur or to taste (optional)

Instructions

  • Separate the eggs.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with the caster sugar until the sugar is entirely melted and the yolks have taken on a light, frothy texture.
  • In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with heaping spoonful of the confectioner's sugar until they form stiff peaks.
  • In yet another bowl, whip the cream with a heaping spoonful of the confectioner's sugar until it, too, forms stiff peaks.
  • Now fold the crumbled amaretti into the whisked yolks, along with the liqueur if using, with a spatula.
  • Add the whipped whites and cream into the bowl with the egg yolk mixture, folding them, too, into the mixture very gingerly. Use a circular motion, scooping up from the bottom of the bowl until you have a uniform batter.
  • Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap (cling film) and pour in your batter. Smooth out the top as much as you can, then lay some plastic wrap over the top.
  • Place the loaf pan in the freezer and leave it for at least 4-5 hours, or overnight.
  • Uncover and then unmold your semifreddo on to a serving plate. Gently remove the plastic wrap. Cover the top of the semifreddo with a layer of the sliced almonds, pressing them gently so they stick to the surface.
  • Let the semifreddo rest for about 15-20 minutes before slicing to serve.

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32 Comments on “Semifreddo agli amaretti”

  1. I love semifreddo. Will have to make this soon!
    Thanks for all the interesting background!
    I just love your blog!

  2. Ah, semifreddo! I fell in love with this wonderful dessert years ago on a trip to Italy. You don’t find it often here in the States, but I have made it at home a couple of times. However, I’ve always gone with fruitier flavors. I’m really loving the idea of almonds and amaretto – what a fun combination in dessert form! I can assure you this wouldn’t last long. And thanks for the notes about semifreddo. I always learn so much from your posts!

  3. Gorgeous. A semifreddo is my favorite dessert to make for company, maybe besides mousse, because you can make it the day ahead. And there are endless versions. Yours is beautiful.

  4. I love semifreddo! I’ve made it only once, years back … a lemon-flavored version. But I was so pleased with how it came out. I’m always telling myself to do that again. I made mine with individual pastry rings, which made such an elegant presentation. Andi it’s so easy! So much easier than ice cream. Thanks for reminding me that I’m long overdue in making another semifreddo!

    1. It’s so good and so easy, Jeff. I think a lemon flavored one may be up next. It’s the season for it, maybe dessert for the 4th?

  5. This is an elegant and tasty dessert. Amaretti are so versatile, I use them in many savory and sweet recipes. Thanks for sharing Frank.! Bravo! Paola

  6. Absolutely love your blog, love the fact I stumbled onto it quite a few years ago, love most things Italianate and love the look of both the plate and the semifreddo . . . have not loved cream for many a decade . . . well, one little negative amongst all these positives . . . 🙂 !

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Eha. I guess if you don’t like cream, this isn’t for you, lol! And I suppose that’s a good thing, at least for your waistline. I do try to limit my forays into creamy desserts, but every once in a while…

  7. Hi Frank,
    I never stop being amazed at the Italian ingenuity when it comes to dessert. I will be making this very soon!
    I’m also a big fan of The Silver Spoon! I also love Pellegrino Artusi’s cookbooks as well.
    Can you recommend other Italian cookbooks from the south of Italy?

    1. Those are both great, classic cookbooks. If you read Italian, I’d recommend picking up the classic modern cookbook on Neapolitan cooking La cucina napoletana by Jeanne Carola Francesconi on your next trip to Italy. It’s my “bible” for Neapolitan cookery. Also excellent are the books by Marinella Penta de Peppo (who also has some YouTube videos) and Napoli in bocca by Antonella Santolini.

      In English, Arthur Schwartz is your author. Yes, believe it or not… He has two excellent cookbooks one specifically on Neapolitan cookery called Naples at Table and another on southern Italian cookery generally, called The Southern Italian Table. The Naples book draws heavily on Francesconi, so it’s a nice way to get to know her book if you don’t read Italian. (Well, my blog is also a good source for that…;-)) Valentina Harris’s Southern Italian Cooking has a nice, if limited selection. For “fancy” southern dishes, I also quite like Jo Bettoja’s Southern Italian Cooking: Family Recipes from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, although I believe it may be out of print by now.

      There is a lovely set of cookbooks on Sicilian cookery books from Wanda Tornabene. I particulary like La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio (available in both English and Italian) and I’ve heard very good things about Sicilian Food by Mary Taylor Simeti.

      And as for Puglia, Puglia: A Culinary Memoire by Maria Pignatelli Ferrante is a lovely cookbook. And for Calabrian cookery, you can’t beat Rosetta Cosentino’s My Calabria. She also has a blog and has more recently been doing some fantastic videos on Facebook.

      Well, there you go. You know, I’ve been meaning to write a post on recommended cookbooks, and thanks to your question, I’ve already written the first draft, lol!

  8. Perfect timing, I was just searching for an easy recipe for something cold. The amaretto is a wonderful flavour but as you suggest, I may add a chocolate sauce. I love the almonds with the skin on, so pretty.

  9. I love a good semifreddo, Frank! Never had one made with amaretti, though — I know I will love this, too, especially as the temperatures are in the 100s every day now.

  10. I like how you’ve simplified this recipe. Looks like you’ve retained all the flavor of the traditional way of making this, but really streamlined the process. Thanks for that. And for a fantastic dish!

  11. This has been on my bucket list for YEARS. For some reason I haven’t posted it and I don’t know why. It’s easy and delicious. You’ve given me a kick in the behind to get off my duff and just do it. I love the touch of the amaretti cookies to it. Looks perfect for the upcoming hot summer day.s Buon weekend, Frank!!

  12. An interesting read Frank. I didn’t know that semifreddo was so doable at home. Sounds like a fun dessert project. Have you ever tried using a silicon mold for this? I have a silicon muffin mold I’d like to try your recipe in.

    1. You’re right. For some reason a lot of people think semifreddo is complicated but the opposite is true. I can’t see why a silicone mold wouldn’t work—if you give it a try, let us know how things turn out.

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