Semifreddo ranks up there as one of my family’s favorite desserts. For the unacquainted, semifreddo is a Italian dessert that looks like ice cream, but it’s much easier to make, and in fact doesn’t require an ice cream maker at all. The word literally translates to “half frozen,” and indeed it’s an incredible blend of textures in various phases of coldness.
Traditionally a semifreddo is made in a loaf pan, removed, cut into slices and plated- though when it’s just us, often we get out the ice cream scoop and dig in. As far as my kids are concerned, cones rule!
Two things I love about this recipe is that, as far as desserts go, it is on the healthier side, and secondly, that the base recipe is infinitely adaptable. The Dulce de Leche Semifreddo is a fan favorite, but I have also given you several variations at the end of the recipe, or have fun and experiment with your own. One last note on the recipe… I use yogurt because I enjoy the tanginess and healthfulness it brings to the semifreddo, but using freshly whipped unsweetened heavy cream is a delicious alternative.
Dulce de Leche Semifreddo
- 3 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup store-bought dulce de leche if you can’t find it, use your favorite caramel instead
- 1 cup Greek yogurt or substitute 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
- 10 store-bought gingersnaps
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Use a food processor to finely grind the gingersnaps with the sugar. Pour in the melted butter and pulse to combine. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap so that it overhangs by about 2 inches. Press the cookies on the bottom of the pan and set in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
- Fill a saucepan with water to about 2 inches high and bring to a simmer. Find a large heat-proof bowl that will fit on the saucepan without touching the water. Place the eggs, sugar, water, vanilla and salt in the bowl and place it over the saucepan. With electric hand-held beaters, beat the eggs on high over the simmering water for 5 minutes. If you don’t have electric beaters you can use a whisk while on the heat, then transfer the mixture to a stand mixer (i.e. Kitchen-Aid mixer) to finish beating. You want the mixture to be light, white and fluffy.
- Remove from the heat and beat for another minute or two, then let cool for 10 minutes. Gently fold in the yogurt.
- Spoon about a third of the mixture on top of the cookies in the loaf pan. Next, take spoonfuls of the dulce de leche, and using about half of it, dollop it down the center, dragging it to the sides a little bit. It is okay if its not perfectly even. It is better that way in fact. Cover with more semifreddo, do another layer of dulce de leche, and finally cover with any remaining semifreddo. Wrap the plastic wrap over top and freeze at least 6 hours. It will keep in the freezer for up to a week, but I promise you it won’t last that long!
- To serve, using the plastic wrap pull it out of the loaf pan, unwrap and place on a platter. Cut into slices and serve. *If you are not concerned with presentation, skip the plastic wrap and unmolding from the loaf pan, and just scoop it out with an ice cream scoop and enjoy.
Tips & Tricks
- Cookies and Cream Semifreddo Couldn’t be simpler. Crush oreos and mix into the semifreddo.
- Nutella Semifreddo Instead of the dulce de leche, slightly warm nutella so that you can drizzle it in layers. This version is slightly better using heavy cream in the base instead of yogurt. Crushed, toasted hazelnuts would be a nice garnish.
- Fruit Puree Semifreddo Puree ripe plums with a little sugar, strain to remove the skins, then drizzle in layers. Or try roasting strawberries with brown sugar until broken down and syrupy, blend or crush with a potato masher and mix in to the filling.
- Lemon Semifreddo Use 10-12 vanilla wafer cookies and crush them in a food processor with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Press into the bottom of your loaf pan. When adding the yogurt or cream to the whipped egg whites, blend in 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Fold together and fill the loaf pan.