Espresso Semifreddo

espresso semifreddo

Some chocolate sauce puts this over the top.

Semifreddo is a type of Italian still-frozen dessert. Still-frozen desserts do not have extra air churned into them. To make sure they are soft enough to eat, whipped cream, whipped egg whites or both are incorporated into the product before freezing.

This recipe is for an item very much like ice cream. Other types of semifreddi include frozen mousses, frozen souffles and bombes.


6 large egg yolks

4 oz granulated sugar

2 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 ½ cups heavy cream

You will need a double boiler or a sauce pan and non-reactive bowl that fit together to make one.

Bring water to a simmer in the pan for the double boiler. Make sure the water is not high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl.

Combine the yolks and sugar in the non-reactive (stainless steel or glass) bowl. Whip until thick and light.

Scald the milk.

Add the hot milk to the yolk mixture VERY slowly. Make sure to stir constantly with a whisk.

Put the bowl over the simmering water. Stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Try to move the spoon or spatula in a figure-eight motion—this helps to ensure you move the stuff on the bottom around. Make sure you scrape the sides of the bowl as you stir. You don’t want a skin to form around the edges. If a skin does form, don’t stir it in.

Keep cooking until the mixture coats the back of the spoon or spatula. If you want to be all technical, cook until the mixture reaches 185 F. Take the bowl off the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Put the bowl in cool water. Don’t let any water get into the bowl. Watch out if you use a glass bowl and be careful to prevent shattering.

You have just made crème anglaise! You could stop here and just use this vanilla custard sauce as is. Coat a plate and top it with your dessert. Drizzle it over something.

Stir in the espresso powder. Taste. Add more espresso powder if you think you need it.

Put a sheet of plastic wrap on top. Make sure it touches the crème anglaise to prevent the development of a skin.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks.

Once the crème anglaise is only slightly warm to the touch, pour it into the whipped cream. Gently fold them together. Fold in from the outside edge of the whipped cream. This helps to keep as much air as possible in the product.

After the custard and the cream are thoroughly mixed, pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container. Place a sheet of plastic on top so it touches the surface of the semifreddo. Make sure there is some room at the top of the container to allow for the expansion of the semifreddo.

Semifreddo is often frozen in loaf pans and served in slices. I think it looks creepy that way. I scoop mine. If you want to slice yours, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap before filling.

Freeze overnight.

This comes out rich, smooth and not too sweet. To me, it tastes like that perfectly balanced cup of coffee you never quite manage to mix. Just enough cream and sugar to take the edge off the coffee while enhancing it.


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