If you've never had a semifreddo, it translates as "semi frozen" or "semi cold" in Italian. It is basically a mousse-like dessert made from combining a custard with whipped cream, and then freezing until firm (mind you, there are a number of other variations of this dessert). The best part about semifreddo? It doesn't require an ice cream maker. The worst part? Be prepared to wash a lot of bowls.
I researched a number of sources before getting started; there are certainly no shortage of recipes for semifreddo out there. I settled on adapting the vanilla semifreddo with rhubard compote from the always-inspiring Sunday Supper at Luques by Suzanne Goin. The thing that intrigued me most about Goin's recipe was first that it was no-cook (never a bad thing in the middle of summer), and second that it used beaten egg yolks and beaten whites—neither being techniques I had seen anywhere else.
What resulted is a super-airy rendition of peach ice cream, which is certainly never a bad thing in my opinion. The semifreddo cuts into beautiful slices, adding a bit of flair to the standard two scoops. And while it is just a tad bit labor intensive, by no means is it difficult. It involves just enough effort to make it not worthy for everyday, but it should definitely be in every cooks arsenal of perfect-for-company desserts!
Peaches and Cream SemifreddoAdapted from Sunday Suppers at Luques by Suzanne Goin
1 pound (about 4) ripe peaches, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar, divided
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting excess drape over the sides. Carefully smooth out the bottom and the sides as much as possible.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed until stiff peaks have formed. Transfer to another bowl and chill.
Clean the bowl and whisk attachment. Add the egg yolks, vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup sugar. Beat on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Clean the bowl and whisk attachment. Add the egg whites and mix on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minutes. Increase speed to high. Slowly add sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks have formed, about 4 minutes.
Fold the chilled whipped cream into the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the egg whites, a third at a time. Before folding in the last third, add the diced peaches. Continue mixing until all of the egg whites are incorporated into the mix, but be careful not to deflate the batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Spread evenly with a spatula, and cover with another piece of plastic wrap, smoothing out any wrinkles with your hands. Tuck excess plastic wrap over the top. Freeze until firm, at least 8 hours but preferably overnight (and up to a week).
To serve, invert semifreddo onto a serving platter and remove pan and plastic wrap. Let stand 10 - 15 minutes at room temperature to soften. Smooth top and sides with a warm knife if needed. Slice and serve with fresh peaches and shortbread cookie crumbles. (You can also scoop semifreddo like ice cream, if desired.)
(Images: Nealey Dozier)