One of my favorite benefits of having a husband who travels ALL THE TIME (for those of you who always wonder how I can travel so much, ever heard of frequent flyer miles and hotel points? ) is that I get to have a girls night almost every week. This usually involves just me and one of my BFF’s Michele, cooking dinner, drinking wine, watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette (seriously, it’s our version of sports, you’ve never heard two people yell at the TV more). Last week, my friend Donna hosted a girls night- her husband is in Europe for the week…PARTY TIME! Donna, my friend Felicia, and I planned a lovely night of girl talk and wine consumption. *
I am known to make desserts. Good ones. So, for almost any dinner party I am invited to, I am either asked to bring dessert (if it’s a potluck style party) or I offer to make something. I love making dessert, although it can sometimes be a futile effort, because by the time it comes around to dessert everyone is either too full or too drunk to appreciate my culinary prowess with the sweets. Oh well, at least the drunks won’t realize the calories they are about to consume.
Back to my latest girls night with Donna and Felicia…my most recent edition of Sunset magazine had this fabulous looking recipe for a Strawberry Semifreddo, basically, strawberry ice cream. They also had a recipe for a flourless chocolate, but I didn’t make that one. I texted Donna.
Me: What can I bring?
Donna: Just some wine is fine.
Me: Want me to work up a dessert?
Donna: Sure! I’d love that. You’re awesome. (Ok, maybe that last part is made up.)
I had just bought a pound of strawberries the day before, so I set about buying the other ingredient I was missing: heavy whipping cream. I actually went to 3 places in my hood before finding some, which was really annoying (and if you know me, I get annoyed easily and quickly, and it’s not pretty. I mean, childlike tantrum ugly). I got back to my kitchen and set about organizing my shit. I read through the recipe, but only sort of. I have a bad habit of doing that. I’ve messed up a lot of recipes by not reading it the whole way through. If you get nothing else from this post, get that: READ THE WHOLE DAMN RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH.
At first glance this recipe seemed easy enough, only 5 ingredients. But there seemed to be a lot of steps. And a lot of bowls. And pots. Which translates into a lot of dishes. Thank goodness Rob wasn’t home, he hates it when I cook something that requires more than one pot or pan. The semifreddo (which means half cold, or half frozen in Italian) was actually very easy to make, but also quite time consuming for such a simple dessert.
Many bowls (all told, I used 5 bowls), plus one pot of boiling water, 2 whisks, one KitchenAid stand mixer (along with my Vitamix, best kitchen investment), a couple of spatulas, a cutting board, and a square 8 x 8 pan later I was done. Just in time to run out the door to teach my circuit training class at the gym around the corner.
On my way home from teaching I ran into my neighbor, and friend Matteo, who just happens to be Italian, and owns one of the best restaurants in San Diego, Buona Forchetta. I proudly told him I was making a Strawberry Semifreddo to take to a friend’s house. He promptly launched into a string of words in Italian, of which I caught a couple here and there. But, I am pretty sure he called me a bad name and made fun of my pronunciation of the word semifreddo. Ok, I know he did that because he proceeded to school me on how to properly pronounce semifreddo (there is a heavy emphasis on the “ddo” apparently because it has two d’s instead of one). So, to be culturally sensitive to my Italian friends, this dessert is actually called “semifreddo di fragola”.
Strawberry Semifreddo, adapted from Sunset Magazine, April 2015
- 3 cups sliced strawberries plus 3 cups halved berries (2 1/4 lbs. total)
- 3/4 cup sugar, divided (depending on how sweet your strawberries are, you can use less than this); also just set your sugar out, don’t measure out the ¾ cup, you’ll need to divvy it up a tablespoon at a time
- 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
- 5 large egg yolks*
- plus 4 large egg whites
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. orange flower water*, or 2 1/2 tsp. orange zest, divided (I completely omitted this ingredient, because I couldn’t find it and didn’t have the time or patience to run around town looking for it)
- Pinch of kosher salt
Steps (READ THEM ALL!)
- Line an 8-in. square pan with plastic wrap, letting it overhang on 2 sides. Freeze.
- Coarsely mash sliced berries with 2 tbsp. sugar in a medium saucepan, using a potato masher. Bring to a simmer over high heat; then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until slightly jamlike, 5 to 6 minutes. Set pan in a bowl of ice and water.
- Beat cream in a medium bowl with a mixer until soft peaks form. Chill.
- Set out a medium saucepan and 2 medium heatproof bowls (each should fit snugly in pan without touching bottom). In first bowl, whisk egg yolks with 2 tbsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. orange flower water or 2 tsp. orange zest. Put egg whites, 6 tbsp. sugar, and the salt in second bowl.
- Fill saucepan with 1 in. water and bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. Set bowl with yolks in pan and whisk until thick and ribbons form at bottom of bowl, 3 1/2 to 5 minutes; don’t overcook. Set aside.
- Set bowl with whites in pan. Using a clean whisk, whisk until frothy and warmed through (105° on an instant-read thermometer), 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and beat with a mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.**
- Stir half of strawberry mixture into yolk mixture. Fold this into whites, then fold in whipped cream. Gently fold in remaining strawberry mixture, leaving some streaks. Pour into prepared pan. Wrap airtight and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.
- Combine halved berries, remaining 2 tbsp. sugar, and 1 tsp. orange flower water or 1/2 tsp. orange zest in a bowl. Unwrap semifreddo, turning onto a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. Set 1 or 2 in each bowl. Let stand until edges soften, 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon berries around semifreddo.***
Make ahead: Through step 7, up to 2 weeks.
*Y’all HELL-thy Week was last week. OK.
** I don’t have an instant –read thermometer, I probably should, so I just sort of timed it for about 1 ½ minutes. ***Since I was only serving 3 ladies, I only used 1/4lb of strawberries, doused them in Grand marnier, and served those over the semifreddo. It was awesome. Try it.