Almond Praline Semifreddo with Roasted Apricots
Have you ever made a semifreddo? This was my first. Why, I can't imagine since I like ice cream so much. The name is Italian for "half cold" and refers to any of various chilled or partially frozen desserts. While this may be considered a frozen dessert, because of the egg whites or whipped cream folded into a semifreddo, it doesn't freeze as hard as ice cream. And I bet you'll be pleased to read you don't need an ice cream maker either. When you take a spoonful, you'll find the semifreddo melts quickly in your mouth and has an airy, mousse-like texture. Really lovely.
Just because I'm crazy for almond anything, I made an almond praline semifreddo. We loved it, but there simply wasn't anywhere near enough praline :D, so next time I'm going to double the praline part of the recipe. Not only would I have loved more in the semifreddo itself, but I ran out while sprinkling it on top as a garnish.
There are lots of different ways a semifreddo can be plated: you can freeze the entire batch in a large container and scoop it out to serve just like ice cream or freeze it in individual paper cupcake liners. Just peel them away to serve. I really prefer the presentation of a slice of semifreddo, so I made mine in a loaf pan. Apricots are wonderful right now so I roasted some lovely fresh ones. Of course, you can use any fruit you like. There is a wonderful recipe at Pastry Studio (one of my favorite blogs), using cherries with an almond semifreddo. I included her recipe after the at the end because cherries are lovely right now too! But if you want to make a really simple topping for your semifreddo, just mash your favorite fresh berries and add some sugar to taste.
Almond Praline Semifreddo
Gourmet, July, 1990
(Please note that I have doubled the praline part of this recipe)
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup sliced almonds with skin (1 ounce), toasted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream
Line a lightly oiled 8 1/2-by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
Cook 2/3 cup sugar in a dry small heavy skillet over medium heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until a deep golden caramel. Stir in almonds to coat and scrape onto baking sheet. Cool, then break into pieces. Pulse in a food processor until praline is finely ground (do not grind to a paste).
Beat eggs and remaining 1/4 cup sugar with a pinch of salt in a 2-quart metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water using a handheld electric mixer at high speed until tripled in volume and very thick, about 8 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until mixture is cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Stir in extract.
With cleaned beaters, beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Fold about one third of whipped cream into egg mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining cream and about 3/4 of the praline gently but thoroughly (reserve remaining praline for garnish). Spoon into loaf pan and freeze, covered, until firm, at least 6 hours.
Uncover semifreddo and invert onto a chilled platter, using plastic wrap to help pull it from mold. Sprinkle reserved praline on top. Slice semifreddo crosswise and serve with the apricots.
Honey-cardamom Roasted Apricots
From Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, June 2010.
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 large or 12 small apricots (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved, pitted
3 1/2 tablespoons honey, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix brown sugar and cardamom in 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Add apricots. Pour 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons honey over fruit; dot with butter. Roast until apricots are tender, occasionally basting with syrup in dish, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes.
From Pastry Studio
3 cups (about 1 lb, 2 oz) fresh cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup sugar, to taste
zest of half of a large orange
1 -2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
To make the cherry compote, place the pitted cherries with the water and sugar in a saucepan. Add the orange zest and simmer until the juices are rendered and the cherries are fairly tender, tasting for the right amount of sugar. Remove from heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Cool completely.
Notes: Semifreddo can be made 3 days ahead and kept frozen, well wrapped.
Apricots with syrup can be made 2 days ahead and chilled.