Saturday, July 23, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog For A Semifreddo break

While temperatures soar to more than 100 degrees here in New Jersey and many parts of the U.S., I'm giving the oven a respite and thinking about cold foods - and of course gelato is one everybody's favorites. You may not be able to whip up gelato in your kitchen, but you can make its close cousin - semifreddo.  But first a small tour of my gelato debauchery in Italy.

My favorite shop in Rome - Giorgiagel - is no longer in business. But I found a new place that has won my heart, even if it's a little farther from the neighborhoods where I normally roam. More about that later. This cone is from Corona - at Largo Argentina - and it's a winner - a rich, dark chocolate, a dulce de leche that's loaded with caramel, and a creamy ricotta gelato - all topped with whipped cream.

Here's a cup of dark chocolate and coconut (my standard order) from Fior de Luna, a consistently reliable place on Viale Trastevere.

This year I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about I Caruso, located a tad northwest of the Piazza Repubblica, on Via Collina 13, in a neighborhood that's a little off the beaten tourist path. You'll see businessmen as well as young mothers lined up outside the store, including this man holding a cone of dark chocolate and stracciatella (chocolate chip) ice cream.

The gelato is made right before your eyes.

I ordered the dark chocolate and pistachio. By the way, anytime you see pistachio or mint chocolate chip gelato or ice cream that's bright green, steer clear of that store. Pistachio may have a slight green tinge if it's made without artificial colorings, but it should never be the color of grass. The ice cream cone I ate at I Caruso was transcendent. I was enraptured with the creamy richness of my cone that tasted like smooth, frozen chocolate pudding. It was so good, I forgot to snap a picture until it was almost too late.

Here's a real cutie caught in the act in the Tuscan town of Castellina in Chianti. This shop - Le Volte - was located in a vaulted medieval passageway and a little off the main drag, but definitely worth searching out. I think this little fellow agrees.

I ordered the stracciatella and a flavor that was a combo of pistachio, almond and hazelnut gelato.

If you don't have a trip to Italy planned in the next week, or even if you don't have an ice cream maker, you can beat the heat and feel a little Italian with this semifreddo recipe - "semifreddo" by the way, translates to "half cold." Let's hope it helps keep you a little cooler too.

Start by cooking the egg yolks with some sugar over a double boiler. Make sure you continue to whisk or you might end up with scrambled eggs. It's ready when it makes ribbons like this.

Crush some amaretti cookies in the food processor and break up some chocolate into small bits. 
Blend the egg yolk mixture, the chocolate and the amaretti cookies together with whipped cream, then fold in the whipped egg whites.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap and put some of the crushed amaretti cookies on the bottom.

Pour in the semifreddo mixture, cover and freeze.

When you unmold it, it will look like this, with the cookies all flattened on top. I think it looks prettier if it has some texture on top, so I save some of the cookies to sprinkle on top before serving.
Doesn't that look better?

You can make it for company ahead of time and keep it in your freezer.

.....or not.

Amaretti and Chocolate Chip Semifreddo

This recipe is also delicious using torrone candy instead of the amaretti cookies. The torrone has to be the rock-hard kind, since it needs to get crushed in the food processor to small bits. The soft torrone that's sold in small packages and seen everywhere at Christmas won't work for this. I was all set to make this semifreddo with hard torrone I had bought a few months ago when I realized that the package had softened with the summer's heat and humidity. Thus, amaretti and chocolate chip semifreddo was born. 

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed amaretti cookies

  • 6 eggs

  • 6 T. sugar

  • 1 T. rum, Amaretto, marsala or other liqueur

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup good dark chocolate or chocolate bits, chopped roughly

  1. Place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until they are large crumbs.

  2. Separate the eggs, but you will only need four of the egg whites. Save the other two egg whitess for another use.

  3. In a double boiler, place the egg yolks and the sugar. Whisk over warm water until you get a velvety, thick mass. (Don't move away from this or you could end up with scrambled eggs. Some recipes call for using raw eggs, but I like to err on the side of caution and cook my egg yolks.) Let it cool slightly, then add the rum, whisking all the while. Place it to the side or in the refrigerator, but if you let it chill too long, it will become hard to work with.

  4. Beat the cream until stiff. Add the egg yolk mixture, 1 1/4 cups of the amaretti cookies, and the chocolate bits to the whipped cream, folding everything together.

  5. Whip the four egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg yolk, whipped cream and amaretti mixture into the egg whites.

  6. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Sprinkle half of the remaining 1/4 cup of amaretti crumbs on the bottom, then pour the mixture on top. 

  7. Place a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on top and freeze overnight.

  8. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge, let the pan soak for a few seconds in hot water, and flip onto a platter. Pull off the parchment or plastic wrap and sprinkle the remaining amaretti crumbs on top. Slice and serve with chocolate sauce, if desired.

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  1. My birthday is Dec.23, and I am requesting this now, even in the winter! WOW! YUM!

    That photo of the baby is hilarious, with the binky, is it a boy or girl? ha!

  2. That looks wonderful! Today I had "Italian Pistachio" and "Cappucino Chocolate Chip" gelati for lunch as I was out shopping. :)

  3. You'd better not use the oven when it's that hot! that semifreddo is marvelous. So tempting.



  4. You made me feel cooler fact my birthday is tomorrow..I certainly would not mind this as my cake! Yum!

  5. My birthday is Nov 18th, and I want this now! I'm half tempted to make this over the weekend. I don't have an icecream maker, and I've never made semifreddo, I love your recipe! I even have some broken amaretti cookies all I have to do is run out for the cream!!
    Gelato is worth every bit of the calories!

  6. This looks delicious! Here we are having a cold tropical winter. We have a heater on! So icecream is not what we are thinking about but I can easily be changed looking at this wonderful treat!

  7. My birthday was last week and I didn't have dessert so I will make up for it tomorrow with this. You do know I am duly noting the gelato places and addresses! Just made pistachio gelato - easy and delicious and the palest flecks of green. I have to work out now - gained two pounds reading the blog entry. A cool down is coming. We are down to 90 degrees!

  8. Your semifreddo is really gorgeous and it would make a quite impression on an Italian table, quite the opposite: recently, good ice cream shops are less and less, here in Italy, and a lot of people prefer making it at home, rather than to eat a plastic dessert!
    p.s. are you in Italy, in this moment?

  9. I so love this post and you had me craving for ice cream!

  10. Timely recipe and ideal for the many who don't have an ice cream maker. My aunt makes ice creams like this all the time.

    Crumbled amaretti are the original "cookies & cream" ice cream I say.

  11. I love the amaretti cookies on top! I have been craving The Bent Spoon ice cream but this looks even better!

  12. I bet everyone on the East Coast is thanking you for this post Linda, hope it's cooling off now.

    Love how you sauced the plate.

  13. When my family visited Italy ten years ago we had to try the best gelato in every new town we visited. We'd ask a few people at the hotel,cab drivers and even people on the street to get a consensus of where to go for the "best" It is a fun memory!

    I don't have an ice cream maker so your semifreddo recipe will be wonderful to try! I just have to free up some freezer space first as I visited Costco this weekend and stocked

  14. cara Linda, questo semifreddo è davvero goloso, prendo nota della ricetta, è l'ideale dessert estivo che cercavo, grazie! un abbraccio forte....

  15. This looks so delicious, Linda. I've never made a semifreddo before and am impressed by how easily it goes together. I bought some amaretti cookies at an Italian deli in Chicago so am all ready to make this yummy dessert.

    Love the photo of that little guy with the big beautiful eyes. What a cutie pie!

  16. what a great semifreddo..and I love the cookie crumbled on top. Can't seem to get enough cold things here in Phoenix

  17. So great that you don't need an ice cream maker for this. Looks so great, and would be so wonderful right about now where we are routinely in the triple-digits right now!

  18. Oh my. This is just the dessert to help me forget our sweltering temperatures—ok, you twisted my arm :)—I'm making this one!

  19. Linda, When I went back to get the mussels recipe, I realized that I had not seen this post. I just have to say that this is making my mouth water! We will be having your mussels for dinner tonight...thank you.