FOOD SEMIFREDDO TB

Fresh lemon juice and plenty of zest flavor a semifreddo served with a summer berry compote. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Michael Tercha

Semifreddo means semi-frozen. In a good way. A cream-and-custard-packed-in-a-pan-and-stashed-in-the-freezer way. It doesn’t freeze hard, like ice, it freezes soft, like ice cream.

Raising questions.

For instance: If semifreddo is frozen cream and custard, and ice cream is frozen cream and custard, what separates the two pleasures? Apparently churn. Authorities contend that the constant stirring imposed on ice cream during its initial freeze breaks down ice crystals, yielding a smooth, creamy scoop.

But one bite of luscious semifreddo throws this distinction into dispute. Semifreddo serves up a smooth, creamy slab.

Posing further concerns. For instance: Is churn necessary? What makes semifreddo so delicious? And, after considerable research, why is it all gone?

LEMON SEMIFREDDO

Prep: 30 minutes plus overnight freeze

Cook: 8 minutes

Makes: 1 loaf, serves 8

Semifreddo:

  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 3 large lemons
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Berries:

  • 18 ounces fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 6 ounces fresh blackberries

1. Prep: For semifreddo, line a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving some overhang. Spread almonds across the bottom. Set aside. Whip cream to sturdy peaks. Chill.

2. Whisk: Finely zest and juice the lemons. Measure 5 teaspoons zest and ½ cup juice into the bowl of an electric mixer. (Save remaining zest and juice for the berries.) Stir in sugar, yolks and salt. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until 165 degrees hot, about 8 minutes. Pull pan off heat.

3. Fold: Using an electric mixer, beat yolk mixture until pale, thick and cool, about 6 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Scrape into prepared loaf pan. Smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap, fold up overhang and freeze overnight.

4. Mash: For berries, tumble the blueberries into a large saucepan. Stir in sugar, 1 tablespoon reserved lemon juice, 1 teaspoon reserved lemon zest and the salt. Cook over medium-high heat, mashing many of the berries with the back of a slotted spoon, until saucy, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch slurry; let thicken, 1 minute. Pull pan off heat; stir in blackberries.

5. Plate: Peel plastic from top of semifreddo; invert onto a serving platter. Unwrap. Using a heavy knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry, slice semifreddo into eight 1-inch-thick slabs. Ladle about 1/3 cup warm berry sauce onto a dessert plate. Lay 1 slab semifreddo on top. Repeat. Serve. Smile.

Provenance: My friend Elizabeth gave me this recipe, which she got off Epicurious.com. I’ve adapted it.

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