Thursday, December 2, 2010

Raspberry Honey Semifreddo

This dessert is one I've had in my repertoire for a while (I think it came from Taste magazine a couple of years ago but can't be sure) and every now and again I have to scratch around for an excuse to make it - it's super summery, but best suits a gathering where it can be gobbled up all in one go.

Semifreddo means "half cold" in Italian, and the dessert is made by freezing then partly defrosting - so you get a nice, cool, summery treat with a frosty centre and soft, luscious outside. This particular recipe involves scattering berries and amaretti biscuits over the top then drizzling the lot with honey, which not only tastes fabulous but makes it look super festive.

I was inspired by these freebies sent to me courtesy of Airborne - the manuka and wildflower seemed well suited to this dish, strong and, well, floral - the sort of flavour that adds a bit of interest to a simple, creamy dessert. 

It's one of those recipes that does require a selection of bowls - this is where I really love the dishwasher! - and takes maybe 15-20 minutes to put together. I think this would be a super Christmas dessert, because of a) the festive appearance and b) the fact that you can do almost everything ahead (and though you have to freeze overnight there is no reason why you couldn't make it a week in advance if that's easier).

The tricky bit is lining your tin with gladwrap - any crease will show up afterwards, so it's worth a bit of a battle to try to smooth it out a bit but I find this part pretty impossible - the photo on the right above was my finished effort, believe it or not! You grease the pan to help the gladwrap behave a bit - it sticks to the pan rather than your fingers this way.

The first step is simmering the milk, honey and vanilla with orange peel to infuse the flavour - the citrus really isn't apparent but as with many things it's the layers of flavour that make it delicious. If it was the only ingredient missing I wouldn't make a trip to the supermarket for it, though! So that's dirty dish #1; the saucepan.

Dirty dish #2 is the bowl for the egg yolks - give them a quick whisk just to break them.

Dirty dish #3 is the bowl for the raspberries. I used frozen - they're just going back in the freezer, there's no way I'm paying fresh raspberry prices for these ones - which are a little easier to handle, since they're not so fragile.

It's a bit ice-creamy in that you slowly add the honey/milk infusion into the egg yolks - but the custard doesn't get thickened. Make sure you strain the mixture unless you like eating giant bits of orange peel!

The next step is to "whisk until cool" - well, I've left the instruction as is (it is important that you don't add hot eggs to the cream) but I let it get about halfway there while whisking and then leave it on the bench for a while.

The thing that gives volume to the creamy part of the semifreddo is whipped cream - check out my super-awesome multi-tasking. That's how we roll in the Cake kitchen. ;-)

Everything gets gently folded together, and poured into the loaf tin. The raspberries make up a pretty large part of the volume, so if you are using frozen ones it will freeze faster - and they do a surprisingly good job at staying suspended in what is quite a thin mixture.

The honey does seem to sink to the bottom, though - which is less apparent with a lighter shade of honey, but I quite like the two-tone effect.

To serve you get to break out some good scattering skills - I don't know about you but I find it great fun to throw ingredients around on a plate. I used strawberries as the fresh raspberries are still pretty pricey, which was fine (though I do love raspberries and am watching out for them!). The recipe recommends to soak them in Grand Marnier but we didn't have any and I quite like unadulterated berries so I left mine - but you could use something else if you prefer non-naked berries. ;-)

Amaretti biscuits are an almond/egg white cookie, and are hard and crunchy (though they get soft quickly when exposed to the air, so eat 'em up quickly after opening!). I really think they're essential here - that little extra bit of texture makes the dish transcend to an altogether higher plain. If you're not an almond fan you could try adding something else - perhaps meringues or biscotti - but I reckon you should try it this way first, you just might be converted. ;-)

The special honey made a big difference - I liked it well enough already that the recipe had made it into my hallowed recipe file, but using a deeply flavoured honey improved it more than I expected - it wasn't overpowering, but provided another level of flavour, making it yet more irresistable. I think this will go well on our Christmas table!

What do you have for pudding on Christmas Day? Traditional puds with custard, more summery desserts, or a mixture?

Raspberry Semifreddo
1 tsp canola oil
¾ cup milk
100g honey
1 vanilla bean, split
4 3cm x 1cm pieces of orange peel
4 egg yolks
2 punnets (500g) raspberries (or frozen)
1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
250ml cream, whipped

Lightly oil a 30cm x 12cm loaf tin then line with plastic wrap, smoothing out creases. Heat the milk and honey with the vanilla bean and orange peel until just boiling. Remove from heat. Whisk the egg yolks then slowly strain in warmed milk. Whisk until completely cool.

In a bowl combine raspberries with brown sugar. Fold the whipped cream into the egg mixture, then fold through the raspberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and freeze overnight.

To serve
1 punnet raspberries
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)
½ cup coarsely crushed amaretti
¼ cup honey

Combine raspberries with Grand Marnier (if using) and set aside. Transfer the semifreddo to the fridge 20 minutes before serving. Invert onto serving dish, scatter raspberries, sprinkle the amaretti and drizzle with honey. Use a large hot knife to cut into slices. Serves 8.


  1. Make sure it goes at my end of the table

  2. wow, this looks wonderful! great flavour combination & i like your use of amaretti biscuits especially as i've had a pack of them hiding at the back of the pantry for ages...might be time to put them to use, finally :)

  3. Mum, we'll see. ;-) Depends how close to me you're sitting!

    Ettie, this is definitely a great purpose for languishing amaretti! :-)


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