Citrus Semifreddo

Summer in New York is brutal. The tall buildings and congested sidewalks trap heat and it’s like constantly walking through a fiery fog that you just can’t escape. Smoggy nights call for something cool and refreshing, something a bit more frosty than your average dessert.

Cue in, the semifreddo.

Semifreddo, Italian for ‘half cold’, is a semi-frozen treat that’s reminiscent of ice cream. This dessert, whose luscious offerings I learned about on an episode of  ‘Everyday Italian’, is the perfect sweet ending to a long, hot summer day. The citrus semifreddo you see before you is as creamy and light as it looks. The citrus fruit juice and their zest give a tart punch and the whipping cream and egg yolks give a smooth creaminess. No sooner has the fork touched your tongue, than you find yourself purring ‘Mmmmm’ …

This recipe called for amaretti cookies for the crust, which I dearly love. Sadly, my local grocery store didn’t have these cookies so I had to settle for graham crackers that I crumbled. It was still delicious, but I’m sure the amaretti cookies would have taken it over the edge into blissful. If I could have contained my excitement (or subdued the humidity) to make this dessert any longer, I might have sought out another grocery store. But alas, the heat changed my mind for me.

Citrus Semifreddo

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 ounces purchased amaretti cookies, crushed (about 20 small cookies) plus more for sprinkling
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons limoncello
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 lime, zested
  • 1 cup whipping cream

Directions:

Spray a 9 by 5 by 3-inch metal loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line the pan with plastic wrap, allowing the excess to hang over the ends and sides.

Combine the crushed amaretti cookies and the melted butter. Put in the lined pan and press down to firm and form a crust.

Whisk 1/2 cup of the sugar, the egg yolks, lemon juice, lime juice, limoncello, and salt in a large metal bowl to blend. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water).

Whisk the egg mixture until it is thick and creamy, and a thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160 degrees F, about 5 minutes. Set the bowl of custard into another bowl of ice water to cool completely. Stir in the zest.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in another large bowl until firm peaks form. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the custard. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared crust.

Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the custard and freeze until frozen, at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.

Unfold the plastic wrap. Invert the semifreddo onto a platter and peel off the plastic wrap. Cut the semifreddo into 1-inch slices and sprinkle with crushed amaretti cookies and serve.

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