Recipe of the Week: Chocolate Hazelnut Semifreddo
Semifreddo translates as “semi frozen” or “semi cold” in Italian. It is basically a mousse-like dessert made from combining an egg custard with whipped cream and then freezing until firm. I love making it because it can be made ahead and kept in the freezer. Serves eight. (Chef tip: Frangelico is a sweet hazelnut liquor from Italy; you can substitute any other sweet liquors, like Amaretto or Kahlua.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sifted confectioners sugar
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup granulated sugar, divided use
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup Frangelico liquor
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Whipped cream, for garnish (optional)
To make semifreddo, line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting excess drape over the sides. Carefully smooth out the bottom and the sides as much as possible.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla paste on high speed until stiff peaks have formed. Transfer to another bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
Melt chocolate and frangelico in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Once smooth, set aside to cool slightly before using.
Put water and sugar in small, heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Place candy thermometer into sugar syrup. Boil syrup until it reaches a temperature of 250°F and sugar is completely melted. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Make sure not to burn.
Add the egg whites to stand mixer and mix on high speed until frothy, about five minutes. Reduce the speed to low. Slowly add half of the hot sugar mixture. Continue beating until stiff peaks have formed, about five minutes. Remove to another bowl and reserve.
Add the egg yolks and amaretto liquor to a clean mixer bowl. Beat on high speed until pale and fluffy, about five minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining hot sugar mixture. Beat on high speed until mixture is cold and pale yellow. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Fold the chilled whipped cream into the cooled egg yolk mixture. Add melted chocolate to the mixture and gently stir until blended.
Gently fold in the egg whites, a third at a time. Before folding in the last third add the hazelnuts. Continue mixing until all of the egg whites are incorporated into the mix, but be careful not to deflate the batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Spread evenly with a spatula, and cover with another piece of plastic wrap, smoothing out any wrinkles with your hands. Tuck excess plastic wrap over the top. Freeze until firm, at least 8-12 hours but preferably overnight.
To serve, invert semifreddo onto a serving platter and remove pan and plastic wrap. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature to soften. Slice semifreddo into 3/4-inch slices and serve with more hazelnuts, chocolate sauce and whipped cream, if desired.
CHOCOLATE FUDGE SAUCE:
(makes about two cups)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sweet liquor
When ready to serve, make chocolate sauce by melting butter and cream together in a small sauce pan. Pour hot cream over chocolate pieces in a bowl. Add liquor and stir until smooth and chocolate pieces have all melted.