I have promised this recipe to quite a few people and, since I seem to be making it an awful lot, I think it’s time to share. Semifreddo, as you italophiles will know, means half-frozen and, although I’ve heard it referred to as almost ice cream it’s much better than that. For one thing, it’s dead easy and, for another, unlike ice cream, you don’t need any fancy equipment to make it; all you need is a whisk (electric or hand; I’ve used both) and a tiny bit of freezer space and you’re off.
My base recipe is from a page ripped out of a magazine but the page is so decrepit that it’s hard to tell which one. However, since the author is Donna Hay I’m going to plump for Living Etc, which she still writes for. Her recipe is called ‘Caramel semifreddo with salted maple pecans’ and I can safely say it doesn’t work. You need cream that you can whip and, as I discovered when I first made this rather too late in the evening, single cream, as listed in the ingredients, does not… It also uses shop-bought caramel sauce which, instead of swirling neatly through the custard, simply sinks to the bottom and separates.
Having said all that, the salted maple pecans are genius and, combined with a semifreddo recipe that I have tweaked to work, this makes a gorgeous dessert.
To make 1 litre (which is enough for a good four portions) you will need:
For the semifreddo:
2 eggs plus 1 extra yolk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
90g brown sugar
300ml whipping or double cream
190g of flavouring (so shop-bought caramel sauce in her recipe and the pecans below chopped up into it in mine)
For the pecans
120g pecans (I would usually say any nuts will do but, having tried this with walnuts, I’d say stick to pecans; they seem to have just the right amount of sweetness)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons icing sugar
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
Make the pecans first if, like me, you’re mashing them up to go into the semifreddo.
1. Heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas 4, then put the maple syrup, salt and icing sugar into a bowl and stir until you have a sticky gloopy brown mixture. Best to do this before adding the pecans, because otherwise the icing sugar doesn’t dissolve properly and you’re left with white lines of it on the pecans. Add the nuts and stir thoroughly.
2. Line a baking tray with baking parchment, spread the nuts out on it in a single layer then bake for about 10-15 minutes until caramelised.
3. Once the nuts are done, leave them to cool and start on the semifreddo. Put the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla and sugar in a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Whisk either by hand or with an electric mixer until they become thick and pale. You really can tell when this happens: have a look at these pictures…
4. Leave this to cool and now whisk the cream into stiff peaks. Fold the cream through the cooled whisked eggs.
6. Pour into a freezable container and freeze overnight. Once frozen serve with the rest of the pecans (or all of them, if you’ve used caramel sauce). Best to share it; your friends will love you if you do…