Friday, May 4, 2012

Lemon Ginger Semifreddo

Back in the wonderful days of pastry school – that time in my life when I fell in love with the creativity of working with so many incredible ingredients and techniques - our curriculum was divided into types of pastry and dessert, grouped by method. Each lecture began with an overview of the history and classical technique for categories of tart doughs, foam cakes, butter cakes, tortes, laminated doughs, creams and custards, breads and crackers, and on and on. We learned about the how and why of what makes these techniques work and the balance of ingredients necessary to make delicious pastry. I was spellbound.

When we got to ice cream and all forms of glace, I was especially intrigued because I'd never made ice cream or sorbet before and had no idea about its composition. Since then, I've become completely fascinated by the explosion of home ice cream production and the endless opportunity to combine ingredients and textures to
produce really delicious flavors. Along with all the other enchanting things in the pastry universe, it's become one of my favorite things to do. Even the mistakes are fun.

Semifreddo is another one of those surprises. Until pastry school, I really had no idea what it was all about. Essentially, it's an Italian take on frozen dessert and a great way to enjoy ice cream without needing an ice cream maker. It has the lightness and texture of a frozen mousse, which is ethereal.

The Lemon Ginger Semifreddo I'm writing about today is a very good and simple example of how easy and delicious this dessert can be. It starts with a lemon curd. For a nice flavor counterpoint, I steep some fresh ginger in warm cream. The flavored cream is chilled, then softly whipped and folded into the lemon curd along with some meringue to form large billows of heavenly mousse. Place all that in the freezer for a few hours and voila! Lemon Ginger Semifreddo.

Bench notes:
- I like lemon curd on the puckery side. If you want a sweeter version, increase the sugar to 3/4 cup and cut back on the zest to one lemon.
- Lemon curd can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 3 days.
- Ginger slices should be about the size and thickness of a quarter coin.
- If you don’t care for ginger, omit it and serve the Lemon Semifreddo with fresh crushed and sugared berries and/or press toasted sliced almonds on top.
- Another absolute favorite is super delicious Pistachio Semifreddo, which is a simple combination of pistachios, meringue and whipped cream folded together with a splash of almond extract.

Lemon Ginger Semifreddo
Serves 8 - 10

1/2 C fresh lemon juice
1/2 C + 2 T sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
zest of 2 lemons
3 oz (6 T) butter

1 C heavy cream
2 slices of fresh ginger, peeled
1 T sugar

2 egg whites
1 T + 1 t sugar

2 T finely chopped crystallized ginger

For the lemon curd, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks and whole egg in a heatproof bowl that will fit over a water bath. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest. Place over a double boiler or bain marie of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water. Cook until the curd thickens, stirring constantly.

Pour the curd through a metal strainer into a clean bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the curd. After a minute or so, stir in the butter to combine thoroughly. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

Place the heavy cream and ginger slices in a saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat, cover and steep for about a half hour while the lemon curd is cooling. Once the cream has steeped, remove the ginger and pour into a bowl. Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes to chill.

Prepare an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" metal loaf pan by lining with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang on all four sides and smoothing it out as much as possible. You can also make a strip of parchment paper with an overhang for the long sides and place on top of the plastic to help form smoother sides.

Beat egg whites until they are opaque and hold soft peaks. Slowly add 1 T + 1 t sugar and beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks.

Whip chilled cream with 1 T sugar until it just holds soft peaks.

Pour cooled lemon curd into a larger bowl and stir to loosen. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in whipped cream. Then fold in the meringue until there are no obvious streaks of white. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the surface. Fold over the parchment (if using) and plastic wrap on top to cover. Place in the freezer for about 6 - 8 hours or overnight.

To serve, run a thin knife or small metal spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen. Unwrap the plastic and parchment (if using) from around the top of the pan. Place a serving plate on top of the pan and invert. Carefully pull off the remaining wrapping.

Slice with a sharp knife and serve immediately. Garnish with finely chopped crystallized ginger.


Cook with Claire said...

I have had the pistachio semifreddo on my "to-do" list for a while and this one looks just as lovely. Thanks very much for another wonderful recipe and loved hearing about your school experience!

csnz said...

Are you making a cookbook anytime soon? Your recipes are amazing...!

pastry studio said...

Hello Claire! And thank you for your generous support.

csnz, welcome to Pastry Studio. Stay tuned!

Victoria said...

This sounds delicious. I love lemon curd, which my English mother used to call lemon cheese. In December I found Seville oranges at Fairway - for the first time ever - and I followed a Nigella recipe and made Seville orange curd. Very yum.

But I must say, I do love all things lemon, so I will be trying this a little later in the month.

pastry studio said...

Victoria, I love citrus but I've never had Seville oranges. I bet a curd made from them would be very intriguing. This recipe for Lemon Semifreddo sans ginger could be done with oranges or limes as well.

thelittleloaf said...

I love using my ice cream maker but sometimes semifreddo's simplicity is all I crave. I love the combination of lemon and ginger here - it most be wonderfully zingy!

Anonymous said...

I will definitely try this. just wanted to ask if semifreddos tend to be on the icy side?

pastry studio said...

Anonymous, no, not in my experience. Like ice cream, as long as there is enough fat and sugar to balance the water content inherent in fruit and other ingredients, it shouldn't be icy.

oferte duni said...

I`ve tried this recipe and i`m really impressed, it has a very good taste. My both child tried it and they like it a lot. Thanks a lot for sharing.

pastry studio said...

oferte duni, thank you. I'm so glad your family enjoyed this. It's a nice cool way to enjoy the great combination of lemon and ginger.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering if it would be okay to freeze it for more than eight hours at a time? Like maybe overnight?

pastry studio said...


Unknown said...

When I got to the step where you whip the heavy cream, the heavy cream refuses to whip. The first time I made the recipe(last week) it took forever, and even then we just barely got soft peaks, I don't even think we did, we might've been hallucinating for our own survival. Afterwards, the semifreddo's texture came out a bit funny I think. Then tonight when I tried it, my mother and I got really frustrated, because we whipped it forever and nothing happened, then my mother tried beating it a bit but that didn't work, so I tried manually whipping it a bit and at first I thought it had worked, until I discovered that I had made butter :( so my main question is, how long does it take to form peaks, and do we whip it manually or electrically or...? Just as a note, we made the version without ginger, so we didn't steep the cream at all after we simmered it. Was that... Bad?

pastry studio said...

Hello, Savanah. The main thing when whipping cream is to make sure the heavy cream is very cold and if possible, your beaters or whisk is also cold. If you're doing it by hand, use a medium to large whisk. It should only take about 3 -4 minutes for 1 cup, whisking quickly and incorporating all the cream with each turn of the hand. If you're using an electric beater, it will take a bit less time. Since you can over beat from one second to the next, as it begins to thicken, I stop every few seconds to see if it's done. You want it to have a soft lift when lifted. If it starts to look grainy, you're taking it too far.

Here's are a couple of brief videos to illustrate -

By hand:

By electric beater:

Hope this helps!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much! Going to try again tomorrow night!