Genius Recipes

Brad Spence's Salted Butter Semifreddo

by • July 31, 2013 46 Comments

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Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A no-cook, smooth, scoopable frozen treat without an ice cream maker -- in our new favorite flavor: salted butter.

Brad Spence's Salted Butter Semifreddo from Food52

This week's recipe solves a timeless, universal summer problem: how to make a soft, scoopable ice cream without a fancy machine. Just like that. Solved!

It also takes care of another serious issue, one we didn't know we had: the issue being that we didn't know salted butter was a flavor. It's impossible to say which will be the more lasting improvement to humanity.

More: Another improvement to humanity? S'mores Ice Cream.

Our tale begins when chef Brad Spence was visiting the Jersey Shore with his wife, eating Springer's ice cream, as he had all his life. The butter pecan got him thinking.

Back in his restaurant Amis in Philadelphia, Spence wanted to recreate the not-so-sweet butter ice cream -- but the kitchen didn't (and still doesn't) have an ice cream or gelato machine. So he developed the recipe without fancy equipment, using a method any home cook with a whisk and a few bowls could pull off. 

"It was one of those things -- I put it on the menu and I can't take it off," Spence told me. Now he serves it year-round, on blueberry tarts and in hot fudge sundaes in summer, over spiced pound cake in winter. Scoops melt over yeasted waffles and collapse into maple milkshakes. 

And you have every reason to make it at home -- because all you have to do is whisk and fold. If you have some light machinery to help you, it will take no more than 20 minutes to assemble. (If you're riding on the strength of your whisking arm, maybe a little longer.)

Here's how it works:  

Cream egg yolks and sugar until they curl up, pale and buoyant.

Pour in melted (but cooled) butter and salt.

Fold in whipped cream, then whipped egg whites. (No, the eggs aren't cooked. Just buy them from a trustworthy source -- Spence's come from Green Meadow Farm in Gap, PA -- or you can use pasteurized eggs.)

Once this airy yellow fluff has a chance to freeze for several hours, unattended, it's semifreddo.

Brad Spence's Salted Butter Semifredoo from Food52

It tastes a little like butter pecan or French vanilla (without the pecans, or the vanilla) and perhaps even more like a well-salted sugar cookie dough. It's astonishingly creamy and smooth for what little attention you've given it. Maybe it's all the air you whipped in, or the power of yolks and cream -- but I'd like to think it's the butter. 

Brad Spence's Salted Butter Semifreddo from Food52

As our Managing Editor Brette Warshaw pointed out when she hunted down this recipe, this is an anytime, any season pantry frozen treat. You have butter, eggs, sugar, and salt, don't you? Cream, maybe? And ... a freezer? 

If you answered yes to all of the above, then you don't need to go to the store, or pre-freeze any component parts, or even stop to flick on the stove. There's nothing stopping you. Nothing.

Brad Spence's Salted Butter Semifreddo from Food52

Brad Spence's Salted Butter Semifreddo

Adapted from Amis Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA

Serves 6 to 8

8 egg yolks + 4 egg whites, divided (reserve remaining 4 egg whites for another use)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar (175 grams)
1 stick + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo of Brad Spence from Vetri Family website, all other photos by James Ransom 

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

The Genius Recipes cookbook is here! (Well, almost.) The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites -- all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It'll be on shelves in April, but you can pre-order your copy now.

Tags: genius recipes, genius, brad spence, semifreddo, dessert, frozen, salted butter, ice cream

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Comments (46)


about 1 year ago Nicole

I cannot believe I found this article! I had this exact salted butter semifreddo at Amis and have not been able to get it out of my head since! So excited to try this! It was served with a rhubarb marmalade which was an amazing compliment to the rich, creamy flavor.


over 1 year ago Katie Workman

There is nothing stopping me. Other than it's 11:13 at night, but tomorrow.....


almost 2 years ago Blythe Stanton Cone

I had salted butter ice cream on french toast as a dessert in Paris last month, and can't wait to try this at home!


almost 2 years ago Joshua Cherry

I just made this over the weekend and was blown away by how easy this was to make. I really think this recipe earns the "Genius" stamp. We live in South Africa and everyone of our guests claimed it was the best ice cream they have had in the country. They did not believe me when I said we did not use an ice cream machine.


almost 2 years ago Jack Zatarra

Can you put it in a pastry bag and dole it out like casino butter on desserts. Very attractive, I would think. So far, everyone's just shoveling it with their spoons...not that it's a bad thing.


almost 2 years ago anne

I laughed out loud when I read your liner quote, "how to eat butter in a socially acceptable situation," or some such. I often think, when I am in the kitchen alone, if anyone saw me doing this, I would be publicly scorned! I sneak little bites of icy cold butter when I am cooking! There. I said it. I eat butter. Now, sir, I am off to make butter ice cream. Good-day.


almost 2 years ago walkie74 I'm not supposed to have white lumps in my semifreddo?? Just checking...


almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

No, you shouldn't -- does it look like maybe the egg whites didn't incorporate?


almost 2 years ago walkie74

I think the egg whites made it in fine, but maybe I didn't understand how to fold in the whipped cream without deflating it. Well, phooey. Still tastes good, I guess...


almost 2 years ago Iconic Freedom

When I had this in Philly at the restaurant, I'm not kidding, I thought I was going to cry it was good! LOL!!! awesome stuff


about 2 years ago dao

wow never saw yolks+sugar sooo creamy. Maybe should invest in new machinery? in any case this recipe is brilliant. Tried frozen yoghourt the other day, and even with mascarpone it remains a bit hard to scoop. Will try this one with butter, although will plan my sports routine before I have this in the fridge!


about 2 years ago ina pinkney

YUM! Only problem with using pasturized eggs (which we use exclusively in my restaurant for safety's sake...) is that you can't whip the egg whites. Just doesn't work. And remember, organic doesn't mean 'safe'.


about 2 years ago saltandserenity

Salted butter could be my very new favourite flavour!!!


about 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

You're killing me! I'm a butter swiper too. And a cream swiper. And I love eggs. In other words, this may be my kryptonite, well except that it would just make me crazy happy and sugar high instead of depleting me of my power. And on a summer fruit tart? Or with spice cake? Oh lordy.


about 2 years ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Confessions of a butter swiper.


about 2 years ago LauriL

Haha!Images of all you butterswipers across america has me more than chuckling!


about 2 years ago bclelia

I can't wait to try this! How long would this keep in the freezer and are their specific instructions?


about 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Yes, on the recipe page here! It should last a couple days in the freezer before it starts to deflate a little.


about 2 years ago ElizabethQ

This is wonderful! I do not own an ice cream machine and have been making homemade ice cream by hand. Can't wait to try this semifreddo recipe. Thanks for sharing. Just in time for mid-summer!


about 2 years ago Carolyn Fisher

Years ago my aunt made butter milkshakes. She had joined Weight Watchers and would make a dietetic version with no ice cream and no butter, using hefty portions of her bottles of butter flavoring from the baking aisle at the market. This recipe would have indeed been her favorite! The first ingredient for her spaghetti sauce was one pound of butter and is almost the same recipe as Marcella Hazan's version but of course used much more butter.....


about 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Loving these butter memories!


about 2 years ago Lizzie 4208

This recipe & chef on the food channels has a fancy mixer. I just have the one you hold....will it work? I hope so, it looks so delicious!!!


about 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Yes! You can get there even just whisking by hand -- but your arm would be pretty tired.


about 2 years ago kbtalley

how about if you DO happen to have an ice cream maker on hand?


about 2 years ago Cookie16

I second this!


about 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Haven't tried it, but I can't imagine it not working!


about 2 years ago kitchenista

I've made "ice cream" (arguments abound regarding this "frozen treat") using this recipe: http://www.kevinandamanda... It is VERY easy to do and very easy to create all sorts of flavors (I've made it with lavender, Meyer lemon, & honey and I've tried bourbon, caramel, & sea salt--who hasn't done that, though). The recipe works indeed, and gets good reviews. I do find there is a slight aftertaste or film though, probably from the condensed milk?


about 2 years ago EmilyC

I'm glad you're posting this during peak peach season -- this with a freshly sliced peach would be amazing. Great find Kristen and Brette!


about 2 years ago Brette Warshaw

Great idea! Sounds like my perfect summer dessert.


about 2 years ago runner115

does it have to be salted butter?


about 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Actually, it's unsalted butter (you add the salt separately) -- so you can adjust the salt to your taste. I just updated the article to clarify, thanks!