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Author Notes: This recipe was inspired by my final project in culinary school, placing saffron in dessert and letting it shine by sweet deliverance. We made ice cream sandwiches and put saffron in the cookie; I fell in love with the way the threads ran like ribbons through the dessert, making it a beautiful last dance. This semifreddo is the definition of decadence, made with Italian sweet vermouth and accompanied by a lush cherry-cardamom syrup and finished with a salty-sweet crunch. My favorite part about making this is you can make the semifreddo (the diligent part), and simply finish the other two components while the custard freezes. I prefer to serve mine scooped straight from the bowl for a rustic presentation. A bonus to this recipe is you can use the leftover egg whites for macaroons or for making an omelet for lunch. —Brenna
Food52 Review: Brenna knows her way around a pastry kitchen. While this isn't the quickest recipe, no part is difficult and every little step contributes exponentially to its flavor. You'll love the semifreddo alone but the cardamom-infused cherries toss in bursts of acidity and the salted nuts add woodsiness and crunch. Don't change a thing about the recipe, but you might want to double it. - A&M —The Editors
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 tablespoon sweet vermouth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Prepare a small sauce pot of boiling water or a double boiler and bring water to a gentle simmer. Also have an ice water bath big enough for the base of the double boiler or mixing bowl ready.
- In a medium mixing bowl or pan of a double boiler, combine egg yolks, sugar, and saffron threads. Place the bowl or pan over the gently simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture is thick and doubled, about 5 - 6 minutes.
- Remove from heat and submerge in the ice water bath, continuing to stir to bring down the temperature. *If the mixture gets too cold and is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it will release easily if you run hot water on the outside of the bowl.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer and using the paddle attachment, whip the egg yolk mixture with the sweet vermouth until it becomes thick and pale in color, 4 - 5 minutes.
- As the mixer is going, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form (this can also be done ahead of time).
- With a spatula, add a third of the whipped cream to the egg mixture and stir together gently to lift the base. Fold the remaining whipped cream into the egg mixture. When this is done, you can spoon the mixture into 6 individual ramekins, or leave it in the mixing bowl. Cover the ramekins or bowl with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. To serve, run a butter knife under hot water and cut around the edge of the ramekin to invert the semifreddo onto individual plates. Or, if you prefer, use a hot spoon to scoop the semifreddo from the mixing bowl. Serve with cherry-cardamom syrup and salted honey-hazelnuts (recipes to follow).
Cherry-Cardamom Syrup and Salted Honey-Hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cherries
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, toasted
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup filtered water
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Combine cherries, sugar, cardamom, wine, lemon juice, and water into a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the syrup has reduced by half and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.
- For the hazelnuts: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place hazelnuts in a small mixing bowl and toss with olive oil and sea salt. Add honey and toss once more to coat.
- Transfer nuts to a lined baking sheet and bake, stirring at least once, until the nuts are golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
- Once the hazelnuts have cooled, roughly chop the nuts and serve alongside the semifreddo.
- Your Best Italian Dessert Contest Winner!