What to CookIce Cream/Frozen Desserts

Brad Spence's Salted Butter Semifreddo

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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].

Tags: Dessert, Long Reads, Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes, Genius