Bittersweet Chocolate Semifreddo

July 10, 2015
15 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 12 to 14
Author Notes

The word “semifreddo” is Italian for half frozen—which I suppose most dessert fans know by now. The dessert so named falls between ice cream and mousse: It starts with custard (crème anglaise) as for ice cream but has whipped cream folded in, like a mousse. Instead of churning, the mixture is poured into a mold and frozen, then unmolded and sliced. This one is rich and chocolaty. Serve simply with a spoonful of whipped cream, or gussy it up further with a sprinkling of chopped caramelized nuts or crushed toffee. —Alice Medrich

What You'll Need
  • For the semifreddo:
  • 10 ounces (285 grams) 70% or 72% chocolate, chopped medium-fine
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • Scant 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Equipment:
  • 6-cup loaf pan
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Fine strainer
  1. Spray or wipe the loaf pan with oil and line it with a piece of plastic wrap long enough to hang over the ends.
  2. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl with a fine strainer set over it.
  3. Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and salt. Very gradually at first, whisk the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof (Silicone) spatula, sweeping the sides, corners, and bottom of the pan to avoid scrambling the eggs, until the mixture thickens very slightly and registers between 165 and 170° F and an instant-read thermometer.
  5. Immediately pour the custard into the strainer over the chocolate. Rap the strainer against the rim of the bowl to release as much of the custard as possible without pressing on any bits of cooked egg that might be left behind. Whisk the custard until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set the bowl aside for a few minutes until the mixture is just cool, not cold.
  6. Whip the cream in a chilled bowl only until it is thickened and barely beginning to hold a shape—when you tilt the bowl, the cream should flow to one side, fluffy but still pourable and not at all stiff. Scrape the cream onto the chocolate mixture (do not scrape the chocolate mixture into the cream because the chilled bowl will start to thicken the chocolate too fast) and fold carefully but quickly until incorporated. Immediately scrape the mixture into the lined mold. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the chocolate and freeze at least until solid, or up for to a week. Ten to fifteen minutes before you're ready to serve, move the mold from the freezer to the refrigerator.
  7. Unmold the semifreddo onto a serving platter. Slice and serve with whipped cream.

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My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).

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