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Half Cold

August 24, 2012

I know that Jumpin’ Jack’s is still open, and thus summer is still upon us. However, I’m kind of jumping the gun on Fall.

Last night I spent hours at the stove making my first pot of Cuban black beans. It’s a crazy story. I got one large green bell pepper from the CSA, so naturally the thing to do is make a megabatch of beans in AUGUST! I also roasted an eggplant in the oven for an hour. Oh, and I slow-roasted a pan of tomatoes overnight. Those two last things are for escalivada. Mrs. Fussy is a very patient woman.

While these things were unthinkable just a couple weeks ago, they probably weren’t a great idea while we are still running the air conditioner. But it’s clear that summer is on its way out, and there are a lot of summertime things that I haven’t had a chance to write about.

Before we move into fall, and while I have ice cream sandwiches on the mind, this is probably my last chance to write about another frozen treat that is a classic, but remains under most people’s radar.

When I first learned to cook, I cooked desserts. My friend Raf had a great selection of cookbooks and I leaned heavily on them. He is the one who introduced me to Marcella Hazan. And while I have her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, I am still without Raf’s copy of Marcella’s Italian Kitchen.

It was the latter of the two that contained the recipe for Semifreddo di Cioccolato.

The funny thing is that everyone knows about gelato, cannoli, and tiramisu. But raise your hand if you’ve ever had a semifreddo. The New York Times did a story on them in 1987, so I guess they never really caught on in America, which is a shame.

The one I made was a fairly simple affair. Sweetened whipped cream flavored with grated chocolate and lightened with whipped egg whites. In many ways it was like a mousse that was then put into a loaf pan, frozen, unmolded, and sliced.

It’s like a very fine version of those cheap ice cream logs.

But unlike ice cream or gelato you don’t need a specialized machine to make this. Plus the only limits are your imagination. Some people use egg yolks and make their semifreddo with a custard base. Others will layer multiple flavors together. You could use individual molds to make something fancy.

Or, you could take a slice of the semifreddo and put it between two cookies.

The only people I know making one locally is All Good Bakers. It’s a great way to make something cold and creamy when you don’t actually have an ice cream machine. But it would be a mistake to think of it as a poor man’s ice cream. Because this classic Italian dessert has been served in some of the best restaurants around the world.

Texturally it’s different from ice cream. Marcella Hazan claimed it actually felt less cold on the palate. I’m not so sure I believe the assertion, but you can try it for yourself. Either whip up a batch, or head down to All Good Bakers.

I’ve yet to try theirs, personally. But they have three on hand: vanilla bean, peach, and cookie dough. A dish will set you back $4. More money than soft serve, but you can be sure theirs is made from the finest local ingredients available (including Meadowbrook dairy and eggs raised by their friend’s own flock). Or you could have the semifreddo in an ice cream sandwich for $6 between two cookies.

No, their ice cream sandwich will not be on Saturday’s Ice Cream Sandwich Throwdown. But apparently some people are loathe to drive to Saratoga Spring on Travers Day. I’m kind of amazed. I thought Albanians were made of tougher stuff.

Anyway, tickets are still on sale until 11p Friday night. Team Albany and Team Saratoga both put some delicious ice cream sandwiches on the table. Now comes the hard work of eating them all.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2012 12:02 pm

    I’m not loath to drive, but I am a bit reluctant to drop 30 bucks on ice cream sandwiches. And really, that says something right there — 6 bucks for an ice cream sandwich is just way too high. I mean, you can get a cheap one for a buck, maybe 2 bucks tops. So figure on doubling that, ’cause quality usually hikes the price… so say, 4 bucks, that’d be reasonable. Four times four is 16 bucks, plus some extra for fees/etc., would be 20 bucks, which sounds reasonable. For 6 bucks apiece, they’d better be gold-plated or something, I dunno.

  2. -R. permalink
    August 24, 2012 1:02 pm

    We had many semifreddo based desserts on our recent trip to Puglia and they took an amazing variety of forms: topped with ultra creamy ricotta-based meringues; in cakes infused with various liquors such as amaretto, limoncello or (one of my favorites), a fresh bay leaf based homemade brandy; squashed between light, crisp wafer like cookies; rolled into logs with a sfogliatelle-like pastry or straight up, served in a slices in a variety of flavors – peach, pistachio, almond, kiwi etc. Some contained whole fruit pieces, nuts, candies, or nougats. My ultimate impression is that it’s much more akin to a fairly thick mousse than an ice cream or gelato, and its mouth-feel shouldn’t be one of frigid cold, but rather only somewhat chilled. I think the flexibility of the material allows for a greater degree of design extravagance, and some of the desserts could attain significant height off the plate without melting, or getting sloppy. Pretty neat stuff, but perhaps a bit too challenging for the average American palate: not sickeningly sweet, lots of real actual flavor(s), and the texture is something foreign. While it may pop up in certain restaurants from time to time, I would never think it could achieve widespread popularity in the US.

    • August 24, 2012 3:41 pm

      Oh god. Semifreddo topped with a ricotta based meringue? Cream and soft cheese, two of my very favorite things. Sounds delicious.

  3. Kerosena permalink
    August 24, 2012 2:04 pm

    For some reason, when you introduced AGB’s semifreddo te other week, my mind’s eye pictured granita. The difference between the two didn’t click for me until I read this post. Maybe other people make the same error I made.

  4. August 24, 2012 3:39 pm

    You probably can’t see me but I’m raising my hand.

    I’m from Brooklyn. Of course I’ve had semifreddo. And every other Italian treat you can think of. I love Italian bakeries and a lot of them sell semifreddo and tartufo.

  5. iamadog permalink
    August 25, 2012 1:21 am

    Had AGB’s semifreddo today for the second time; absolutely delicious

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