Torrone and Pistachio Semifreddo
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to get serious about making things ahead of time to serve with little to no effort when family and friends gather. Nothing could be more welcome at dessert, especially a holiday dessert, than a semifreddo. Those of you familiar with it know it’s very similar to ice cream, but no churning is involved. Semi-freddo means half cold in Italian, and this dessert, with its flavors of pistachio and almond torrone, topped with a chocolate sauce, will have you wishing you had made a double batch (or invited fewer people). I’ve made it a couple of times in the past month for dinner parties and it was a huge hit with everyone, including my husband, who might have eaten the whole thing if other people hadn’t been present.
Semifreddo can be made with lots of different flavorings, but since I brought back some torrone (a nougat candy) and some pistachio cream from my last trip to Italy, I was itching to use them both in a semifreddo. Both can be found here in the U.S., with a minimum of searching online. Make sure to buy the HARD torrone, since you’ll be able to crush it into small pieces. The soft torrone just won’t work here. I used an almond torrone but it’s also available with hazelnuts (my favorite). It comes in a long box with a hard brick of torrone inside, made with nuts, sugar and egg whites, and sometimes citrus flavoring. I used a meat pounder to crush the hard torrone into small bits.
Like many ice cream recipes, my semifreddo calls for egg yolks and sugar to be blended together, and I always cook them over a double boiler to thicken them. Be careful though to whisk nonstop or you risk having sweetened scrambled eggs. It seems like it will take forever to get to this creamy, velvety stage, but it’s really only five or six minutes of steady whisking. Don’t leave the stove to do anything else until it’s done. Remove and let cool. When it’s cooled, I add rum to the egg yolks as a flavoring, but you can use any alcohol you like — bourbon, rye, even anisette or amaretto would be good.
After the cooked egg yolk mixture is cooled, fold in the beaten egg whites and the chopped torrone.
Then gently fold in the whipped cream.
Now divide that mixture in half and add a few tablespoons of that half to half a jar of pistachio cream. The jars are generally 7 or 8 ounces. You want to start out by blending a small portion of the mixture with the pistachio cream because the pistachio cream can have a very dense consistency and you could deflate the semifreddo mixture if you stirred vigorously to blend in the pistachio cream.
After you’ve “lightened” the pistachio cream with a small bit of the egg white and whipped cream mixture, continue to add the rest of the half that was set aside for the pistachio mix. I sure hope I’m not confusing you, but when you’re done, you should have two bowls of mixtures — one with the pistachio cream mixed it, that’s pale green, and one without the pistachio mix, that’s beige-y or pale yellow.
Start spooning the mixtures into the loaf pan, alternating colors. Fill the entire loaf pan. My loaf pan measured 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.
My loaf pan was beginning to overflow, so I also filled two pyrex cups for individual portions that I could also freeze (more for hubby, whose three-times-a-week tennis habit allows him to indulge with little to no guilt.) Cover with plastic wrap and freeze everything overnight.
When ready to serve, flip onto a platter and remove the parchment paper or plastic wrap. Slice and serve with chocolate sauce. This was enough for eight generous servings and there was no leftover — people were practically licking their plates.
If you don’t want to serve it as slices, you could make the entire semifreddo in individual serving sizes. I used glass pyrex cups for these. You’d probably easily get 10 to 12 individual portions using small one-cup glass pyrex containers.
The chocolate sauce is not to be skipped. It’s a cinch to make and so good I have no doubt you’ll be pouring it generously over this semifreddo or any ice cream in your freezer. Holidays will be merry when you bring this to the table. Buon Natale, Happy Hanukkah and the best of the season to all my readers.
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- 6 eggs
- 6 T. sugar
- 1 T. rum
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup chopped up almond or hazelnut torrone (the hard, crunchy kind, typically sold in a long box usually about 5.3 ounces. I used about half the box.)
- ½ jar of pistachio cream (jars are usually 7 or 8 ounces)
- Break up the torrone into small pieces.
- (I used a meat pounder and placed the torrore between clean dish towels so it wouldn't spew all over the kitchen.)
- Separate the eggs, but you will only need four of the egg whites.
- Save the other two egg whites for another use.
- In a double boiler, place the egg yolks and the sugar.
- Whisk over warm water until you get a velvety, thick mass.
- (Don’t move away from this or you could end up with scrambled eggs.)
- Some recipes call for using raw eggs, but I like to err on the side of caution and cook my egg yolks.
- Let it cool slightly, then add the rum, whisking it in.
- Place it to the side or in the refrigerator, but if you let it chill too long, it will become hard to work with.
- Whip the four egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
- Add the chopped torrone and the cooled egg yolk mixture to the whipped egg whites, folding everything together.
- Beat the cream until stiff.
- Fold the egg yolk, whipped egg whites and torrone mixture thoroughly with the whipped cream.
- Remove half of this mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.
- The pistachio cream can be quite dense, so if you put it all into the mixture from the jar all at once, you risk deflating it too much.
- Instead put tthe pistachio mixture into a bowl and mix into it only a few tablespoons of the egg white, egg yolk and whipped cream mixture to "lighten it up."
- Then add the rest of the other half of tthe mixture to the pistachio cream and fold in thoroughly.
- You should now have two bowls, one that's beige with the torrone in it, and one that's pale green with the torrone and pistachio cream mixture.
- Line a loaf pan (8½" x 4½" x 2½") with parchment paper.
- Using a large serving spoon, place alterrnating spoonfuls of the beige torrrone mixture with the pistachio mixture.
- Continue layering until you reach the top of the pan.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on top and freeze overnight.
- When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge,and flip it over onto a serving platter, removing the parchment paper.
- If it doesn't want to come loose, let the pan soak for a few seconds in hot water, then flip it onto a platter.
- Serve with chocolate sauce
- CHOCOLATE SAUCE:
- /2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- cup granulated sugar
- /8 teaspoon kosher salt
- /2 cup cold water
- /2 teaspoons vanilla
- In a saucepan, whisk together the cocoa, sugar and salt.
- Add the cold water and bring to a boil.
- Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, making sure all the lumps are dissolved.
- Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
- The sauce will be quite runny when it's hot so let it sit at room temperature for several hours before using it, or place in the refrigerator to thicken in a shorter time.