Egg Free Espresso Semifreddo With Peanut Brittle/ Chikki
Things have been a bit quiet here on the blog as I took a break, a slightly longer one than I intended. We’re back home once more as we relocated from Goa to Kochi (Kerala) and process of packing, moving, unpacking and settling in took so much longer than we anticipated. What with plumbers, carpenters, electricians and handymen who never turned up when they were supposed to and slowly getting used to big city life once again, blogging took a back seat for a while.
The recipe request from VERO was the push I needed to get me back to regular blogging, so here I am, again. I’m more of tea drinker than a coffee lover but these days, I find myself nursing a hot cup of coffee more often than I used to. I’m developing a stronger liking for coffee, so I often make myself a cup whenever my coffee loving husband has one.
The extraordinarily hot summer this year has meant that hot tea and coffee are not exactly the best choices at this time of the year. It’s been so hot here that it touched 42C here last week before the rains arrived. I’ve been foregoing my routine afternoon cuppa because the kitchen has been the last place I want to be in.
VERO’s request was an opportunity to come up with a different way to have my coffee, without spending too much time in a warm kitchen. Inspiration struck in the form of a coffee based frozen dessert.
A Semifreddo is a melt-in-the-mouth velvety textured Italian frozen dessert that is somewhere between a frozen mousse and an icecream. The word “Semifreddo” in Italian means “half cold” but a Semifreddo is quite cold but doesn’t freeze until hard like ice-cream. Three components make up a Semifreddo – whipped cream (must be airy), Zabaglione (an eggcustard with flavouring) and whipped egg whites are folded together into a light and airy mixture and frozen in a loaf pan.
Once it has set firm (not frozen), Semifreddo is sliced and served as it is, with fresh fruit, fresh fruit compote or dessert sauces. It can also be served with amaretti (almond cookies) or pignol (pine nut topped cookies). Semifreddo can also be set in moulds or ramekins, or serve them in glasses or tea cups. Semifreddo can be flavoured in a lot of different ways making it quite versatile.
Semifreddo supposedly came into being sometime in the late 19th century and some people believe that it evolved from the French dessert, Parfait. Others credit the Semifreddo to the Italian inventor of icecream, Buontalenti, who apparently decided to freeze sweet cream with snow and ice, and believe Caterina De’Medici introduced it to the court of France.
I’ve also added coarsely crushed peanut brittle or chikki as it is known in India (store bought) to the Semifreddo to give it some crunch. You could substitute the peanut brittle with toasted almonds or hazelnuts which pair well with coffee.
To ensure that a Semifreddo has a light and creamy texture, it is important to consider a couple of things. The cream must be very cold, and it’s even better if you can chill the bowl and beaters so that enough air can be incorporated into the whipped cream. It is equally important not to over whip the cream, so it must be whipped only till soft and fluffy. Also, chill the custard and then beat it till light and fluffy as well so air gets incorporated into this element as well. If the use of alcohol is not a problem, then the addition of a little rum perhaps will ensure that ice crystals do not form in the Semifreddo. I use home-made Vanilla extract which is made with vodka so do not add alcohol.
- Start by making the coffee flavoured custard/ Zabaglione. Keep aside about 1/3 cup of the chilled milk and pour the rest of it into a small saucepan. Add the sugar, stir well and bring it to the boil. Turn down the heat to medium and mix in the Espresso. Put the custard powder into the 1/3 cup milk, mix well and add it to the sauce pan while stirring constantly.
- Cook the custard while stirring constantly to make sure no lumps form, until it thickens well. If the custard is not smooth, pass it through a sieve. Transfer the custard to a bowl and cover with cling film such that it touches the surface of the custard. This will prevent a skin from forming on the top. Let it cool, then refrigerate to chill for about 3 to 4 hours. You can also make this coffee custard the previous day.
- To make the Semifreddo, pour the cream into a bowl and beat with a handheld electric beater, adding the sugar in two instalments while beating , until cream forms soft peaks (not stiff). Stir in the vanilla extract and liqueur/ rum if using.
- Take the coffee custard out and beat it for a couple of minutes till smooth and fluffy to incorporate some air. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Sprinkle the peanut brittle on top and fold it in.
- Transfer the Semifreddo mixture into an 8” x 4” aluminium loaf tin lined with cling film. Smoothen the surface with a spatula, and loosely cover with the excess cling film/ overhang. Freeze for about 4 to 6 hours until very firm but not frozen hard.
- Slice the Semifreddo into piece about 3/4" thick. If frozen, let it soften in the fridge for about half an hour before slicing. Garnish with broken peanut brittle and shaved dark chocolate. Serve with or without a sauce (chocolate or caramel).