I confess I find it really perplexing that many recipe sites and food blogs have multiple recipes for ice cream, just varying the flavour from one to the next.
In order to create a myriad alternatives of frozen desserts, you only need a few key base recipe types and then look to change the main flavour ingredient(s). For example, learn to make one plain egg custard vanilla and you can turn it into chocolate, cherry, pistachio, mint choc chip, caramel, praline, raspberry, strawberry or even savoury – just about anything that takes your fancy.
I think the base recipes for frozen desserts are: an egg free, an egg custard, a semifreddo, a gelato and a sorbet recipe (and possibly also a parfait if you’re adventurous).
I’ve decided to put a semifreddo up as my first ever ice cream-type recipe ever. I have made many ice creams but never written up a recipe before as there are just so damn many online.
So why have I bothered at all? I thought if I outline my favourite basics, such as this semifreddo, you can take it from there yourself and go forth and have a play with flavours (see notes below). Hopefully this is some encouragement to go try experimenting yourself.
Semifreddo is a bit different from ‘normal’ ice cream. There’s no need to churn (or ‘mash’ if you have no ice cream machine) for a start and the egg is heated and the cream is cool. Egg custard based ice cream is the opposite – you heat the cream or milk and the egg and sugar is cool. Semifreddo does melt quickly and typically the fruit used inside is only roughly combined. I adore semifreddo. If you’ve not tried it I urge you to.
So what are the differences between frozen desserts? As far as I can tell from makign various versions of all of these, the differences are (please let me know if you think I’ve missed a key identifying point):
- Eggless – produces the most basic ice cream, prone to ice crystals (although you can avoid if you’re careful and churn or keep agitating it as it freezes). Not far off a “sorbet but with dairy”
- Egg custard – rich and creamy, heat cream (or milk and cream) and cook again with whipped eggs and sugar, ideally needs churning
- Gelato – made similarly to egg custard, but with more eggs and typically only milk (not cream) also ideally needs churning
- Semifreddo – the eggs and sugar are whipped and heated and added to cold cream. very rich and smooth. No churning or agitating required
- Parfait – a heated sugar syrup is used and added to whipped eggs (or just yolks) and cold cream. Exceptionally smooth texture considering you don’t need to churn or agitate (this is because of the addition of sugar syrup, not crystals) otherwise fairly similar to semifreddo
- Sorbet – dairy free frozen dessert of sugar syrup and fruits. Ice crystals do need to form, but ideally these are kept tiny (not large unpalatable shards) by churning or agitating
Like gelato – and therefore by association the ancestry of all ice cream style desserts – semifreddo is Italian in origin. What did the Romans ever do for us?
This semifreddo makes about 1.5 – 2 litres (the disparity depends on the size of eggs you have as they can vary even if you pick all large. I have not resorted to weighing the eggs as a little variation in egg size will not affect the quality of the recipe, just the amount produced!)
This is enough for a loaf tin (roughly 900g/2 lb) or about 18 friand mould ice creams.
Notes on altering flavours
If you are able to make ice cream at home then you as a home cook already have enough skill to change the flavours yourself.
Substituting fruits is easy – for similar consistency fruit just swap out the same amount (eg raspberries or chopped peaches for strawberries). For watery fruits, these may need reducing to thicker consistency in a saucepan. For fruits with a lot of pips, just sieve before adding. For very tart fruits adjust the sugar content or cook up as a soft set jam before adding.
Making chocolate semifreddo – melt 150g of chocolate and combine as you mix in the egg/sugar and cream. Proceed as the normal recipe (minus the fruits) and you can also grate in another 30g or so of chocolate just before pouring and freezing to get a choc-chip/stracciatella effect.
- Small – medium saucepan
- Medium – large heat proof bowl
- Additional large bowl (for cream) and smaller bowl (for the strawberries)
- Fork or potato masher
- Electric hand whisk or balloon whisk
- Flexible spatula
- Loaf tin and cling film or silicon friand moulds
- Eggs, large – 2
- Caster sugar – 125g
- Double cream – 350ml
- Strawberries, hulled – 200g
- In one bowl mash the hulled strawberries with the back of a fork
- Heat a small or medium-sized saucepan that is half filled with water. Bring the water up to just bubbling (do not allow the water to boil to vigorously)
- Crack the eggs into a heat proof bowl and gently whisk in the sugar
- Transfer this bowl on to the saucepan (to make a Bain Marie) and keep whisking the eggs and sugar over the heat
- Whisk until the mixture is lightened in colour, has probably tripled in size and has become thicker
- Take the bowl off the saucepan (turning off your hob!) and place on a counter and keep whisking still. It is very important to continue to whisk the eggs and sugar mix until it has cooled to room temperature. The time this takes may vary, depending on how hot your mix was over the saucepan (ie if you filled the saucepan full or you allowed it to boil too vigorously) or even how large your bowl is. Expect at least five minutes of whisking
- I have a little tip here – I place my bowl on a kitchen sponge which I have rinsed in cold water underneath. This both secures the bowl from moving around and helps the mixture cool. Keep periodically rinsing the sponge in cold water and replacing it
- Take another bowl and whisk the double cream until it is as thick as you dare get it (before the splitting stage)
- Take a flexible spatula and about a third of the egg/sugar mix and fold it into the double cream
- Now take a large scoop of strawberries and mix in
- Alternate between another third of the egg/sugar mix and the strawberries until you’ve mixed it all in
- If you are using a loaf tin, wipe a little vegetable oil over the insides of your loaf tin with a scrunched up kitchen towel or a pastry brush
- Line the oiled tin with cling film – the oil grips the film to the tin
- Pour the semifreddo into the tin
- If you are using silicon moulds, just make sure the moulds are spotlessly clean and pour the semifreddo in
- Place in the freezer until fully set
- Delicious on its own or eat with a Pavlova. Alternatively also amazing with fruit, a fruit coulis or any other way you’d eat ice cream – just be aware that it will thaw fairly quickly