Frozen desserts are not only a great way to beat the heat during the summer, they are also a great option when you need to make dessert ahead of a party or gathering. With frozen desserts, you can simply make up a batch of ice cream sandwiches – or a semifreddo like this one – and store it in the freezer until you are ready to serve it – no last minute prep necessary. This Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Semifreddo is a wonderful example of an elegant dessert that can and should be made well ahead of time. It’s not much more complicated than a batch of homemade ice cream and you don’t need an ice cream maker to make it.
Semifreddo means “semi-frozen” and, while you certainly want it to firm up in the freezer, you still to be able to serve it easily. Churning ice cream is what introduces air into the base. The air helps the ice cream to achieve a scoopable texture, as well as to melt smoothly on the tongue. Since semifreddos aren’t churned, air is often introduced by folding in whipped cream or adding a meringue. Both of these introduce air to the base, yielding a dessert that is creamy and can be cut into generous pieces (with the help of a hot knife) to serve it.
This semifreddo is made with a combination of Greek yogurt and mascarpone cheese, and the tanginess of the yogurt is a nice contrast with the rich mascarpone. A whole vanilla bean is scraped into the semifreddo to give a clear, floral vanilla flavor, though you can substitute vanilla extract if you don’t have a whole bean on hand. The finishing touch is a cascade of chocolate curls that should be generously sprinkled over each slice. You can use dark, milk or white chocolate, as all three will pair well with this simple summer treat.
Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Semifreddo
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, room temperature
2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt, room temperature
1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 vanilla bean
2-3 oz dark, milk or white (pref. a bar of chocolate)
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and very lightly grease it.
In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When sugar comes to a full boil, continue to boil for about 1 1/2 minutes.
While the sugar boils, beat egg whites to soft peaks in a large, clean bowl. When the sugar is ready, continue beating the eggs at a low speed and very slowly stream in the hot sugar. When all the sugar has been incorporated, turn up mixer to high and beat until meringue is glossy and has cooled down to almost room temperature, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat together the yogurt and mascarpone cheese. Split the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife. Add the vanilla bean seeds to the mascarpone mixture.
Fold the meringue into the mascarpone mixture.
Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
To serve, turn the semifreddo out of the pan and peel off plastic wrap. Slice with a hot knife to serve.
Use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate curls by running it down the side of the bar of chocolate. Sprinkle curls generously over each slice.