BLUEBERRY SEMIFREDDO

I’ve created this rule about eating desserts at home: I will only eat them if I make them. This has led me to some great life hacks over the years. Chocolate mug cake mixes for life’s disasters? I’m ready. The best pancake dry mix to keep in my cupboard at all times for surprise guests? Handled. Where I always hit a snag? Ice cream.

My other rule—which I stole from the almighty food scientist/diabolical culinary performer of our time, Alton Brown—is to avoid stocking any food equipment that is a unitasker. Considering that I live in a tiny apartment with what feels like a mouse-sized kitchen, I usually don’t mind sticking to that adage. That is, until summer blooms, along with berries a-plenty, and I start to dream about all the ice cream that I want to make and all the fresh berries that are just crying to be folded into an ice cream base and churned in a bulky, probably-use-it-twice-a-year appliance. So I find it hard to stay away from ice cream shops with blueberry ice creams or sundaes drizzled with blueberry sauce…you know the ones. Jammy and creamy, with notes of spicy vanilla and florals that keep you adrift in a dream of all the wonders that summers bring. So, I had given in to buying ice cream with especial abandon every year, happy that I found the loophole to my summer dessert rules. Until I remembered semifreddo. 

Italian in origin, though there is a Spanish counterpart called semifrio, semifreddo feels similar to ice cream cake. It has a texture somewhere between frozen mousse and gelato, and makes it easy to fold in whichever flavours you love about summer; mine just happen to be blueberries, lime, and coconut. Easily made ahead of time and a show-stopping end to a hot summer’s day, stash a can of coconut milk in the fridge, and all your summer dessert crises are averted. 

Chanelle Doucette was recently promoted from pastry chef to head chef at Redwater Rustic Grill in Charlottetown.

All photos by Julian Taylor

Recipe

There are three parts to this recipe, all pretty simple. First blueberry sauces, then a zabaglione, or a custard that is whipped to incorporate lots of air, and finally, a meringue. The whole thing comes together in a loaf pan, no fancy equipment required. 

The first stage is to make the blueberry sauces. One is a purée to be folded into the dessert and the second is to be used as a topping when ready to serve. Let’s get started!

Blueberry Sauces

Ingredients

3 cups PEI wild blueberries

½ cup honey

¼ cup lime juice

3 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp vanilla 

½ tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp almond extract 

2 Tbsp orange liqueur

2 Tbsp cornstarch

Preparation

Mix all ingredients except liqueur and cornstarch in a small pot and cook on medium heat for about ten minutes, until the blueberries just begin to burst. Divide mixture in half, transferring one half to a blender.

Add the orange liqueur and cornstarch to the sauce left in the pot and cook another three minutes, until the taste of cornstarch is cooked off and the liquid is nice and thick. Remove from heat and store in the fridge until ready to serve. Now purée the second half of your sauce in the blender until smooth. Set aside. 

Coconut Cream

Ingredients

1 can coconut milk, 400 ml, stored in the fridge overnight

1 ½ cups cream

2 tsp vanilla 

½ cup icing sugar

½ tsp almond extract

Preparation

Remove coconut milk from the fridge. Pour off the liquid, reserving the cream. Mix coconut cream with other ingredients and whip to form stiff peaks. Set aside in the fridge.

Zabaglione

Ingredients 

4 egg yolks

½  cup white sugar

2 Tbsp orange liqueur

¼ tsp ground cardamom

Preparation

Put a medium saucepan with at least an inch of water on the stove to simmer. Separate your eggs, reserving whites for the meringue and keeping them as clean from yolk as possible. In a heat-proof bowl that fits snugly upon your pot (and over your simmering water), whisk the yolks with the sugar. Mix in the cardamom and liqueur.

As you whisk over the heat, the mixture will triple in volume and become pale and shiny. Quickly remove from heat. Be careful not to cook the egg yolks. Set aside.

Meringue (almost there!)

Ingredients

4 egg whites

¼ cup icing sugar

⅛ tsp cream of tartar

Preparation

Whip the egg whites, adding the icing sugar gradually and then the cream of tartar. (If you don’t have cream of tartar, just leave it out. No biggie.) 

All together now!

Prepare a loaf pan by lining it with plastic wrap. Using a rubber spatula, slowly mix the coconut cream with the zabaglione (do this in thirds), and then do the same with the meringue. Try to keep things as light and fluffy as possible by not overmixing. 

Next, spoon a third of the semifreddo mix into the loaf pan, then add a third of the blueberry purée from your blender on top. Repeat until it’s all cozy in the pan. I love lime, so I like to add extra lime zest on top and turbinado sugar for crunch, but you do you. Feel free to channel your inner artist and swirl it all with a butter knife. Give the loaf pan a good thwack on a countertop to release any air pockets and freeze the whole thing, at least six to eight hours.

To serve:

Remove the semifreddo from the freezer at least 10-15 minutes before you need it. If you’re finding it hard to pull the semifreddo from the pan, dip the whole thing in some warm water for a few seconds (think: popsicles). Slice with a warm knife, spooning the reserved blueberry topping on top.

*Note: don’t tell Italy, but this whole dessert can be made dairy-free by substituting the cup and a half of cream in the custard stage with another can of chilled coconut milk. It really is that great.

Special thanks to our recipe sponsor this month, PEI Wild Blueberry Growers Association

About Chanelle Doucette

Chanelle Doucette grew up in Tignish, PEI. She graduated from the Culinary Institute of Canada in 2011. Now a red seal chef, she has worked at various restaurants in PEI as cook or pastry chef, including The Dundee Arms and the Wheelhouse in Georgetown. She was recently named Head Chef at Redwater Rustic Grille in Charlottetown, PEI.

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