Lately I’ve been thinking about what my “thing” should be.
You know, like how celebrities all have a thing? Michael Jackson with his one glove, Mariah Carey with her weird sparkly-butterfly-princess-rainbow obsession, Angelina Jolie with her Oscar leg pose (wait, are we over that already?)…everyone who’s anyone has a signature thing.
I considered some possibilities. My razor-sharp wit? My devastating good looks? My uncanny ability to remember any song lyric I’ve ever heard while not being able to retain any actually useful information I need in my everyday life? (That last one is actually true, by the way.) All good options.
In the end, though, I decided that maybe my thing is fresh mint desserts. I’m kind of obsessed with cramming fresh mint flavor into my sweets (exhibit A, exhibit B) and while you may be thinking that fresh mint desserts don’t count as a “thing,” you’re totally wrong.
These fresh mint semifreddos might not be as iconic as MJ’s glove, but I promise they’re at least as sexy as Angelina Jolie’s right leg.
Semifreddo means “half-cold” in Italian, and the best way I can describe this dessert is to say that it’s like if ice cream and mousse had a baby. It’s a great way to get a frozen dessert fix if you don’t have an ice cream maker, and it can be made in a loaf pan and sliced into pieces, or frozen in individual serving cups.
This recipe came about because I was craving homemade mint ice cream, but there was literally no room in our freezer to store the bowl for the ice cream maker. Gnawing on mint leaves and chewing ice cubes at the same time just wasn’t cutting it, so I decided to make an easier, less space-intensive dessert. The fresh mint flavor is refreshing without being overwhelming, and if you’ve only ever had mint desserts made with mint extract, you are in for a serious treat when using the herb itself.
Before I poured the semifreddo into the serving cups, I decorated them with a few artistic chocolate swoops on the inside of the glass. And how did I make these swoops, you might be asking? Well…
I called on my trusty friend the Ikea milk frother, last seen whipping cream in this post. I swear, I’m not actually obsessed with the frother (…or am I? Maybe THAT should be my thing?) it’s just a coincidence it’s recently come up so often.
To make the design, I dipped the wire coils in some melted chocolate, then held the frother at an angle in the cup and turned it on. Once it made a lovely circular splatter, I repeated the process holding the cup at a different angle. I did this 4-5 times per cup to get a nicely random pattern of overlapping chocolate circles. Fast, easy, looks impressive…my kind of decorating trick.
And here’s what your gorgeous semifreddo will look like after it gets a bit hot and bothered during a photo shoot. Melty along the edges, with a smooth, rich, creamy texture and a bright, herbacious flavor. Give it a try—maybe you’ll find that semifreddo becomes your thing!
Fresh Mint Semifreddo
yield: 8 1/2-cup servings
1 cup packed mint leaves (about 1 ounce, or 30 grams)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp heavy cream
3 large eggs at room temperature, separated
1/4 cup + 1/3 cup granulated sugar
Green food coloring, optional
Chocolate sauce or ganache for topping, optional
Coarsely chop the mint leaves, and combine them with the heavy cream in a small saucepan. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat, and just as it starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat. Cover it with a tight-fitting lid and let it sit at room temperature for an hour to infuse the cream with mint flavor. After an hour, pour the cream through a strainer into a bowl and squeeze the mint leaves to remove any excess cream. Refrigerate the cream until cold.
Once cold, whip the cream to stiff peaks and refrigerate it while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
Place a saucepan of water on the stove and bring it to a simmer. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Whisk them together, then place the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water. Continue to whisk as the egg yolks heat up, until the yolks have lightened and taken on a custardy texture, about 3-4 minutes. Set the egg yolks aside for a moment.
Place the egg whites and 1/3 cup of sugar in the bowl of a large mixer. Fit the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly while the egg whites heat up. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the whites are hot to the touch, 3-4 minutes. Put the bowl on the mixer and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.
Fold the egg whites into the yolks in 3 batches, then gently fold in the whipped cream. If you want to give your semifreddo more of a green mint color, add a drop or two of green food coloring. Divide it between your serving dishes, and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Serve with a drizzle of chocolate sauce or warm ganache, if desired.