05 October 2009

No gelato maker? Try a semifreddo!

Do you ever wish you could make ice cream at home but don't have an ice cream maker? That's the quandary I have been facing after reading a procession of delicious-looking ice cream and gelato recipes over the course of the summer months. I dipped into the world of online reviews, determined to find myself the perfect ice cream maker and came across Cuisinart's ICE-50 BC and thought I had found the one. It goes for about $300, and while it is pricey, I thought that with its fully integrated freezing component (no pre-freezing of bowl inserts needed!) it would be worth it. But then my father, who knew of my search, came along and told me about an Italian machine, the Musso Lussino. After reading the description of the superior qualities of the Musso Lussino--sleek body, powerful engine, fast performance--how could I go back to the Cuisinart ice cream maker?

The huge hurdle, however, was the price. Not having $700 to drop on an ice cream machine, I suspended my shopping foray, hoping for a day when I could afford the bliss of homemade gelatos made on a machine I could be proud of. Then my uncle (a master baker and also experienced ice cream maker) suggested I try making semifreddo. Semifreddos are Italian frozen desserts much akin to ice cream, but with a key difference: air is incorporated into the creamy mass before freezing, rather than as a result of churning during the freezing process. Thus, if you have an electric beater and a freezer, creamy frozen desserts are within your reach!

I seized at the first semifreddo recipe I came across...a cantaloupe semifreddo from Gourmet magazine. It was surprisingly easy and gave delicious results! While their recipe calls for grappa (a pretty strong liqueur) and grenadine (for coloring), I omitted the grappa and replaced the grenadine with a few drops of red food coloring, which enhances the natural orange glow of the cantaloupe. Another thing to note, if you try their recipe, is that it makes about twice as much as would fit in one loaf pan. I froze half in a loaf pan, which looked nice when unmolded onto a serving platter, and the other half I froze in a plastic container and scooped out for serving. Either way, it has a pretty presentation!

Cantaloupe Semifreddo
from Gourmet magazine
  • 1 pound peeled chopped cantaloupe (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon grenadine (for color; optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Line loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang at each end. Purée melon with 1/3 cup sugar, grenadine (if using), and salt in a blender until smooth. Transfer to large metal bowl and stir in yolks. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with mixer until pale, thick, and tripled in volume and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 8 minutes.

Remove bowl from saucepan and set in a large ice bath. Continue to beat until cold, about 6 minutes.

Beat cream with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in other large bowl using cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks. Fold whipped cream into cantaloupe mixture gently but thoroughly.

Pour mixture into pan and freeze, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until firm, at least 5 hours. Uncover top and invert semifreddo onto a plate.

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