Sunday, July 20, 2008

Variation on a Semi Freddo

Nothing says summer like ice cream. I'm not a huge ice cream fan. I like it and I always enjoy when I have it, but it isn't something that I actually crave, unlike fruit pies, tarts and chocolate any which way. I must say that living in Italy I do indulge in a dip or two more frequently than I use to, as there are a lot of wonderfulgelaterias everywhere you turn. We have a big ole gelato maker, but it usually only gets put through it's paces when there is a crowd to satiate and not just for the four of us here to over indulge in.
The nice thing about gelato makers too is that you can make quite lower fat concoctions taste dreamy and creamy with all the aeration that happens in one of those machines. But alas, there is a decadent choice of the frozen variety that tempts, satisfies and lends itself for all manner of additions, simply called "semi freddo", which translates as partially frozen. This is an easy peasy throw together frozen treat that will have you tiptoeing to the freezer when you really should be off to do something else entirely. A couple years back I went to one of our B&B associations summer potluck and one of our friends brought her version of this treat in the Tiramisu variety and needless to say, it disappeared before the lid was barely pulled off and the squares served up. Our friend Glady used Saiwa biscuits/cookies of the plain variety, one side dipped briefly into the espresso and lined the bottom of her pan. She slathered the usual mascarpone and cream mixture on top, placed another layer of cookies strategically on top, covered the lot and froze them. She brought them out to an appreciative crowd who helped her picnic basket return home a tad lighter. I immediately took it on board to make many variations, of course, and have found that is always seems to go over big when served. The version pictured below had the addition of fresh strawberries along with chocolate pieces. Another of my favorites is chopped up Torrone and cherries or hazelnut almond croquant with a caramel sauce served up with it. The possibilities are endless. It makes a great hand held kid treat. It is sophisticated enough to make with out the cookies. I put the filling into some flexible individual molds and serve with sauces and various garnishes after unmolding. Anyway you go, it's easy and tasty and goes well in the summer when it's just too hot to cook, but it hasn't stopped us from making winter varieties also. I had this odd sized vintage flat Tupperware container that was my Mom's and didn't get a lot of use. I discovered it was the perfect size for one package of the multi grain Saiwa crackers yielding 12 servings. Now it finds itself lounging in the freezer quite often, waiting for the surprise guest that decided to come to dinner. What a great new purpose it has and keeps the freezer taste from creeping in to boot.

Semi Freddo Sandwich with Variations
Yields a flat pan of 12 or 6-8 individual servings
100g (1/2 c ) sugar
400g cream, the richer the tastier
250 g mascarpone
2 tsp vanilla
1T amaretto or cointreau/ Grand Maarnier
50 gram chocolate chunks/bits
12 strawberries,more or less depending on their size, cut up into pieces.
24 Saiwa 5-cereal or Petit buerre type flat cookie

Have all of your additions and pan, prepared and ready to add.
Don't have your pieces too chunky or they're difficult to cut later

In a bowl take a flat whisk and hand stir the mascarpone to lighten and smooth it out.
Add your flavorings to the mascarpone.
Mix well.
Add the sugar to your cream, in a separate bowl.
Whip your cream to soft peaks.
Add the whipped cream to the sotened mascarpone.
Mix just to blend.
Add choclate chunks and strawberry pieces and any additional ingredients that interest you and gently fold in.
Lay the cookies out flat in rows.
Cover with your filling taking care not to move your cookies out of alignment.
Strategically add the cookies to the top, to line up with the bottom ones leaving space between them for cutting later.
Cover tightly and freeze.
To serve thaw slightly, 15 min- 1/2 hour depending, if this has been allowed to freeze completely.
Cut into squares and serve with caramel sauce, fresh fruit compote or any other sauce or garnish of choice, and enjoy.
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