Semifreddo alle fragole

A little over a year ago, I took a class solely on desserts at Latteria Studio in Trastevere. Though there were only three of us (two students, one Carla Tomasi)  we churned out 7 (yes, 7) different dolci: a batch of fudge-y brownies, swirled with nutty rich tahini; a tea-time lemon-scented cake dotted with poppy seeds; an intensely chocolate-y torta caprese, flecked with crunchy almonds and a hint of orange zest; a cloud-like cake made of ricotta known as a cassola, perfect with a spoonful or two of wine-stewed cherries; a jiggly, caramel-coated chocolate custard hailing from up North, otherwise known as a bonet; and a refreshing, summer-friendly, no-oven semifreddo alle fragole, or strawberry semifreddo. Pictured below as well and not to be forgotten: spicy fragrant rolls twisted with cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar that we ate for breakfast before commencing our baking for the day.

To say it was a epic would not be an exaggeration.
You'll notice that you see lots of chocolate-brown and creamy-beige, but no dash of rosy, strawberry-tinged pink above, right? The aforementioned semifreddo is not included in the family photo; semifreddo may mean half cold, yes, but it still needs a good amount of time in the freezer to set up, and when this photo was snapped, semifreddo was still doing its thing, tucked away from the rest of the dolci. The plan was that we would take it with us when we left; Carla had wisely portioned it out in separate containers, so that we each got our own baby semifreddo to take home. 

Except I didn't follow the plan! I was so excited by my haul -- multiple slices of torta caprese, a tupperware of bonet, thick slabs of brownie, all mine for the keeping! -- that I forgot my semifreddo all together. I realized my mishap only when I was home, an hour or so later, via a message from Carla on Instagram: "Your semifreddo is still here, Francesca! Feel free to come and pick it up this week!"

But I didn't. Between one thing and another -- starting a job in a new division at work, Spring visitors, my blog -- my semifreddo got left behind that day, abandoned in the freezer at Latteria Studio. Though I'm sure that it didn't go to waste (and was most likely enjoyed by the lovely Latteria-ladies themselves) I, avid foodie that I am, hated the idea of missing out on what was most definitely an excellent dessert -- and, well, meglio tardi che mai, or better late than never, I finally took matters in to my own hands, redeemed myself, and made this semifreddo you see here, the same one that I missed out on at my class all those months ago.

The verdict, finally?!

This semifreddo is dreamy, unabashedly lush and strawberry-centric, reminiscent of a bowl of strawberries dolloped with freshly whipped cream, refreshing and indulgent all at once, and just what you want to eat on a boiling 98 degree day (that's 37 degrees for the rest of you)It's kind of like homemade ice cream, minus the ice cream machine that most of us don't have, and requiring less work and time (think of it as ice cream's cool, low-maintenance cousin). It was all I had hoped for and then some, and what I'll be making all season long. You too?

A couple of notes: Feel free to cook the fruit the day before to make sure it is thoroughly chilled, or keep a stash in the freezer. If you don't want to use strawberries, you can also use purple plums, raspberries, peaches, apricots, or even apples or pears. Note that the dessert remains soft even when frozen because of the meringue we make here with the hot sugar syrup and the egg whites. 

Looking for more frozen, summer-appropriate desserts? I've got these Butterscotch Pudding Pops, these Raspberry Yogurt Popsicles, these Nutella Banana Fudge Pops, this Pistachio Semifreddo, this Chocolate Gelato, this Watermelon Granita, and this Vanilla Salted Caramel Ice cream

SEMIFREDDO ALLE FRAGOLE
Recipe from Carla Tomasi. Serves 6.

Ingredients:
A little over 1 pound (500 grams) strawberries, hulled and sliced
3/4 cup (180 grams) granulated sugar, separated
1/3 cup (80 grams) cold water
2 medium egg whites
Few gratings of orange zest
2/3 tablespoons of liqueur that pairs with the chosen fruit (optional)
10 tablespoons (150 ml) heavy cream

Directions:
1.) Cook the strawberries with just a touch of water and 60 grams of the sugar. Gently stew, uncovered, till soft and pulpy. If the cooked fruit looks watery, strain it and just reduce the liquid. This way you will not kill the fresh flavor of the fruit. Puree the fruit whilst hot, pour in to a bowl, and pour in any reduced fruit syrup you may have needed to make. Leave the whole thing to cool, stir in the alcohol and zest, and then chill it thoroughly (you can do this the day before and chill the fruit overnight). 
2.) Whip the cream to soft peaks and store it in the fridge, covered. Dissolve the rest of the sugar (120 grams) in the water and then bring to a boil very gently. Boil and cook the sugar/water mixture for 3 to 4 minute until a bit sticky but not gummy.
3.) Place the 2 egg whites in the bowl of an electric beater and whip to soft peaks. When the syrup is ready pour it on top of the egg whites, whisking as you do it. The mixture will turn liquid at first but rather quickly turns into a thick meringue. Whisk some of the meringue into the fruit puree to lighten it and then fold in the rest. Lastly fold in the whipped cream. 
4.) Pour your lovely strawberry semifreddo in to a container and freeze. Or do as I did and divide the mixture up in to smaller containers -- this way it freezes much faster (in 3-4 hours) which is always good when dessert is involved, right?!






















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