Lemon Semifreddo


Lemon Semifreddo

We had another wonderful “international night” with our next door neighbors this time celebrating the Campania region of Italy.  This region is well known for its abundance of lemons which play an important role in most of their cuisine.  With summer in full swing, a frozen lemony treat sounded so refreshing, cool and delicious…a perfect choice for a warm summer evening.

Lemon Semifreddo, or “half-frozen” is a very popular dessert in Italy and is basically frozen custard; sweet tangy lemon curd combined with freshly whipped cream frozen to create a wonderfully creamy delicious treat.  You can make Semifreddo in just about any flavor and I have to say, there isn’t a Semi-freddo that I’ve met yet that I haven’t enjoyed.

Traditionally Semifreddo is frozen in a ramekin or mold.  I chose to freeze it in dessert glasses so that I could serve it “parfait-style”.  I topped the frozen dessert with fresh whipped cream, candied lemon zest and crushed gingersnap cookies.  I just love the combined flavors of lemon and ginger.

The evening was a culinary success as we sipped Italian wine, ate Pizza Marguerite and finished the meal with a refreshing dessert.  The company and conversation were pretty wonderful too. 🙂


Lemon Semifreddo          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 8 servings

For the candied lemon zest:

4 lemons, scrubbed

2 cups sugar

1 cup cold water

For the lemon curd:

1 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

8 large egg yolks

½ lb unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 ½ cups chilled heavy whipping cream

Making the candied zest:

Remove the zest from the lemons with a zester, making sure not to remove any of the bitter white pith.  Place the zest in a small bowl, cover with boiling water, and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain.

Bring the sugar and cold water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the drained zest, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes.  Transfer the zest and syrup to a bowl, cover and let stand overnight.  The next day, transfer the zest and syrup to an airtight container. (The zest can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.)

Making the lemon curd:

Prepare an ice bath and set aside.

Whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, eggs, egg yolks and butter in a large heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to boil and becomes thick and pudding-like, 10-15 minutes.

Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl (this process will remove any egg whites that might have cooked), and set the bowl in the ice bath.  Stir the curd periodically until it is cool, then remove the bowl from the ice bath and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the lemon curd.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The curd can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Whip 1 ½ cups of the chilled heavy cream in a large mixing bowl with a wire whisk or electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Remove the chilled lemon curd from the refrigerator.  Gently fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream until well combined.  (It can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 1 week.)

Assemble the semifreddo:

Arrange eight dessert glasses or 6-oz ramekins on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Spoon the lemon mousse into the molds, filling each with about ¾ cup.  Cover and transfer to the freezer to firm up for at least 4 hours and up to 1 week.

Drain the candied lemon zest and set aside on a plate or sheet of parchment.

To serve, remove the molds from the freezer and let them warm up for about 15-30 minutes.  (If using ramekins, you can dip each one briefly in hot water to release the semifreddo.)

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1 cup chilled cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks from.  Top the semifreddo with the whipped cream and finish with a garnish of candied lemon zest and crushed gingersnaps.

Recipe adapted from Bottega Favorita by Frank Stitt


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