January 30, 2019
Taste Egg Icon
How Do I Make a Really Good Frozen Dessert Without an Ice Cream Machine?
Taste_semifreddo_parfait0051

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…parfreddo? Your dinner-party guests will love you.

Parfait and semifreddo are the French and Italian names for a frozen dessert that you can think of like a cross between ice cream and frozen mousse. While less popular than ice cream (America’s favorite dessert, no shocker), they do have several advantages for the home cook looking to create a fun DIY dessert. In addition to their ethereal texture, they have the versatility to work with almost any flavor, from fresh fruit to nuts, coffee, and chocolate.

As frequent home cooks, we are big parfreddo fans here. Unlike ice cream, you don’t need any special equipment to make it, and parfreddo exhibits greater stability at warmer temperaturesso it keeps its shape as it warms and “melts” slower, making it ideal for large parties, plated desserts, and for use in ice cream cakes.

To get to the brilliance of parfreddo, we need to dive into ice cream science a bit. Ice cream is made by freezing flavored pastry cream (cream and sugar, typically cooked with egg yolks to thicken) in a machine that churns the mixture, whipping it as it cools, but preventing it from solidifying completely. The problem with making ice cream at home is that you really, truly need a great machine to get you to a point where the ice cream looks pretty similar to that pint of McConnell’s sitting in your freezer.

A decent machine will set you back a small fortune and take up a large chunk of your kitchen’s real estate. The cheapo prefreeze-the-bowl models are fine and fun for making gelato with your kids. But in our experience, spinning a homemade batch can be pretty deflating if you’re looking to make quality ice cream. Enter the parfreddo, which comes out consistently incredible, provided of course that you don’t try to cut any corners.

Making a batch does take a little patience. The big difference from ice cream is the eggs are cooked with hot sugar syrup, then the whipped cream and flavoring is folded inand the whole batch is frozen in a mold. Cooking the syrup to the proper temperature requires a candy thermometer and some attention to detail, but it’s a technique worth mastering if you’re interested in making desserts because cooked sugar is a main component of so many pastry and candy preparations, from meringue and marshmallows to lollipops, fudge, and caramel.

Traditionally, the mixture is frozen in a loaf mold and sliced into portions. But because of the stability, you can freeze it in pretty much any shaped mold, making it an excellent choice for kids’ birthday parties (shouts to Fudgie). Here are a couple of classics that won’t let you down.

TASTE editor in chief Matt Rodbard and chef Daniel Holzman are friends. Matt has many food and home cooking questions. Daniel has many food and home cooking opinions. This is called 100 Questions for My Friend the Chef.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate
  • 2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cups sugar, plus ⅓ cup
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 large egg whites (room temperature)

Fancy chocolate ice cream is often a letdown, but the lighter texture of the semifreddo cuts the bitter notes in the cocoa, making this chocolate semifreddo a staple in my repertoire. Once you’ve mastered the recipe, try substituting some of the chocolate with equal parts different ground nuts and seeds, like tahini, almond butter, or walnut butter—they all work really well together.

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and hold in a bowl. Heat the cream, salt, and vanilla in a pot until just simmering, then pour over the chocolate and stir to dissolve. Cool completely in the fridge (about 20 minutes), then whip until soft peaks form (about 8 minutes) with a handheld or stand mixer and reserve in the fridge.
  2. Heat ⅔ cup sugar and water over a medium heat until the temperature registers 230°F on a candy thermometer.
  3. In the meantime, whip the egg whites along with 1/3 cup of sugar until soft peaks form (about 5 minutes). When the sugar comes to temperature, slowly and carefully pour it into the egg whites while constantly whipping with a handheld or stand mixer and continue to whip until stiff, glossy, and completely cool to the touch (about 8 minutes). This is a long time to whip, but it’s absolutely necessary because the sugar needs to cool for the peaks to stiffen and stabilize. Carefully fold in the whipped chocolate cream, then place in a loaf pan or individual ramekins and freeze overnight.
  4. To serve, carefully remove from the pan (a warm-water bath can help loosen if stuck) and slice into portions. Works well garnished with chocolate syrup and a sugar cookie or on its own.
Strawberry Parfait

Strawberry Parfait

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cups sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 4 ounces strawberry puree
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Strawberry Puree (Yields 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 pints fresh or frozen unsweetened strawberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Juice of one lemon

Strawberries can be a tricky flavoring agent in frozen deserts due to their high water content and subtle flavor. Making a big batch of strawberry puree at the height of the berry season will ensure your parfait packs a punch. Store-bought frozen puree can be excellent as well, just make sure to read the packaging and avoid the brands that have ingredients you can’t pronounce.

    Strawberry Puree

  1. Stem the fresh strawberries and/or thaw the frozen ones, then puree with the sugar in a food processor until liquefied. Stir in the lemon juice. Freeze in ziplock sandwich bags for up to 2 months.

Parfait

  1. Whisk the cream with a handheld or stand mixer until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes), then set aside in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat the sugar and water over a medium heat until the temperature registers 230°F on a candy thermometer.
  3. In the meantime, use a handheld or stand mixer to whip the egg yolks until pale yellow and beginning to froth (about 3 minutes).
  4. When the sugar comes to temperature, slowly drizzle into the egg yolks while whisking on high speed and continue whipping until the mixture increases in volume and becomes custard-like (about 7 minutes).
  5. When the eggs are ready, gently fold in the strawberry puree, lemon juice, and whipped cream, then place in a loaf pan or individual ramekins and freeze overnight.

Matt Rodbard & Daniel Holzman

TASTE editor in chief Matt Rodbard and chef Daniel Holzman are friends. Matt has many food and home cooking questions. Daniel has many food and home cooking opinions. Their column is called 100 Food Questions for My Friend the Chef.

[email_signup id="3"]
[email_signup id="3"]