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now what was i saying?

Recipe: chocolate espresso semifreddo

Funny how just a few weeks ago some of my bloggy buds were all, “Dooode, you are blogging daily and I can’t keep up witchyoo, yo!” And I’m all like, “Laydeeeez, I’m on another steroid dose for my side-effects and I can’t sleep, so I just keep a bloggin’!” Okay, well that ended abruptly this past weekend because I replaced blogging with doing everything else. Seriously though, we were just entertaining my ILs this weekend. Still, I’m breaking it down into a few posts since they involve… FOOD!

Last year, Jeremy’s folks were out to visit us about a week before I got my diagnosis. It was also the weekend of MIL’s bday. I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday and she replied she’d like to bake a cake with me! MIL likes to bake and I had just completed a pastry skills course that summer at the culinary school (my reward for defending my PhD dissertation), so she wanted to try one of the recipes I had learned. We made a lovely Lemon Mousseline Torte. Thing is… FIL is a chocolate fiend. Not just that he likes chocolate, but he won’t touch anything else if there *isn’t* chocolate in it. Okay, that isn’t entirely true. If it is a hunk of meat… perhaps FIL should meet Mr. SGCC – aka Caveman, Susan? :)

let’s start with some chocolate cookie crumbs

press a nice chocolate cookie base

On this visit, MIL mentioned that she’d like to bake together again. Sounded great except it’s been hot here lately. Oven, heat, summer – gah! While I flipped through the course notebook, I came upon the “frozen desserts” segment of the class. Ah ha! I really wanted to make some bombes, but the professional grade molds I need (yes, I *need* them, damn it!) wouldn’t ship in time for us to use. I had a good alternative though, and it wouldn’t require much oven time at all.

chopped chocolate stirred into the custard

The recipe in class was a white chocolate espresso semifreddo, but I altered it to a chocolate espresso semifreddo because 1) I hate white chocolate and 2) FIL eats chocolate chocolate, not that white crap. On Sunday morning, I left the house really early to hike out to a point for shooting (nature… with a camera). A little later, Jeremy took his folks on a short hike while I returned home and began the mise en place for the semifreddo.

mascarpone and cream lend to a lovely texture

I think in the course of my food blogging, I have settled into a pattern of how I cook or bake. That is to say, I actually prepare food with the photography in mind, with the photography planned into the steps as if it were part of the recipe. Second nature, by now. It becomes painfully obvious how not normal that is when I prepare food with other people because they aren’t used to it. Funny that. I felt so bad asking MIL to not add the chocolate yet, to please hold the spatula still for a second, to wait until I could angle the reflector… MIL is an incredibly good sport about it. When I tried this with my grandmother last fall, she gave me these hilarious frowns that read, “Crazy American-born Chinese Granddaughter!”

combine chocolate and mascarpone

The dessert has three main components that wind up as one semifreddo. That’s weird for me. If I make three separate components, I usually expect to see those components in the final product (like cake, ganache, mousse, for instance). I altered the recipe somewhat because I think making Italian meringue is messy and a pain in the butt compared to Swiss meringue. I swapped out the white chocolate for semi-sweet chocolate (Valrhona 64%), replaced the Italian meringue with the Swiss meringue, and used instant espresso powder instead of brewing my own espresso.

folding meringue into the chocolate and mascarpone mixture

The semifreddo presents well. The texture is smooth and rich, but refreshingly cool which I find perfect for summer months. There is a tanginess to the flavor imparted by the mascarpone, but it isn’t as overt as what cream cheese would have contributed. Everyone who has a slice seems to love it. I could go either way. I find that the recipe is more effort than one would expect for such a simple looking dessert. Still, it’s a winner and my ILs really enjoyed it.

let thaw for ten minutes before serving

Chocolate Espresso Semifreddo
[print recipe]

1 3/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
3 tbsps unsalted butter, melted
3 oz. espresso
4 large eggs separated
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsps sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 tbsp dark rum
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine
16 oz. mascarpone cheese
2 oz. heavy cream

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Mix cookie crumbs and butter together. Press crust into the springform pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven (turn oven off). When cool, line the sides of the pan with a 3-inch wide parchment strip along the inside edge.

Over a double boiler, whisk together the yolks and 2 tablespoons of th sugar until it is pale yellow and thick. It should ribbon. Lift whisk out of the bowl to incorporate air into the mixture. Add espresso, rum, and vanilla. Place over simmering water and cook, vigorously whisking until liquid coats the back of a spoon and the mixture is thick and foamy. Remove from heat and add the finely chopped chocolate. Stir until melted and continue stirring until cooled. In separate bowl, stir together the mascarpone and cream until soft and smooth. Do not overstir. Place egg whites and 1/3 cup sugar in stand mixer mixing bowl. Gently whisk together over a simmering water bath until 145°F is reached. Remove from bath and set the bowl on the stand mixer with the balloon whip attachment. Whip on medium high until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium and mix until the bowl is cool to the touch (cooler than your hand). Fold the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate mixture until there are no streaks left. Fold 1/4 of the meringue (sacrifice) into the chocolate-mascarpone mixture. Fold in the remaining meringue in three parts – don’t overmix or the volume will reduce!

Spread the mixture over the baked crust in the pan. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, loosen and remove the sides of the pan. Remove the parchment paper strip. Serve cold and cut slices with a warm, dry knife.

44 nibbles at “now what was i saying?”

  1. Kitt says:

    Oh wow. That looks totally sinful. And worth the effort.

    So have you shown your grandmother your blog posts so she can see why pausing for photos is such a good thing?

  2. Mrs Ergul says:

    I’m so used to your daily posts and found it weird when there was a couple of days of hiatus! I was starting to think, Is everything ok on her side of the world? did anything happen? I’m glad to see you back and enjoyed the times with your ILs! It’s comforting to read your blog cuz you appreciates things and people. We have met with some difficulties with the house we have just bought which means money is involved and I’m damn stressed about it! Sigh. Anyway, I do feel tads better after reading your post. Thanks! And take care xxoo

  3. Clumbsy Cookie says:

    Nice looking semifredo! It’s so good to bake with others and have fun with it, even though they don’t get the photo/blogging thing! Enjoy your time with your family and keep these nice (and chilled please) recipes coming!

  4. Steph says:

    ohh man that semifreddo looks delicious. It’s been so hot around here that I’m practically lusting after it ;D

    And I absolutely love your description of your grandmother’s expressions. “Hilarious frowns” cracked me up! My mom gives me the “crazy ABC” look all the time.

  5. joanne at frutto della passione says:

    That looks fabulous. How nice that you can do stuff in the kitchen with your MIL and I’m starting to notice the same *photograph as recipe step* thing happening to me too! In fact when my hubby is doing the cooking he will call me and ask if I want to take pictures!

  6. Debbie Green says: that looks delicious. I had to laugh when you said you didn’t care for white chocolate….I feel the same way. Don’t care for it at all. I heard somewhere that it is not “real” chocolate and I agree!!!

  7. Rosa says:

    That looks terrific! I bet it tasted wonderful too! I’d love to bake with other…



  8. Rosa says:

    I meant “others” ;-P…..

  9. Jenny says:

    That looks friggin incredible!

  10. Judith says:

    Now there’s an open-mouthed “wow!”

  11. Lan says:

    i am jealous. when i made my citrus semifreddo, it started melting the moment i took it out of the freezer. yours looks so decadent!

  12. Robin says:

    Doooode! Props for makin’ chocolate for your homey FIL. It looks tight, fo’ schnizzle!

    ; )

  13. Christina says:

    Wow, that’s gorgeous! I’ve gotten ragged on (in a good-natured way!) before for asking people to wait until I take a picture, but that’s okay.

  14. Tartelette says:

    That is something I could actually snuggle on the couch with :) (well beside the pup)

  15. cindy says:

    this look so good. seriously. it makes me want to make it right now. damn work.

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  17. Jamie in Las Vegas says:


    Dang….when I read your posts, I’m always a little concerned about drooling on my keyboard.


  18. manggy says:

    That is one beautiful semifreddo, Jen :) I’ve actually never had one before! I should really put it on my “list.” Hey, I wouldn’t write off white chocolate yet. One of my simple joys is just a single bar of Lindt White for eating! :) Though I will confess that many desserts that incorporate white chocolate just don’t cut it.

    My brother is totally one of those red meat-chocolate guys. Despite what you may think (humph, says Ms. Anti-White Chocolate! :P) I’m actually quite the omnivore!

  19. Mollie says:

    Dude… looks rockin! I could lick it off the screen right now…

  20. Ashley says:

    Beautiful beautiful cake! And I’m obsessed with coffee/espresso flavoured things right now so this looks perfect. The image of you preparing/photographing food with your grandmother made me laugh.

  21. brilynn says:

    Gorgeous! I love any sort of frozen concoction and chocolate makes it especially good!

  22. Judy (Judy's Gross Eats) says:

    Wow, that looks sinfully delicious. I love the combination of chocolate and coffee, and I love semifreddo. Looks like another one added to the list!

  23. Tony says:

    beautiful semifreddo cake, Jen!! I cannot wait until you get your molds and see what you do with them : )

  24. Laura says:

    Oh. My. God. That looks SO good.

  25. megan says:

    decadent, sinful, delicious. Words do not do this desert justice.
    Looks fabulous!

  26. Jeanine says:

    Wow, that is one awesome looking frozen dessert! Beautiful job! (and rockin’ pics too!)

  27. Anita says:

    Mmm, chocolate cookie base is one of my favorites. Not to mention the rest of your dessert:) Your in-laws sound so awesome too. Btw, I laughed about “regular people” not understanding what goes into food blogging. My bf comes home to the kitchen a mess, a cake posed in front of the camera with about a hundred discarded plates and props on the table, and he knows he’s not eating dessert anytime soon!!

  28. My Sweet & Saucy says:

    Love the photos! Looks so delicious!

  29. Sara says:

  30. farida says:

    This is such a mouthwatering cake! Wow, I am impressed! Your ILs must be very proud and well, lucky, too to have a DIL like you:)

  31. peabody says:

    Mmm, semifredo rocks. I doubt I will be doing any baking with my MIL…not sure she does any baking to be honest.

  32. Ellen says:

    I must make this right away as it looks DEVINE! Great post.

  33. Lisa says:

    Dear God in heaven! I am so going to make this!

  34. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    The semifreddo looks utterly gorgeous (although it does seem like a lot of steps). Lucky in-laws! Nice to see you back :)

  35. Patricia Scarpin says:

    I can only imagine the looking on people’s faces when you tell them that the food needs to “strike a pose”… :D

    It was like the pie I made for my father last year: when he was about to slice it, I screamed “Nooooooo, I haven’t photographed it yet!!”.

    This is a beautiful dessert, Jen!

  36. Leslie says:

    I think I gained 10 lbs just by looking at it – *sigh* – it’s worth it though!! Beautiful.

  37. Sandy says:

    Hi, just stumbled upon your site. I completely agree, if it lacks chocolate it isn’t worth the bother, and white chocolate is NOT chocolate. Your semifreddo looks delicious, can’t wait to try it!



  38. jenyu says:

    Kitt – ha, no. I didn’t wind up posting what she made because the photos were tough to process and then I was diagnosed ;) Maybe I’ll post them someday!

    Mrs. E – good luck with the house issues. That was a stressful time for us too (buying a house). I hope things sort out for the better, dear.

    Clumbsy Cookie – thanks :) MIL and I have a lot of shared interests, which makes it fun whenever we visit with one another!

    Steph – yeah, I think the frozen desserts are definitely on my goto list right now because of the crazy heat!

    Joanne – ha ha! Sounds like your hubby and mine have similar training ;)

    Debbie – yup, it’s not real chocolate at all! I’m glad I’m not the only one who detests the stuff. Sometimes it seems that everyone loves it (why?!) :)

    Rosa – it’s definitely fun baking with others, but it can be a pain too. My partner in my pastry skills course last year was a strange one (didn’t want to touch raw eggs – how do you take a pastry class if you won’t touch raw eggs?!)

    Jenny – thanks!

    Judith – too bad I couldn’t give you a forkful of the semifreddo for your open mouth :)

    Lan – ooh, I’m sorry :( But a citrus semifreddo sounds lovely to me!

    Robin – girlfriend, you know you is only white on the outside, ayight? :)

    Christina – yeah, I ignore the teasing now! ha ha!

    Tartelette – you could snuggle with both and watch the little puppy dog lick the plate clean. I want that puppy – he is so cute!!

    Cindy – doh! Sorry ’bout that!

    Jamie – yeah, you need that food blogging tarp for your keyboard so things don’t short out ;) It happens to me when I’m cruising the foodblogs too!

    Mark – Ewwww, I can’t eat white chocolate, hon. It’s sooooo sweet and ugh. I just can’t take it. There are a few white chocolate desserts that are nice, but when I replace them with bittersweet, they are so much better :) I’m glad you’re an omnivore – that means it will be easier to feed you when you come to my house for dinner!

    Mollie – heeeeee!

    Ashley – espresso and chocolate are such a nice combination :) Yeah, my grandma is so cute. At least she humors me.

    Brilynn – frozen and chocolate = good for summer!

    Judy – yes, I hope you like it!

    Tony – thanks, dear :) I think the molds will have to wait until late August (travel and such). But I have some nice recipes for bombes that I’d love to share.

    Laura – thank you!

    Megan – thanks :)

    Jeanine – you’re very sweet.

    Anita – I love that image of the messy kitchen with camera and plates… We have similar scenarios play out over here except I’m usually swearing up a storm. You’re too nice for that ;) xxoo

    My Sweet and Saucy – thanks!

    Sara – ha ha, it’s just semifreddo :)

    Farida – awww, you are sweet!

    Peabody – are you gonna bake for them? are they as picky as your hubby? :) Good luck with the visit, hon!

    Ellen – thanks :)

    Lisa – it’s totally worth it if you love chocolate!

    Laura – thank you, my dear!

    Patricia – ha ha ha! Only we food bloggers can appreciate struggling with people digging into their dish before we can get a shot! ha ha ha.

    Leslie – oh, you shouldn’t gain unless you at least get to try it!! :)

    Sandy – thank you :)

  39. Kevin says:

    A chocolate espresso semifreddo in cake format! It looks really good!

  40. Mrs Ergul says:

    Thanks for your kind words Jen! I know me & my husband have to brave through this together somehow

  41. jenyu says:

    Kevin – thanks, dear!

    Mrs. E – keeping fingers crossed for ya.

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