Chelle and I felt like baking something together again last week, and it was my turn to choose.  One of the things I suggested was this semifreddo.  We had actually planned on making last summer and then ended up postponing it.  Though I have several recipes for semifreddo bookmarked to try, this was my first.  To be perfectly honest, I had never even heard the term “semifreddo” before seeing it on various food blogs.  For anyone else who is not familiar, according to Epicurious a semifreddo is basically any sort of chilled or partially frozen dessert.  So, apparently in the broad sense of the word I have made things that qualify as semifreddos in the past (like strawberry margarita pie), but I was unaware of the meaning.

This is a wonderful dessert, especially perfect for coffee lovers.  It has a nice smooth texture and is not overly sweet.  The mascarpone provides a nice subtle tang as well.  I used instant espresso powder to make the espresso at home since I don’t have a coffee or espresso maker, and didn’t feel like driving to a coffee shop just for this.  So, my filling has little flecks from the espresso powder.  I am sure there are many ways this could be beautifully garnished, but after over a year of imagining it exactly the way Jen had decorated it, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it any other way.  I do think a little swirl of whipped cream underneath each raspberry would look gorgeous though, and maybe next time I’ll try that.

This dessert consists of an espresso custard base mixed with chocolate which is mixed with mascarpone and cream.  This mixture is then in turn folded together with stiffly beaten egg whites and poured atop a chocolate cookie crumb crust.  Then it just needs to set up in the freezer for a few hours before serving.  It sounds simple enough, and it is, but the most painful part for me was warming the egg whites.  They seemed to take forever to reach the necessary temperature!  The cooking is important though for the sake of safety so that you do not consume raw egg whites, so if you are wondering if you can get by without actually measuring the temperature, you cannot.  I have mentioned many times before how useful an instant read thermometer can be in the kitchen.  It is a totally worthwhile and inexpensive investment, so if you don’t have one yet, just buy one!

Chocolate Espresso Semifreddo
For the crust:
1 3/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing the pan

For the filling:
4 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar, divided
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. dark rum
3 oz. espresso
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine
16 oz. mascarpone cheese
2 oz. heavy cream

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly brush the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with melted butter.  Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs and 3 tablespoons of melted butter in a small bowl, and mix with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened.  Transfer the crumbs to the springform pan and use the flat bottom of a ramekin or drinking glass to press them into an even layer.  Bake for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Once cooled, line the edges of the pan with strips of parchment paper.

Over a double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Lift the whisk out of the bowl as you go to incorporate air into the mixture.  Continue whisking until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, and ribbons.  (This takes awhile but you will get there.)  Add the vanilla, rum, and espresso.  Cook over the simmering water until the liquid coats the back of a spoon and the mixture is thick and foamy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate.  Stir until melted, and continue stirring until the mixture has cooled.

In a separate bowl, combine the mascarpone and heavy cream.  Stir together until soft and smooth, taking care not to overstir.

Combine the egg whites and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer.  Gently whisk together over a simmering water bath until the mixture reaches 145 degrees F.  Remove from the water bath and attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.  Reduce the 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 in 1/4 of the meringue into the chocolate-mascarpone mixture to lighten it.  Gently fold in the remaining meringue in three parts, taking care not to overmix and deflate the egg whites.  Spread the mixture over the crust in the parchment-lined pan, cover tightly 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 strips.  Garnish as desired.  Serve cold and cut slices with a warm, dry knife.

Source: adapted from Use Real Butter