Chocolate Semifreddo

Chocolate Semifreddo
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semifreddo slice
Like ice cream, but better!

When we made Vanilla Semifreddo, it was such a hit that we received a number of requests in response for us to figure out how to make a chocolate version. And, why not? Semifreddo is like homemade ice cream, only creamier, and doesn’t require any churning; basically, you mix it up and freeze it overnight to enjoy the next day. Figuring that the result of anything involving chocolate and cream would be good regardless of how it turned out, we forged ahead.

Oh, by the way, zero is, indeed, a number.

In reality, this is a simple variation of the vanilla semifreddo, to which we added some melted chocolate and some high-quality cocoa, but the basic process remains: whip cream and flavoring, set aside, whip egg whites and flavoring, set aside, whip egg yolks and flavoring. Fold all ingredients together and freeze. So, let’s get scratching.

Makes about 1 quart.

Chocolate Semifreddo

Chocolate Semifreddo


  • 3 eggs, separated and room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 3/4 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz) dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of cream of tartar

Abbreviated Instructions

Line a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with two pieces of plastic wrap at right angles, leaving 3 inches of overhang on each side.

Sift together cocoa and sugar.

In a stand mixer with a cold bowl and whisk attachment, whip cream and 7 tablespoons of the cocoa-sugar mixture until it holds firm peaks. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.

Wash mixer bowl and whisk attachment thoroughly.

Whip egg whips until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue whipping. When whites hold soft peaks, add 1 tablespoon cocoa-sugar mixture and whip to combine. Add 1 additional tablespoon of cocoa-sugar mixture. Whip egg whites to firm peaks. Set aside.

Melt chocolate in microwave on 50% power.

In large bowl, whisk egg yolks, add remaining cocoa and sugar, and whisk until uniform in color. While whisking, pour in melted chocolate. Continue whisking until thickened and uniform.

In three additions, fold whipped cream into egg yolk mixture.

In three additions, fold in egg whites.

Scrape into pan, fold plastic around and freeze at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Slice to serve.

Ingredient discussion:

We suggest using Dutch-processed cocoa because it is not as bitter as standard American-style cocoa. You could use the latter, but you might have to increase the amount of sugar by a couple of tablespoons to compensate. For the chocolate, we used Callabaut 53% cacao chips because they are easy to measure and melt. Use only pure vanilla extract, and, of course, you’ll be eating raw eggs, so buy them from someone you trust.

Procedure in detail:

Prepare pan. Okay, we need to line a 9x5x3 loaf with two pieces of plastic wrap. We had trouble pressing in a piece at a time, so we placed one piece of plastic wrap on the counter, then placed the second piece at right angles to make a large “+” sign. Then we pressed the “+” into the pan. Worked perfectly.

Freeze mixer bowl. We like to freeze both the mixer bowl and the whisk attachment before whipping cream. We think it helps to keep the cream from whipping into butter — we did have one batch whip into a sweet vanilla butter a long time ago and that was with a warm bowl — so we freeze. Maybe it’s not true. Who knows? Since it’s no trouble, we don’t even care one way or the other; freezing the bowl is just part of the whipped cream tradition.

cocoa and sugar
Sifting made it easier to avoid cocoa lumps and control the amount of bitterness in any one of the three components.

Sift. Cocoa is lumpy, so we sifted it. In fact, we thought it would be easiest to deal with the cocoa and sugar as a uniform mixture, so we sifted them together, ending up with a uniform non-lumpy cocoa-sugar that was pretty tasty all by itself. Yes, we tasted. Don’t tell!

cream, cocoa, vanilla, and sugar
Add the vanilla and about 7 tablespoons of the cocoa sugar to the cream, then whip.
chocolate whipped cream
Chocolate whipped cream. We were tempted to stop right here, but we’d already separated our eggs.

Whip cream. Take the bowl and whisk out of the freezer, pour in the cream, and start whipping on medium. When it starts to thicken, measure about 7 tablespoons of the cocoa-sugar mixture onto the cream and add the vanilla. Keep whipping, increasing the speed as it thickens, until you have nice stiff chocolate whipped cream. We know it’s tempting to stop right here, but let’s just taste a fingerful, instead. Mmmmm. Transfer to a bowl and set in the refrigerator.

Wash. Wash out the mixer bowl and whisk attachment thoroughly. Sometimes we double wash it before whipping egg whites. It may be overkill, but the tiniest amount of oil will keep whites from whipping properly. Dry with a clean towel and re-attach to the mixer.

adding cream of tartar
Adding cream of tartar helps ensure the egg whites will whip up and hold their shape.
adding cocoa and sugar
We really add the cocoa and sugar for the color. This prevents having white streaks when you fold the whites into the semifreddo.

Whip egg whites. Start whipping the whites on medium speed. When they begin to get frothy, add a pinch of cream of tartar (or a pinch of salt, but not both). Keep whipping until they start to fluff up and hold very soft peaks. Sprinkle on a tablespoon of the cocoa- sugar mixture and continue whipping until mixed. If the peaks are still soft, you can add another tablespoon of the cocoa-sugar mixture and whip that in. We’re really just whipping in a bit of the sugar and cocoa for the color, so it will blend in when we’re folding; the exact amount of sugar-cocoa at this step isn’t critical. When the whites form stiff glossy peaks, stop whipping and set the whites aside.

Melt chocolate. We find it easiest to melt chocolate in the microwave. Place it in a small bowl and cook at 50% power for 30-second intervals until the chocolate melts. Stir to smooth, and set aside.

adding chocolate
While the yolks look chocolatey enough, our motto is “More chocolate!”

Whisk egg yolks. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up. Add the remaining cocoa and sugar mixture and whisk until uniform, about a minute. While whisking continuously, pour in the melted chocolate. The egg yolk mixture will thicken and turn into something resembling a cake batter.

Folding in an ingredient in multiple additions really help to keep everything from deflating, making for a fluffy final product.

Fold. Here we go. We like to work our way from the thickest mixture to the lightest. So, in three additions, fold the chocolate whipped cream into the egg yolks. The first addition will mostly collapse, but it will lighten the batter. The second will make it even lighter, then the third addition will be standard folding.

folding in egg whites
Note how the egg whites are the same color as the semifreddo; we won’t have any white streaks!

Fold. Just as with the chocolate whipped cream, fold in the egg whites. Do this in three additions, too. It only takes an additional minute and it will help to make this nice and light.

Scrape the batter into the pan, wrap, and freeze at least 8 hours or overnight, if you can wait that long. We couldn’t.

Pour into pan. Scrape and pour the mixture into the prepared pan, leaving just enough in the bowl to lick out. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula, fold over the plastic wrap to seal, and place in the freezer.

Freeze. Leave the chocolate semifreddo in the freezer overnight to freeze all the way through. Alright, we admit it, we had a slice after only six or seven hours. We couldn’t wait.

semifreddo slice
Creamalicous and chocolatey goodness!

Serve. To serve, unwrap and slice.

We’re not really sure why you don’t see semifreddo for sale. We’ve never seen it at the store, nor at restaurants. The latter is surprising, because semifreddo is far, far creamier than ice cream, and it’s really not too troublesome to make. Just whip up a couple of ingredients, fold them together, and freeze. Techniques we imagine are taught in chef 101 class so this could be made by the new hire without a problem. We guess it’s really about the cost of the ingredients; after all, there’s almost 2 cups of cream in there. That’s not cheap.

Even though it might not be cheap, we like to make semifreddo when cream is on sale, and we pick up a quart (yes, we sometimes buy heavy cream by the quart) or two (yes, we’ve bought two quarts at a time). As we said above, it’s creamier than ice cream, and this chocolate version turned out very chocolatey-tasting. We can’t think of any way to improve either the flavor or the texture. Of course, since we slice off pieces of semifreddo, it’s tempting to make rectangular chocolate cookies so we could have semifreddo sandwiches. We give it the high five!

Worth the trouble?

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