Macarpone Semifreddo with Pistachios and Biscotti

SemifreddoSemifreddo is Italian for half cold, or in other words, what we call a Canadian Spring! (Ba-dum-bah! Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week!) Okay, back to food… So, semifreddos are a class of semi-frozen desserts, typically things like ice-cream cakes, semi-frozen custards, or the frozen chocolate mousse cake that an old kosher Toronto restaurant used to serve. Usually, it is made by combining equal parts of ice cream (or gelato in Italian cuisine) and whipping cream. In today’s recipe, we’re doing things a bit differently, by combining mascarpone cheese, Greek yogourt and whipped egg whites. Your guests will be molto impressionato (very impressed) with this dessert! This dish will serve 8 to 10 people.

Ingredients:

1 orange*
¼ cup sugar
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 cup plain Greek-style yogourt
1 ½ cups (375 mL) store-bought almond biscotti, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons honey, plus extra for garnish
¼ cup shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 egg whites

* Click here for my tips on zesting citrus.

Directions:

Zest an orange with a peeler and cut into thin strips. Squeeze out the juice and put it aside for now. Place the zest in a saucepan, covering it with water and bring it to a boil. Drain the zest and then put back in the saucepan with ⅓ cup water and the sugar. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, as this will candy the zest. After the ten minutes, drain the zest and reserve the syrup.

In a large bowl, mix the mascarpone with the yogourt and the reserved orange juice. Add the candied orange zest, biscotti, honey and pistachios. Mix together to combine.

In another bowl, beat egg whites with the reserved syrup until soft peaks form. It will help if you use an electric mixer to do this, but it can be done by hand (with a little elbow grease). Incorporate the whipped egg white mixture into the mascarpone mixture. Pour into a 9 x 5-inch (23 x 13 cm) silicone loaf pan or a loaf pan lined with parchment paper (see note below).

Place in the freezer for at least 4 hours before unmoulding. Let the semifreddo stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This will help soften it before slicing to serve it “semi-frozen.” Serve slices of the semifreddo with a drizzle of honey if desired.

Note: If using a non-silicone loaf pan, you want to line it completely with parchment paper first, so that it can be removed easily once frozen.

Step 1: Grease your pan with a little butter or non-stick cooking spray, then trim your parchment paper to fit your pan (use the pan as a guide) leaving enough of a border to come up all four sides, leaving at least 1 inch of overhang. Cut in at all four corners, diagonally, toward the corners of your pan.
Step 2: Carefully fit your parchment into your pan — the cuts will allow the corner flaps to overlap and the paper to sit neatly inside.
Step 3: Trim the top, if necessary, so you don’t have too much of an overhang, and use a little butter or non-stick spray to stick down any paper that has come away from the tin.
Step 4: Ta-dah! You have a beautifully lined loaf pan!

Due Finali Dolci

TiramisuTiramisu

This dish, again seems to be a bit labour intensive, but again, worth it! The best advice I have for you is to make it at least a day in advance, if not two, so that the flavours have a chance to meld and develop. If not, you might find it somewhat bland and unbalanced. I also recommend serving it chilled.

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks
¾ cup white sugar
⅔ cup milk
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese
½ cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature (espresso is even better)
4 tablespoons rum or alcohol of choice
2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfinger cookies
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, don’t stop, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour. Remove from the fridge and whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth, you may wish to use an electric beater for this if you have one, it will make the job easier and give you a silky texture. In a separate medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. In a small bowl, combine coffee and rum. Take each lady finger and dip it into the coffee mixture. Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7×11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set, but preferably overnight or even a day or two.

BiscottiItalian Biscotti

This recipe is for a basic almond cookie, but the flavour options are endless. You can replace the extracts with ones of your choosing, such as anise, orange or lemon. You can add, remove or change the nuts used, or use chocolate chips or poppy seeds instead. Add citrus zest or dried cranberries! You are truly only limited by your imagination.

Original recipe makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

12 ounces butter/margarine
1 ¾ cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 ounces chopped almonds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, and then add eggs one at a time, beating until fluffy. Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and then incorporate them into the egg mixture along with the chopped almonds. Stir the dough with a spoon until it begins to come together. I find it easier, once the basic dough has formed, to then dump it out onto a clean floured surface and knead by hand at this point. Divide the dough into 4 parts. Roll each piece into a log about 15 inches long (or as long as your baking sheets are). Place logs onto cookie sheets, two to a sheet, the long way. Flatten the logs out until they are about 3 inches wide with a slight hump going down the middle. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, then remove them from the oven. The loaves should be firm to the touch. Transfer the logs to a rack to cool slightly, and then using a serrated blade, cut the loaves into diagonal slices ½ inch wide. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Stand the slices upright on the baking sheet and bake for another 40 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Curry-Scented Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, 2 ½ lbs or about 6 cups, peeled and cubed in 1” pieces
2 large sweet apples such as Fuji or Honeycrisp, peeled and cubed in 1” pieces
3 medium onions, diced
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
6 cups vegetable stock
1 container (8 oz/250 g) mascarpone cheese
2 teaspoons salt
Sour cream and snipped fresh chives (optional)

Directions:

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, melt butter in over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook for 5-6 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add squash, apples, brown sugar and curry powder. Cook and stir for 1 minute or until curry powder is fragrant. Add stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook 25-30 minutes or until squash is very soft. Remove from heat. Carefully ladle about one-third of the squash mixture into blender container. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour blended soup into a stand-by bowl for holding while you blend the rest of the soup. Repeat two times with remaining squash mixture. Alternatively, if you have an immersion blender, you can use this rather than transferring the soup. Return soup to stock pot and whisk in mascarpone and salt until mascarpone is completely incorporated. If the soup is too thick for your liking, you can thin it out with additional stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and remove from heat. Garnish each serving with sour cream and chives, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Bonus – When scooping out the seeds from your squash, do NOT throw them away! Clean them under running water to remove any residue, and then toss them with a little oil and spices of your liking. With this soup, since it has a curry flavour, you can toss a little curry powder or even cinnamon or nutmeg on the seeds, along with some salt and pepper. Then spread the seeds out on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the seeds. You should just keep an eye on them, as seeds tend to burn quickly! Once done, remove from them oven and toss a few on top of each soup serving as a nice crunchy garnish.