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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ricotta Semifreddo

Our Christmas Eve dessert this year was ricotta semifreddo, a recipe that originally appeared in the November 2010 Cooking Light. I'd never attempted a semifreddo, which I have just learned means "half frozen" in Italian. This recipe includes grated orange rind, giving it a hint of citrus.

Ricotta Semifreddo

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp grated orange rind
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
3 oz fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 (16-oz) container part-skim ricotta cheese (such as Calabro)
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
Fresh orange sections (optional)
Fresh currants (optional)

1. Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, milk, honey, orange rind, vanilla extract, 1/8 tsp salt, cream cheese, and ricotta in a blender; process until smooth. Pour mixture into a large bowl. Pour cream into a medium bowl and beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Fold 1/4 cup whipped cream into the ricotta mixture. Fold in the remaining cream.

2. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze at least 8 hours or until set. Remove semifreddo from freezer, and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Discard top piece of plastic wrap. Invert loaf pan onto a serving plate, and tap to remove semifreddo. Discard the remaining plastic wrap, and slice semifreddo crosswise. Serve with orange sections and currants, if desired.

The Verdict: Yum.

There's not much else to say about this recipe. It's super-easy to make and tastes wonderful. The hint of orange goes extremely well with the creamy and mild custard. In addition, the ricotta is slightly grainy, giving it a nice texture in the mouth. It's a bit like ice cream but not as creamy and definitely has more flavor notes.

After about 20 minutes of sitting at room temperature, my semifreddo was still a bit reluctant to pop out of its loaf pan. So I set it in a 13 x 9 x 2" baking dish of warm (not hot!) water. It slid right out. The edges go a bit soft and melty, while the middle stays fairly frozen with a little bit of crunch.

We didn't garnish with the orange or currants, however, I think if you're looking for something to top it with a raspberry ice cream sauce or even a little bit of balsamic reduction. But really, a topping is completely unnecessary. This dessert can hold its own.

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