Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Vanilla Semifreddo with Raspberry Sauce, plus other favorite desserts

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching and for me, it’s time to think of what dessert to serve. Vanilla semifreddo with raspberry sauce is a special dessert worthy of a dinner party or a Valentine’s Day treat. It’s essentially frozen vanilla mousse. Both the semifreddo and the raspberry sauce can be made ahead and keep for quite a while frozen, which is very appealing.

We found that the semifreddo melts quite quickly and chilling not only the individual serving plates but also the serving platter will make your life easier and your presentation a lot smoother. You could even go so far as to chill the spoons. Fresh mint sprigs make a pretty garnish and give a burst of color to the final product.

The raspberry sauce was especially the star of the show and a real keeper. We strained ours for a more refined sauce, but you can certainly skip it. The sauce would be fabulous with a good store-bought ice cream. Our current favorites are Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Double Dark Chocolate Talenti gelato. Another plus is that the sauce keeps in the freezer for three months. A win, win.

Vanilla Semifreddo with Raspberry Sauce
Adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten – serves 8
Printable Recipe

Vegetable oil for greasing the pan
4 extra-large eggs, separated, at room temperature
½ cup sugar, divided
Seeds scraped from ½ of a vanilla bean
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure good vanilla extract
Fresh raspberry sauce, recipe follows
Fresh raspberries for serving
8 sprigs of fresh mint for garnish
1 rectangular serving plate, chilled
8 dessert plates, chilled

Lightly oil an 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2” loaf pan and line it neatly as possible with plastic wrap, allowing enough to drape over the sides to later cover the top. (Ina lays two pieces of plastic wrap across the pan, overlapping in the middle.) Place the pan in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

Put the egg yolks (reserve ½ cup of the eggs whites and discard or save the rest for another use), ¼ cup of the sugar and the vanilla seeds in a medium-heat-proof bowl and beat with a handheld mixer fitted with the beater attachments for 2 minutes until light yellow and thickened. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and beat the mixture continually for 3 minutes, until doubled in volume and warm to the touch. Off the heat, beat the mixture for one minute.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the reserved egg whites, the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, and the cream of tartar and beat on high speed until the whites form firm but not dry peaks. Fold the egg whites into the egg mixture with a rubber spatula.

Without washing the mixer or whisk, pour the heavy cream, vanilla liqueur (if using), and vanilla into the bowl and beat on high speed until it forms soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream carefully but thoroughly into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 4 hours.

To unmold, dip the pan in a bowl of hot tap water for 8 to 10 seconds and turn the semifreddo upside down onto a chilled rectangular serving plate. Peel off the plastic wrap. (You can cover and refreeze the semifreddo for a few hours on the serving plate.) Pour several tablespoons of raspberry sauce on each chilled dessert plate, cut 1-inch-thick slices of the semifreddo, and place them in the center of the sauce. Sprinkle each serving with raspberries, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and serve immediately.

Fresh Raspberry Sauce
Adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten – serves 8
Printable Recipe

1 pint fresh raspberries (6 ounces)
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons brandy or framboise liqueur
½ cup good raspberry preserves (6 ounces)

Place the raspberries, sugar, ¼ cup water and the brandy or framboise in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the mixture and the preserves into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth. Strain well and push as much liquid as possible through the sieve (optional but recommended for a smoother more refined sauce). Thoroughly chill.

Cook’s notes: Don’t forget to bring the eggs to room temperature. Ina says you can even leave them out all night. Their shells will protect them. It is important to chill the serving platter and the individual dessert bowls. The frozen semifreddo melts quickly and it helps if the platter and plates are well chilled. You might also chill the spoons.

Make ahead tip: Prepare the semifreddo and freeze for up to 1 month. Prepare the raspberry sauce and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months.

Of all the desserts we’ve made, my two favorites for Valentine’s Day are the heart shaped Coeur a la Crème with raspberry & Grand Marnier sauce, recipe here, and the luscious and always popular Crème Brûlée, recipe here.

I came rather late in life to love desserts. It wasn’t until a visit to Germany, Austria and Switzerland did I begin to appreciate quality desserts. European desserts, despite all of their grandness & richness, are, to my taste, less sweet and sugary than their American counterparts. Just compare the taste of a cookie from an American bakery to its European counterpart and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Most Americans over sweeten their desserts.

If I were to compare the Coeur or the Crème Brûlée to the Semifreddo featured above, I would pick either the crème brûlée or the coeur. All three are prepared in advance, but the semifreddo was the most complicated of the three and delivered the least amount of satisfaction & flavor. No Coeur mold? Click here for alternative ideas.

Meakin has always been the dessert maker in our family and his two favorites are chocolate mousse, recipe here plus three with a crunch, recipe here, and the crème brûlée that I spoke of above.

I also came late in life to including dessert making in my repertoire. Here are three of my favorites. Of course they are the easiest to make and all feature chocolate.

A chocolate raspberry tart, recipe here, is an easy and a decadent dessert to impress the fussiest of guests. It too can be made in advance. When you’re ready to serve, all you have to do is garnish with the fresh raspberries and you’re good to go.

This chocolate cassis cake is for all of the chocolate lovers. It’s glazed with a dark chocolate ganache spiked with crème de cassis and served with bright, sweet berries on the side, recipe here. I guarantee it will definitely satisfy your chocolate cravings.

Frozen chocolate truffles, recipe here, only take a few minutes to prepare, but you’ll need to allow time for them to freeze properly. For a change of pace, you can use a variety of flavors of ice cream.

I hope you all have a fabulous Valentine’s Day. 

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

Recipes will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattle Bridge Farms and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.


  1. Heavenly! I love semifreddos and raspberries.



  2. Everything looks wonderful Sam, all special desserts:@)

  3. What a stunner! You have some really cool sweet berry treats here, Sam.

  4. Oh yum Sam. All of your desserts look tempting. I like to sieve my raspberries too.

  5. Such beautiful pictures of some divine-looking desserts! Every dish looks delicious, but those frozen chocolate truffles are something I have to try soon. :)

  6. And what a special touch the chilled plates,platters..just like warmed for warm dishes.
    I always love your Valentine posts.
    Des coups de coeur♥

  7. Sam, What a selection of desserts! Damn the diet! I don't think that I've ever had semifreddo/frozen mousse. We both love quality creme brulee and the best we've ever had was at the Owl Cafe in Apalachicola FL! I think that I gained 5 lbs. just looking at all of these great photos... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  8. They all look and sound very good and the first one is especially pretty, but I would go for the tart every time.

  9. I would love to have any of these desserts served to me....not just on Valentine's Day, either! Beautiful!

  10. Pass that creme brulee right over here please! :)

  11. For someone that came late to desserts, you certainly do have some gorgeous ones!

  12. This is gorgeous!! I have never tried semifreddo, but would love to try it!

  13. I so agree with you about too-sweet desserts! The vanilla semi-freddo is calling my name right now...

  14. All these desserts look delicious. I can't imagine what it would be like to come late in life to love desserts. I've loved them ALL of my life - and have to constantly watch what I eat.

  15. Mmmm my mouth is watering!!! I cannot eat raspberries, or any berry for that matter fresh, The pips trigger off serious pains so Nigel (eating a few himself along the way) turns everything into coulis for me. The semifreddo sounds a good way of using some of it up :-) Thanks. Have a good day Diane

  16. Great ideas Sam. Your (Meakin's) photos are fabulous! Happy Valentine's Day.

  17. Great ideas Sam. Your (Meakin's) photos are fabulous! Happy Valentine's Day.

  18. A lovely semifreddo, Sam. One of my favorite desserts. Super other V-day ideas the idea of frozen truffles. I've made Ina's Coeur a la Crème a few times and it's always been a hit.
    Re move: boxes are empty....which I owe completely to my daughter who came down last weekend from NYC and worked like a dog. Things are almost all settled. By Sunday, I promised myself, I would resume my normal routine. (We can hope!)

  19. I have only started making semifreddo recently and love it! This look so pretty with the raspberry sauce, Sam.

  20. You have some terrific suggestions for Valentines desserts…each and everyone of them would make me happy. I hope you and Meakin enjoy the day.

  21. Welcome Back Sam!
    You have been missed and it is really good to see your wonderful post again.

    Your Vanilla Semifreddo with Raspberry Sauce would be a very special Valentine Treat that we would just love. Hope you have a very special Valentine Day and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  22. Alexis made this last night. Unfortunately, I didn't get to taste the final product but the sauce was fanfreakingtastic.

  23. Congratulations Sam!
    Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week. Hope you enjoy your weekend and your new Red Plate!
    Miz Helen


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