Strawberry Semifreddo all’Italiana is a delicious spoon dessert with a velvety texture and delicate flavor.
A fresh and delicious dessert for spring and summer, it’s an alternative to the classic strawberry gelato.
Semifreddo is an Italian dessert that has a consistency similar to gelato, but is not usually served completely frozen. It’s a kind of soft gelato with a slightly softer texture.
There are many ways to make semifreddo. The word “all’Italiana” (Italian style) refers to a basic traditional Italian dessert preparation.
It consists of a mixture of Italian meringue (egg whites beaten with hot liquid glucose), crema pasticcera (Italian Pastry Cream) and whipped cream.
A fruit puree, in our case strawberries, is then added to these basic ingredients to flavor the dessert.
And it’s the balance between the ingredients, the right amount of sugar and the right textures that make a perfect semifreddo. Without the addition of thickeners such as gelatin or agar agar!
Strawberries, especially when in season, sweet and ripe, are probably the best fruit for making delicious spring desserts, such as the classic strawberry tiramisu.
Strawberry Semifreddo all’italiana is the ideal dessert to end a dinner with friends or a special occasion with refined simplicity. It’s also a healthy and nutritious snack for your children on hot summer afternoons.
Follow the instructions and steps carefully and you’ll get a fantastic and creamy Strawberry Semifreddo all’italiana, a dessert that will delight your guests!
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How to Make Semifreddo all’Italiana with Strawberries
- Prep Time: 1 H 30 Min
- Cook Time: 20 Min
- Cooling Time: at least 6 H in the freezer
- Servings: 6-8
For Crema Pasticcera (Italian Pastry Cream)
- 2 medium egg yolks
- 50 g (4 tablespoons) of granulated sugar
- 15 g (~2 tablespoons) of all purpose flour
- 35 g (3 3/4 tablespoons) of corn starch
- 250 ml (1 cup) of whole fresh milk
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean or zest of half lemon
For the Italian Meringue
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of egg whites (about 3 egg whites)
- 180 g (~ 1 cup) of granulated sugar
- 50 ml (3 1/2 tablespoons) of water
For the Strawberry Puree
- 250 g (~1/2 pound) of strawberries
For the Whipped Cream
- 400 g (~1 pound or 1 3/4 cups) of fresh whipping cream
- A few strawberries and a few fresh mint leaves
Strawberry Semifreddo: Directions
To make this Italian Strawberry Semifreddo, you need to make four different preparations, which are then combined.
It’s best to start with the pastry cream (crema pasticcera). This is the most complex recipe and the pastry cream must be completely cooled.
Then, while the custard is cooling, you can make the other preparations.
How to Make Crema Pasticcera (Italian Pastry Cream)
Step 1) – Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. You can use the yolks to make the pastry cream while you use the whites to make the Italian meringue.
Heat the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla or lemon zest, depending on your preference. Bring to a near boil.
While the milk is heating, in another saucepan, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and mix well.
Step 2) – Then add the two sifted flours and mix.
Step 3) – Now pour the hot milk slowly into the egg-sugar-flour mixture, stirring all the time.
Then place the saucepan over low heat. Whisk until the cream thickens (this will take about 3-4 minutes).
Step 4) – Pour the pastry cream into a bowl. Cover with cling film (in contact with the cream) and allow to cool completely, first at room temperature and then in the refrigerator.
How to Make Italian Meringue
Step 5) – Now make the Italian meringue. You only need three ingredients: egg whites, sugar and water.
Make the glucose syrup first. Place the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat to 120°C (248°F) or until bubbles form.
Step 6) – Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the bowl of a planetary mixer and begin to whip at medium speed.
When the syrup has reached the correct temperature and the sugar is completely dissolved, slowly add it to the beaten egg whites.
Continue to beat at high speed for 10 minutes or until the mixture has cooled. Place your hands on the outside of the bowl. When you feel it has cooled, then the Italian meringue is ready!
How to Make the Strawberry Puree
Step 7) – Wash and dry the strawberries. Place the fruits in the bowl of an immersion blender. Start the blender and puree them.
Set some strawberries aside for the final decoration of the semifreddo.
PLEASE NOTE: If you like a very smooth texture, you can puree the strawberries in a fine mesh strainer or blend them until smooth. On the other hand, if you like to see and feel the pieces of fruit, blend the strawberries coarsely.
How to Make the Whipped Cream
Step 8) – Pour fresh, chilled whipping cream into the bowl of the mixer.
DO NOT add sugar because the other ingredients in the semifreddo (pastry cream and meringue) are very sweet.
Run the mixer on medium speed. You should get a frothy but not very thick whipped cream.
Combine all the Preparations and Make the Strawberry Semifreddo all’Italiana
Step 9) – In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly: the cold pastry cream, Italian meringue, strawberry puree and whipped cream.
Using a spatula, work the ingredients into the meringue using very gentle movements from the bottom up so as not to break up the meringue and whipped cream.
Step 10) – Line the mold with plastic wrap. This will make it easier to remove the semifreddo from the form. Finally pour the mixture into the mold.
Step 11) – Cover with plastic wrap and place the strawberry semifreddo in the freezer for at least 6 hours.
Before serving, remove the semifreddo from the freezer, at least 15 minutes in advance, and unmold it.
Step 12) – Transfer the strawberry semifreddo directly to a serving plate and decorate with fresh sliced strawberries and mint leaves or according to your taste and imagination!
How to Store Strawberry Semifreddo
If you want to store the leftover strawberry semifreddo, do the following
Place the semifreddo on a flat surface covered with plastic wrap.
Use more plastic wrap to wrap the semifreddo tightly, covering it on all sides. Make sure there are no uncovered areas.
Next, place the wrapped semifreddo in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag. Be sure to squeeze out any excess air before sealing.
Label the container or bag with the date and contents for easy identification.
Return the container or bag to the freezer.
Strawberry Semifreddo may be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. After that time, the texture and flavor may begin to deteriorate.
When ready to serve, remove the semifreddo from the freezer and and allow to thaw for about 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Remember that semifreddo is a delicate frozen dessert, so handle it gently to preserve its shape and texture during storage.
What is the Best Mold for Semifreddo?
For your semifreddo, you can choose the classic square shape to cut into slices using a plumcake mold.
Or you can choose a shape to suit the occasion, such as a heart-shape for Mother’s Day or a romantic dinner party.
You can also use small molds to make elegant and convenient single-portions for your parties.
How to Decorate Strawberry Semifreddo: Some Variations
To enjoy semifreddo at its best, it’s important to remove it from the freezer about 15 to 20 minutes before serving. This gives the dessert the right creaminess that makes it stand out.
To decorate the strawberry semifreddo, we have suggested the most classic decoration: sliced strawberries and fresh mint leaves, which add freshness and color.
Of course, you can let your imagination run wild. But always be careful not to sacrifice taste for aesthetics. Always choose pairings that go well with strawberries and are not too sweet, or you risk making the dessert cloying.
Strawberries and Chocolate
Chocolate goes well with the flavor of strawberries and gives a nice color effect. You can add dark chocolate chips to the surface of the dessert along with the strawberry slices.
Equally elegant and impressive, pistachio granules will color and enrich your semifreddo.
Strawberry Sauce and Whipped Cream
You can also serve the semifreddo with a strawberry sauce and whipped cream.
You will need about 250 g (~ 1/2 pound) of strawberries, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a sheet of food gelatin (or 1 teaspoon of powdered gelatin).
To make the sauce, blend the strawberries and add the lemon juice and gelatin. Cook over low heat for a few minutes until the sauce thickens.
Allow the strawberry sauce to cool before garnishing the semifreddo.
Semifreddo Vs Gelato
Semifreddo is a typical Italian dessert, the forerunner of gelato.
It’s a soft, smooth, velvety delight that’s less cold than gelato due to the presence of the ingredients that make it up.
Semifreddo is higher in fat and sugar (about 10-15% more than gelato) and contains less water in the mass, therefore less ice.
Semifreddo all’Italiana has a base of Italian meringue and often Italian pastry cream.
Often confused with each other, semifreddo and gelato are desserts that differ not only in their ingredients, but also in their preparation.
Semifreddo does not have the churning stage that is typical of gelato. In fact, gelato is cooled at the same time as it is churned.
The softness of semifreddo is due to the fact that the base is made with beaten eggs, which ensure a greater air content in the mixture and therefore greater lightness.
Served at freezing temperature (about -18°C / 0.4°F), semifreddo should have its typical texture, firmer than gelato, but creamy and less cold.
Semifreddo Vs Parfait
It’s easy to confuse Semifreddo with its French cousin, the Parfait.
Instead of the Italian meringue made with whipped egg whites, parfait is based on “pâte à bombe,” a whipped mixture of egg yolks pasteurized with sugar syrup.
The name Parfait (En: “Perfect”) was chosen by the French precisely to emphasize the perfection of this cold dessert with its creamy and light texture.
The Origins of Semifreddo
Semifreddo, as is often the case, is the result of experiments made by pastry chefs who were looking for a dessert that could be kept at low temperatures while remaining soft and creamy.
It was Buontalenti, a great architect and man of culture of the Florentine Renaissance, but also a great lover of gastronomy, who invented the first semifreddo.
Buontalenti, invented the Zuccotto in honor of Queen Catherine de’ Medici for a court banquet. The name and shape recall the “zucchetto”, the colorful hat worn by high prelates.
The cake was actually a hemisphere of sponge cut into thin slices and soaked in alchermes. The inside was filled with ricotta mixed with sugar, almonds and candied fruit. Before serving, it was cooled with ice.
Zuccotto can be considered the first semifreddo dessert to appear on Italian tables.
Apparently, at the court of Versailles, the master pastry chef described the Italian dessert as “a cream never seen before, velvety and soft, completely free of ice crystals”.
And so, at the Palace of Versailles, the pastry chefs did their best to please Louis XIV and, after various experiments, succeeded in inventing this soft and velvety cold dessert.
Italian Semifreddo with Strawberries Web Story