Semifreddo is an Italian frozen dessert, often compared to ice cream, but I feel it’s best described as a frozen mousse. It’s light and airy, yet incredibly rich and creamy. It’s also important to note it’s not a shortcut to making ice cream. A true semifreddo is a little bit involved— it requires whipping cream, making a zabaglione sauce (a custard) and whipping egg whites and sugar to a shiny meringue. Everything is folded together, poured into a plastic lined loaf pan and frozen. The clear advantage to a semifreddo is it's a homemade ice cream, with a luscious creamy texture, that can be made without an ice cream maker! It is also a touch more upscale than ice cream and is an elegant dessert option for a dinner party.
This version incorporates rich coconut cream into the whipped cream, and a touch of coconut extract and dried mangoes into the zabaglione for a tropical, summery semifreddo. It’s important to use rehydrated dried mangoes, rather than fresh, because the lower water content keeps them soft and chewy when frozen rather than hard and icy. Once fully frozen, the semifreddo is sliced and can be topped with your choice of fresh fruit— I kept it simple with fresh mangoes and toasted coconut flakes, but fresh passionfruit, lychees, papaya, kiwi, and pineapple would all be mouthwatering additions to this summer semifreddo.
coconut mango semifreddo
serves 8 | recipe loosely adapted from Fine Cooking
1 14- ounce can (414 ml) coconut cream, well chilled (overnight in the fridge is best)
4 oz (about 1 cup) dried mango
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
2 tbsp apricot preserves
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp coconut extract (or vanilla extract for a more subtle coconut flavor)
2 mangoes, peeled and diced, for topping
1/4 cup coconut flakes, lightly toasted, for topping
Refrigerate can of coconut cream overnight.
Thoroughly chill a large metal bowl and the beaters of an electric hand mixer (15 minutes in the freezer works fine).
Put the mango in a medium heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water by 1 inch. Set aside to soften for 20 minutes.
Line a 9"x5" loaf pan with enough plastic wrap to leave a 5" tail on both ends. Smooth out the plastic as much as possible (I find a small spritz of cooking spray on the pan helps keep the plastic wrap in place and removes wrinkles). It's impossible to get it completely smooth, wrinkles in the semifreddo can be smoothed out later.
whip the cream:
Carefully open the can of coconut cream, making sure not to shake or tip the can. Scoop out the firm layer of coconut cream that has solidified at the top of the can and leave the liquid behind (drink it from the can or use it in a smoothie!)
Place this coconut cream in the chilled mixing bowl and combine with heavy whipping cream. Whip with the chilled beaters on medium-high speed just until firm peaks form, 3- 5 minutes. Refrigerate.
make the zabaglione:
Drain the mango and finely chop. Combine with apricot preserves. Set aside.
Clean and dry the beaters. In a medium saucepan, bring 2” of water to a gentle simmer. Put the egg yolks and 1/3 cup of the sugar in a medium metal bowl and set the bowl over the pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Beat on medium speed, frequently scraping down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, until the zabaglione is thick, almost doubled in volume, and the beaters leave a trail when you lift them, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pan and fold the chopped mango mixture into the zabaglione until combined. Set aside.
make the meringue:
Clean and dry the beaters. Return the water to a gentle simmer. Put the egg whites, the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, the cream of tartar, and salt in a large metal bowl and set it over the pan of water. Beat on medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a clean silicone spatula, until light, fluffy, and shiny, about 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pan, add the coconut extract (or vanilla, if using), and continue beating until the meringue is very thick, about 2 minutes more.
Use a silicone spatula to gently fold the zabaglione into the meringue and then fold in the whipped cream until no streaks remain.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula, scraping off excess if necessary to create a level top. Wrap the overhanging plastic over the top to cover and freeze for at least 6 hours and up to 3 days.
Peel back the plastic wrap from the top of the semifreddo. Invert the pan over a serving platter. Lift off the pan, holding the overhanging plastic down on one side and then the other. Remove the plastic wrap. If the semifreddo looks wrinkled, warm a long knife or small offset spatula under hot running water, wipe the blade dry, and run it over the wrinkles to smooth them out.
Slice the semifreddo crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces, and serve with fresh mango and toasted coconut flakes.