In her book on how to make Italian gelati – Ices Italia – Linda Tubby explains how iced desserts became extremely popular in the 17th-century. An official called Antonio Latini in Naples wrote recipes for frozen flavored ices filled with fruit, as well as sweet milk-based ices. These milk ices could be quite rich – made with eggs and cream, and scented with orange flower water, cinnamon and vanilla.
In the 18th-century the idea emerged that snow and ice had all sorts of healthy properties – particularly sorbets. Recipes were devised by herbalists to help improve the digestion of those who had eaten or drunk too much.
The semi-freddo is something between an ice cream and a sorbet – light but indulgent.
The following recipe for Moka Semifreddo – an espresso and chocolate parfait, is taken from Ices Italia
This luscious parfait is made from crushed dark chocolate-covered espresso beans and a frothy light egg and cream whisked mousse mixture. It needs no churning.
Ingredients for Moka Semifreddo – Serves 6
- 100 g/4 oz/1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar
- 185 ml/61/2 fl oz/generous 3/4 cup strong freshly brewed espresso
- 6 egg yolks
- 3 heaped tbsp dark (bittersweet) chocolate-covered coffee beans
- 300 ml/10 fl oz/11/4 cups double (heavy) cream
- 25 g/1 oz good quality plain dark (bittersweet) chocolate, cut into shards to decorate
1. Put the sugar and espresso in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and boil for 3 minutes.
2. Put the chocolate-covered coffee beans in a small grinding machine (or you could use a food processor) and process until finely ground. Tip into a bowl and leave to chill in the refrigerator until needed. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks lightly in a bowl to break them up.
3. Gradually pour the hot sugar syrup onto the egg yolks whisking with electric beaters. Increase the speed and whisk constantly for 5 minutes until the mixture is cool, has increased in volume and leaves a thick trail when the beaters are lifted out of the mixture. Place in the refrigerator to chill.
4. Whip the cream in another bowl until slightly thickened (leaving a trail when the beaters are lifted). If the cream is any stiffer it is difficult to fold into the egg mixture without losing volume.
5. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold the cream through the egg mixture and then fold in the crushed chocolate-covered coffee beans. Spoon the mixture into a freezerproof container, cover, and freeze for about 4 hours.
6. If freezing for longer, remove lid and transfer to the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to soften slightly. To serve, spoon into glasses, cups or pots and freeze again for 15 minutes. Decorate the tops with the chocolate shards.