Meyer Lemon Semifreddo, Hazelnut Crunch and Blueberry Compote

  • Serves: Makes six 4-ounce ramekins
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Variations: Fruit or Nut Semifreddo; Key Lime Semifreddo; Loaf Pan Semifreddo

This fabulous and flavorful Meyer Lemon Semifreddo (Semi Freddo) recipe is very smooth and creamy, and makes a perfect summer dessert. 

Semifreddo is Italian for "half-cold," and is an Italian dessert made by freezing mousseline-like custard, which are often layered with ingredients like ground amaretti, nuts, or chocolate in ramekins. If you don't have them, find out what you can use instead. Unlike ice cream, semifreddo is not churned. To make it edible while frozen, air is incorporated into the custard base, usually in the form of meringue or whipped cream, and we cook our eggs so they are safe from Salmonella poisoning. The air also has the effect of making the semifreddo seem less cold than it actually is, which accounts for its name.


If you don't have ramekins, use the cupcake tins in metal cupcake pans, or even paper cups. You can also make this recipe in a loaf pan, and we describe how to do this in the recipe variations at the end of the main recipe.

Meyer Lemon Semifreddo (Semi Freddo):
1 3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
7 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice or 1/3 cup fresh regular lemon juice*
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated Meyer lemon peel or 2 teaspoons regular lemon peel*; NOTE: if using fresh regular lemon juice, pair it with 2 teaspoons regular lemon peel 
1/4 teaspoon salt

Blueberry Compote:
1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons port or orange juice or water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
Small pinch of salt

1 recipe Hazelnut Brittle Crunch
1/2 recipe or 12 Caramel Hazelnuts, optional

Make the whipped cream:
1. Using electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat whipping cream in large bowl until soft peaks form.

2. Cover and refrigerate whipped cream while making custard.
NOTE: If you need to refresh or rebeat the whipped cream, use a large balloon whisk, not a stand or hand-held mixer, otherwise you will overbeat it.

Make the semifreddo custard:
1. Whisk 1 1/4 cups sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in large metal bowl to blend.

2. Set bowl over large saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until yolk mixture is thick and fluffy and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170 degrees F, about 8 to 10 minutes.
SARAH SAYS: Properly heating the egg yolks will destroy harmful bacteria in the them: If the eggs are to be used in a recipe with other food items, dilute the eggs with liquid or other ingredients, such as milk, or sugar (at least 1/4 cup liquid or sugar per egg as in custard) and cook the egg mixture to 160 degrees F, which will destroy harmful bacteria in a few seconds. Adequate cooking brings eggs and other foods to a temperature high enough to destroy bacteria that might be present.

3. Remove bowl from over simmering water. Immediately pour contents into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Beat mixture on high until cool, thick, and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes.

This is to just show you how thick and aerated the custard mixture has become:

Complete the semifreddo:
1. Remove the whipped cream from the refrigerator and whisk it a few times with a wire whisk.

2. Fold the chilled whipped cream into the semifreedo custard in two or three portions.

3. Spoon the mixture into six 4-ounce ramekins and smooth their tops.

4. Freeze until completely solid, about 6 to 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Semifreddo can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.

1. A few days before or about two hours before serving, bring the blueberries, port, sugar, lemon juice, water, vanilla bean* and seeds, lemon zest, and salt to a simmer while stirring frequently.

2. Cook until the fruit breaks down and the liquid thickens slightly, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and let stand at room temperature to cool. Discard the vanilla bean.
*SARAH SAYS: If using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, add the extract after you remove the compote from the heat.

Can be made a few days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

1. The next day, remove the frozen Semifreddo filled ramekins from the freezer and dip each one in warm water for 30 seconds to loosen it.

2. Run a butter knife around the edge of each semifreddo and invert them onto serving dishes.
NOTE: The semifreddo might lose its shape a little when unmolded. if it does, simply place the unmolded semifreddo, on its plate, in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then clean up the sides with a small off-set spatula.

3. Garnish with a few spoonfuls of blueberry compote and generously sprinkle with Hazelnut Brittle Crunch. Top with two Caramel Hazelnuts. Serve immediately.

Fruit or Nut Semifreddo 
Line the pan first with a thin layer of chopped frozen strawberries or lightly toasted sliced almonds.

Line the pan first with a thin layer of chopped frozen strawberries or lightly toasted sliced almonds.

Key Lime Semifreddo 
Use 1/3 cup Key Lime juice or fresh lime juice instead of fresh regular lemon juice
Use 2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel instead of regular lemon peel

Loaf Pan Semifreddo 
Line 9- x 5- x 3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang.

Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Tap loaf pan lightly on work surface to remove air pockets. Fold plastic wrap overhang over top to cover. Freeze semifreddo until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Unfold plastic wrap from top of semifreddo and invert dessert onto platter; remove plastic wrap. Dip heavy large knife into hot water; cut semifreddo crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Transfer to plates.

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