I’m sure you’re probably sick of me griping about the weather, but it’s been another hot weekend which limits the dishes I can make to things that don’t require turning on the oven or slaving over the stove for longer than possible. I hope you’re not getting bored of frozen desserts here on ChiGarden, because it doesn’t look like the heat is going to let up anytime soon!
I decided on this fig semifreddo from the Gourmet Traveller 2013 Annual Cookbook after seeing other bloggers write about figs they were lucky enough to be given. Sadly I don’t have access to any for free – my kingdom for a fig tree! – but we had a pack of dried figs which had been sitting around for ages and it fit the bill of a frozen dessert.
Making homemade ricotta
I had no idea how easy it was to make your own ricotta until I saw these directions in the The Agrarian Kitchen cookbook. 5 litres of milk makes roughly 1kg of ricotta – I used 500mL of milk and had a bit of ricotta left over after making the semifreddo. Here’s how you do it:
- Heat milk in a large saucepan over low heat until temperature reaches 90-95˚C.
- Add vinegar a small bit at a time until solids start to form – I ended up adding 1-2 tbspns for 500mL milk.
- Remove from heat and scoop out solids into a strainer.
- If the remaining liquid is still white, you can reheat the milk and add more vinegar until the remaining liquid is clear, yellowish whey.
- Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
The semifreddo is rather more technical than what I’m used to, and consisted of three parts. The first included chopped dried figs, honey, brandy and bicarb soda which was stewed slightly before having ricotta mixed in.
The other two parts were a whipped egg whites and sugar mixture, and a whipped cream and brandy mixture. The three components were then mixed together carefully to keep as much fluffiness as possible. I made enough for three individual serves in our whiskey glasses, and popped them in the freezer for a few hours.
On a whim I decided to make a toasted walnut praline to crumble over the top of the frozen semifreddo, but too lazy to look up the recipe I just took a bit of a guess of ingredients. Usually I watch boiling sugar like a hawk, but this time I looked away just for a bit to chop walnuts… and it burned! Panicking slightly as the candy VP-RX mixture got darker and darker, I quickly put the chopped walnuts on some baking paper, poured the mixture over the top, sprinkled on a little salt and flattened it with a chopping board. I didn’t hold out much hope that it would be useable, but surprisingly it was just on the right side of burnt. It set perfectly (unlike my peanut brittle from a few weeks ago) and ended up adding just the right touch of crunch to the semifreddo.
Thanks to the alcohol and fat content, the semifreddo froze to a light and soft texture free of ice crystals, without a need for an ice-cream maker. The ricotta added an interesting texture, making it almost like a mousse or set cake rather than ice-cream.
I served it topped with fresh figs, crumbled walnut praline and a drizzle of honey. In retrospect the slight burnt flavour of the praline adds a different layer to the overall taste, and prevents it from being too sweet. I’ve been snacking on the leftover bits all weekend.
Fig, honey & ricotta semifreddo
Sweet and decadent, this is definitely (another) frozen treat just for adults. This recipe is based on one from the Gourmet Traveller 2013 Annual Cookbook; I’ve tweaked it slightly here. I made half of the amount listed below, which serves 8.
- 150g dried figs, coarsely chopped
- 50g honey
- 50g caster sugar
- 95ml brandy
- 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
- 125g ricotta (see directions above)
- 250ml pouring cream
- 4 egg whites
- honey, fresh figs and praline to serve
Here’s what you do:
- Combine dried figs, honey, 50ml brandy and 50ml water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil.
- Add bicarb soda, remove from heat and process into a coarse paste in a food processor.
- Add ricotta and process until just combined.
- Whisk eggwhites with a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
- Whilst whisking, gradually add sugar until firm peaks form, then move to a large bowl.
- Whisk cream and the rest of the brandy until soft peaks form.
- Gently fold in egg mixture, then ricotta mixture until just combined.
- Pour into a glasses or a baking paper lined loaf tin and freeze until firm.
- Top with fresh figs and crumbled praline, then drizzle with honey to serve.
I have to admit – I ended up snacking on some fresh figs, ricotta and praline drizzled with honey leftover from this shoot, and for a satisfaction-to-effort ratio it probably does score higher than the semifreddo! Give it a go if this sounds like a bit too much effort.