Two weeks ago, we hosted our Gourmet Group. We take our turn hosting in the summer when we can dine outside on our patio. Fingers, toes and eyes are always crossed that the weather will cooperate. It did! Not only did the weather cooperate, it was the weekend of the full 'Blue Moon' so I named our gourmet "Once in a Blue Moon Gourmet" on the invitations.
Our Gourmet Group of five couples is a wonderful opportunity to try new recipes and, yes, we've had some misses but quite a few hits also over the years. We only meet every two months or so and each couple only hosts once a year. Each couple is assigned one recipe to prepare and finish and plate at the hosts' home - usually an appetizer, soup, salad or dessert.
It's fun to receive the invitations in the mail and see your assigned recipe and either praise or curse the hosts :) Seriously, as we've been doing this for quite a few years, we try not to over burden anyone in the group. It needs to be fun and relaxed! Even though we drink less and go to bed earlier than we did a couple of decades ago, we still have fun together keeping the tradition going.
The inspiration for this dessert that I assigned to one of the couples came from Moveable Feasts, a blog I admire and follow. Barbara has wonderful taste in food and recipes. Even though the original recipe is made with Meyer lemons, it tastes equally delicious with regular lemons, which are much easier to find here in the Midwest.
We all raved about the dessert the night of our gourmet, and, when we were invited to dinner to a friend's home this past weekend, I jumped at the chance to make the Lemon Semifreddo myself to share with them. I made two - one to bring to our friends' home and one for my husband and I to share with our family when they come for dinner soon.
The most involved portion of the recipe is making the custard for the semifreddo. This requires stirring egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar over simmering water for about 10-15 minutes. The rest is all done with a stand or hand mixer. Even though the dessert may take 30-45 minutes of time, the reward is that it can, and should, be made a day ahead, and even can be made up to 3 days ahead. This means no last minute work other than prepping some berries, plating and serving, then waiting for the Ooohs and Ahhhs.
I hope you have a chance to try this while the weather is still warm! It made a refreshing finish to our gourmet group dinner. One day, I hope to share some of the other recipe 'winners' of the night!
Lemon Semifreddo with Berries and Amaretto
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
7 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 large lemons)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups mixed fresh berries (such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and quartered hulled strawberries)
2-3 Tablespoons Amaretto Liqueur
My Notes: I halved this recipe and then made 1 plus 1/2 recipe. This made enough for two 9x5x3 pans. The original recipe calls for the berries to be mixed with sugar. Instead of sugar, we used Amaretto which added a wonderful flavor to compliment the toasted almonds on the semifreddo. We also used regular lemons rather than Meyer lemons and it was delicious using regular lemons. Also, if you have a stand mixer, such as a KitchenAid, you can whip the cream first using the metal bowl and transfer the whipped cream to a regular bowl to refrigerate. Then, wash and reuse the metal bowl over the pan of simmering water to make the custard. Then, it's simple to place the bowl back on the mixer to whip the custard.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of sliced almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5-7 minutes, watching carefully in the last few minutes so they do not burn. Set aside to cool.
Line a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang. Sprinkle toasted almonds evenly over bottom of pan.
Using an electric mixer, beat whipping cream in large bowl until soft peaks form. Refrigerate whipped cream while making custard.
Whisk 1-1/4 cups sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in large metal bowl to blend. 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°F. This took 10-15 minutes on my
Remove bowl from over simmering water. Using an electric mixer, beat mixture until cool, thick, and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Fold in chilled whipped cream. 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.
DO AHEAD: Semifreddo can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.
Gently mix all berries and 2-3 tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur in a large bowl.
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 or so slices.
Transfer to plates; spoon berries alongside and serve.