Tin Roof Semifreddos with Roasted Pears and Spanish Peanuts

When I get an idea for a dessert, the image is right there in my head, so close I can imagine its flavor, begin to feel its subtle textures, and envision what final form it will take. It’s as though I’m in a sweet think tank, surrounded by chocolate, caramel, nuts, and other sweet ingredients. That’s the easy part. But I usually have to make a dessert at least four times before I can get it to work. Each variation comes closer and closer to the final version. These experiments are generally not inedible; they might have a little too much batter for the pan, need less sugar, or have a more pronounced taste. I can’t eat them all, but feel guilty throwing them away. Luckily, I have my nieces and nephews. All between the ages of eleven and twenty-six, they have big appetites. During football, soccer, and cheerleading season, I can serve them and their friends a recipe draft in the afternoon and know they will still be ravenous for dinner. This gives me the freedom to continue testing until I know the recipe is perfect.

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Ingredients

Fudge Chunks

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup evaporated skim milk
  • cups sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • cup sugar
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1⅓ cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • cup ( ounces) Spanish peanuts, toasted and skinned

Roasted Pears

  • 4 ripe pears
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Method

To Make the Fudge Chunks

Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Combine the chocolate, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl. In a large saucepan, stir together the evaporated skim milk and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring slowly but constantly, for about 8 minutes, until a thermometer registers 226°F. Pour the milk over the chocolate mixture. Stir until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the fudge. Refrigerate until firm enough to cut, about 1 hour. Cut one half of the fudge into ½-inch pieces, place on a plate, and put in the freezer to get hard. (Save the remaining fudge for nibbling.)

Fill a medium saucepan one-third full of water and bring it to a low boil over medium-high heat. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, milk, and orange juice in a medium stainless-steel bowl. Place the bowl over the pot of just boiling water. Whisk the egg mixture constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and cool over an ice bath, whisking occasionally, until room temperature.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the cream, peanuts, and fudge pieces into the egg mixture. Divide the mixture among 8 individual paper cups, ring molds, or ramekins. Freeze until firm, about 6 hours, depending on your freezer.

To Roast the Pears

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Peel, halve, and core the pears. Cut the pears into ½-inch pieces and toss them in a bowl with the sugar. Place them in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

To Serve the Semifreddos

If you used paper cups, unmold each of the semifreddos by cutting a corner of the paper cup and then tearing it from the semifreddo. Place the semifreddos on plates. If you used ring molds, place the semifreddos on individual plates, run a small knife around the inside edge of each mold, and remove the molds. If you used ramekins, run a small knife around the inside edge, dip the ramekin quickly in hot water, and invert onto plates, removing the ramekin.

Place some pears around each semifreddo. Spoon some chocolate sauce over the pears and sprinkle the peanuts over the semifreddos. Serve immediately.

In Advance

The semifreddos can be made up to 3 days in advance. Once frozen, cover with plastic wrap. The pears can be made a day ahead. Cover the pears and refrigerate but bring to room temperature before serving.