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.
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.
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.
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.
© 2006 Emily Luchetti. All rights reserved.