Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

These “semi-frozen” ices, also known in Italy as perfetti, are soft and light in texture, somewhere between a mousse and an ice cream, one part custard and one part whipped cream. Although many recipes confuse semifreddo with parfait—and they are closely related as the alternate Italian name attests—they are technically different. For semifreddo, sugar syrup at 248°F (120°C) is added not to egg yolks, as for parfait, but to beaten egg white, as for Italian meringue. See meringue. The result is an even lighter, softer texture. Many simpler recipes exist for domestic cooks that borrow the name, using less skilled techniques to achieve a similar texture. Some versions do not contain eggs at all, effectively being a semi-frozen uncooked cream. Others incorporate granular sugar into stiffly beaten egg white, as for French meringue. The majority comprise a light mixture of whole eggs and sugar whisked, zabaglione-like, over a double boiler and cooled before folding in whipped cream and perhaps incorporating other ingredients like fruit, honey, or chocolate. See zabaglione. Regardless of cooking technique, semifreddos are never churned in an ice cream machine and are usually frozen into molds, often in a loaf shape that is then sliced for serving. They do not freeze hard; sometimes they are only chilled in the fridge, not frozen. The end result must be cold enough to hold its form and be sliced, but still a bit soft.