Ginger, Almond, and Cranberry Semifreddo
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far second semester? Bundle up. Sometimes when I step outside it hurts to inhale, like the breath freezes in my lungs. Snow packs into the spaces between bricks.
The other morning I took an extra long, extra hot shower and found myself running late to class. I got dressed, swept up my books, and headed for the elevator. I didn’t give my towel-dried hair a second thought until I was on the sidewalk. I couldn’t have been outside longer than a few minutes, but when I got to the classroom, my skull was so cold it burned. My hair had frozen solid, waves of ice brushing against my cheeks.
When the temperature is in the single digits, I try not to leave my building. But between classes and shifts at the restaurant, I’m getting the full New England winter experience.
Way back in September, one of the things I immediately loved about Boston was its color palette. Seattle is splashed grey and green and blue, with chrome and glass and buildings that reflect the clouds. While it’s gorgeous and familiar, Massachusetts was a welcome change. Boston is all brick and gold and off-white, rich with history and equally beautiful. But four months later the cars and streets and trees are burdened with dirty snow, and that’s all I notice.
I walk to work with the same philosophy I have towards other unpleasant things – get it over with quickly. Salt crystals crackle beneath my boots every step of the way. Scarf, gloves, earmuffs, two coats and a pair of tights under my jeans… Every accessory means the longer it’ll take me to change into uniform once I get there.
When my shift ends long after midnight, the sidewalks are quiet and clear. Sometimes a fresh blanket of snow has fallen and untouched white stretches in all directions. The air is just as chilly before, but windless, and the street feels unreal. I’ve caught myself standing in the restaurant’s doorway, breathless, suddenly reminded why I love living here.
The walk home is so dark, it’s like a different set of streets. The blackness swallows up the lampposts, so the bulbous orange lights seem suspended in midair. Taxi headlights cut through the darkness in wide, white sweeps. I watch my breath curl into itself and dissolve up towards the sky, which is either greyed purple or orange thanks to light pollution.
Boston is painted with an entirely different color theme at 1 AM. And as I walked home last night, past leafless trees embossed with snow, I suddenly thought of semifreddo.
When the semifreddo is made, a quick custard folded with whipped cream, it’s marshmallowy and soft. But after an overnight freeze, it becomes an entirely different dessert, with the creamy richness of ice cream. And this semifreddo has a gorgeous color palette, too. The base is flavored with dry white wine and a hint of orange, the color of eggshells. Every slice is studded with vibrant dried cranberries and sharp crystalized ginger, like gems held up to the light.
I realize it’s still the dead of winter, but I’m one of those people who orders iced coffee and eats gelato all year. I can get home from work, clap my snow-packed boots together, and enjoy a cold fruit smoothie straight from the fridge. I’m one of the lucky people who happily makes semifreddo whenever the whim strikes. This dessert is unusual and beautiful, worth a hurried walk through the chill.
Ginger, Almond, and Dried Cranberry Semifreddo
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes a 9×5” “loaf”
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
2 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
Line a 9x5x3 inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 3 inch overhang on all the sides.
In a medium metal bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and white wine. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk constantly until a candy thermometer registers 160 degrees F, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from heat and beat with an electric mixer until cool and thickened, about 5 minutes. Beat in the orange peel.
Whip the cream in a large bowl until peaks form. Add the egg mixture and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Fold in the almonds, cranberries, and ginger. Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the top so the semifreddo is completely covered. Freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a plate and peel off the plastic wrap. Let it stand 5 minutes to slightly soften, then serve in slices.
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