Ginger, Almond, and Cranberry Semifreddo

January 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm 47 comments

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.

Ginger, Almond, and Cranberry Semifreddo

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.

Ginger, Almond, and Cranberry Semifreddo

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.

Ginger, Almond, and Cranberry Semifreddo

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 Cranberry Semifreddo

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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47 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Karen  |  January 27, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I always look forward to your posts. Everything you make looks and sounds sooo good. Your photography is beautiful and inspires me to work harder to take great pictures. Your writing always transports me to where you are, like I’m right there with you. I am amazed at all that you have accomplished and how you manage to do so much and do it all so well.. You are truly amazing and I appreciate that you share it with all of us that read your blog. Thank you :)

    Karen (a very loyal reader)

  • 2. Katy  |  January 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    My friends all made fun of me the other day for eating a frozen dessert outside while it was snowing. :)

  • 3. Susan  |  January 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I enjoy every single minute I spend reading your blog. Your pictures are glorious. Your writing feels like you’re sitting next to me and telling me about your life. As a life-long New Englander, I’ve begun to see life here in a different light thanks to your perspective. Cheers!

  • 4. Line  |  January 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I love your blog! The pictures, the recipes and your writing.

  • 5. Helena  |  January 27, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    I hope you didn’t get a cold walking outside with frozen hair!

  • 6. Melissa  |  January 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I always look forward to reading your posts too. You are great at bringing a scene alive in my mind. I have never tried semifreddo before, but I LOVE ice cream and I eat it all winter long so I need to try this too. Thanks for the recipe!

  • 7. lennyathena  |  January 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I love your vivid writing and how you manage to blend it with the recipes… the pictures are gorgeous and the semifreddo looks amazing. (Did you make this in Boston, or earlier at home?)

    • 8. Elissa  |  January 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      This semifreddo was one of the desserts I made earlier at home, in an attempt to “stock up” in case I couldn’t bake at school. But even though the pictures were snapped a few months ago, I think the spirit fits with right now :)

  • 9. kate  |  January 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    It is freezing here in Ontario too, -28C requiring the dreaded tights and jeans combo. A nice bonus however is the ability to wear cute earmuffs and eat tons of soup. Oddly enough, I’ve been craving an ice-creamy desert lately and this sounds like just the ticket!

  • 10. vivian  |  January 27, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I’m always excited to read your posts! I save it for after I finish my homework to read as a treat. Lovely writing and photos, as usual. I’m glad I read this though, because now I know I’m NOT going to Boston for college! It’s hard to believe you actually have time for this blog on top of your college life and job. Thank you!!

  • 11. Sharlene  |  January 28, 2011 at 12:04 am

    This is gorgeous, Elissa! I completely understand not wanting to leave the house when the temperature is in the single digits. Instead, I ironically wrap myself in blankets and eat ice cream.

  • 12. Sara  |  January 28, 2011 at 12:05 am

    One of my favorite things about your blog is the weaving of story and recipe. I’d eat that semifreddo any day, so thank you for sharing.

  • 13. Ryan  |  January 28, 2011 at 12:10 am

    That looks absolutely wonderful!
    I love your blog, the pictures, recipes, and writing is amazing. I hope to be able to write/bake/take pictures half as well as you some day :P
    Stay warm!

  • 14.  |  January 28, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Unusual pairing of ingredients but definitely looks delicious! You are so talented in Photography as well. These photos are absolutely gorgeous!!

  • 15. Victor @ Random Cuisine  |  January 28, 2011 at 1:21 am

    I enjoy reading the details of your story and related it to your dish. Great job!

  • 16. Procrastibaking  |  January 28, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Take two paracetamol, 300mg of caffeine pills and wash it down with as many energy drinks as possible.
    You are now ready to take on the world and anything it can throw at you, including bad weather.
    Or you’ll have excessive heart palpatations go into mild hyperglycemic shock.

  • 17. Jordan  |  January 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

    What a lovely dessert! I, too, live in Boston, and can relate completely to this post! I love your contrast between the dark, dirty snow after a day full of pedestrians muddling through the city, and the peaceful, soft snow immediately after it falls. A couple of nights ago, when I heard the plow machines out at 11 pm, I just thought, “why can’t they wait. why can’t they just let the snow fall peacefully?” Oh well.

  • 18. KTB  |  January 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Definitely an unusual choice to post this in the middle of winter, but your photos are so gorgeous and your writing is always lovely. I am curious though, didn’t you mean “color palette”?

    • 19. Elissa  |  January 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      Whoops! I guess I had food on the brain when I was writing – you’re absolutely right. Fixed it!

  • 20. Jacy  |  January 29, 2011 at 1:14 am

    I always love your photos, but these ones are especially nice!

  • 21. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  January 29, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I’m from Ottawa, Canada, so I know what you mean when you say “bundle up”! It can get so cold here sometimes that I just want to stay in bed all day!

    I’d never even heard of semifreddo until this post but it looks lovely. Thanks for the introduction to this recipe :)

  • 22. Dana  |  January 29, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    This is just gorgeous. I’ve been making ice cream like crazy, but maybe it’s time to give semifreddo a try.

  • 23. Livin' in the Kitchen  |  January 30, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Love this!! I’m the same way, I just don’t have a thing for hot drinks. Give me a frap and I’m happy!
    Jess : )

  • 24. Rachel Parker  |  January 30, 2011 at 3:06 am

    Your hair was literally frozen? Girl. I couldn’t do that. I’m a southerner… when it snows here people don’t leave their houses (even if it’s just a scant sprinkling). I can’t even imagine!

  • 25. Beverly  |  January 30, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I too went to college in Boston, and even though I’m from Texas, I LOVED eating ice cream in the winter! I found it amusing to walk down the street eating ice cream that was actually warmer than the air around me:-)

  • 26. Allison  |  January 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I smiled when I read the first part of this post. I lived in Seattle (Bothell) until I went to college in Chicago. I’ve been in the Midwest for 6 1/2 years now, and it’s the first winter I’ve finally gotten the hang of dressing properly for the weather. It’s a pain, but I’m so much happier now that I wear a scarf, gloves, and boots :).
    The dessert looks wonderful – and different, too.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • 27. Chanel C  |  January 30, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    The way you described the New England winter weather is so vivid! I love hearing first-hand accounts of weather and visions of famous places!

  • 28. jenn  |  January 31, 2011 at 2:09 am

    beautiful photos and post! love your narrative about your boston winter… :)
    here’s to more winter treats!

  • 29. a frog in the cottage  |  January 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    looks so flavorful and creamy !!!!!

  • 30. Tori Greaves  |  January 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    This semester, my English teacher has given my class the assignment of choosing One Little Word to be our theme for the year. We are supposed to ponder it, reflect on it, and apply it to our everyday lives. I chose the word “present” to remind myself to live fully and truly experience each moment. The assignment has been rather inspiring, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing that little word pop up spontaneously in my life. And now, reading your post, I am reminded once again. So often, we close our eyes to the world around us, concentrating only on getting through the biting wind of our lives. But then there are those times – when the light changes, catches our attention – and all of a sudden we are reminded how good it is to be alive!
    Thanks for your thoughts, I really enjoy your blog :) And I hope you don’t freeze to death.

  • 31. Brittany  |  January 31, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    This would have been really lovely at Christmas time. I love the ‘vibrant’ cranberries too. I can imagine the creamy coldness right now!

  • 32. Nina  |  January 31, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Gorgeous semifreddo for anytime of year! Stunning photos…you have a fantastic blog! Happy Baking.

  • 33. Ashley  |  February 1, 2011 at 1:25 am

    oh my dear. That looks amazing. I fell in love with semi-freddo all over again when I discovered Nutella semi-freddo. Amazing. But now I must try this.

  • 34. Pudding Pie Lane  |  February 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

    What I love about ice creams and things that might melt is that you have no option but to eat it all before it does melt! :)

  • 35. Darina  |  February 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    This looks fabulous. I am totally not averse to eating chilly things in the dead of winter. Your photos are lovely.

  • 36. Amanda C  |  February 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I always look forward to your blog post! The way you always describe the food metaphorically relating it to some situation is always interesting to read. I love the way you are so descriptive in the way you describe the New England weather that I feel like I am there myself. I also enjoy the way you describe every food, to the point that I can almost picture it in front of me. Thank you for a great post!

  • 37. Danielle  |  February 1, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Looks delicious! Definitely will try making this! :)

  • 38. ashley m  |  February 1, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    I really love reading your posts and how you incorporate a recipe with it. Your writing is very detailed and I feel like I am in the freezing weather myself!

  • 39. Aundrea L.  |  February 2, 2011 at 3:23 am

    This looks absolutely amazing just looking at it makes me hungry even though I just ate! Love the blog

  • 40. Jasmine Mirelez  |  February 2, 2011 at 4:11 am

    I love your writing in these blogs. The references to cool and warm colors at the beginning were stunning.

  • 41. Jordan Gray  |  February 3, 2011 at 12:37 am

    The food looks amazing! The story was great. Good luck staying warm.

  • 42. Kellie  |  February 4, 2011 at 1:48 am

    You are such a great writer; everything you say is so vivid, I can picture everything in my mind!

  • 43. Heather H.  |  February 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    The way you correllate food to your present life experiences and emotions simply amazes me. I can literally see the palette of colors that you describe and taste the food. From your pictures, I can see that you appreciate the beauty in life, and you capture the wondrous look and texture of your food so perfectly!

  • 44. Laura  |  February 6, 2011 at 12:30 am

    This post is perfection. THIS is blogging at it’s most perfect, most equalizing. 10 years ago I would read my normal food columnists and go through life never having been exposed to such wonderful, talent. This is the kind of post I wish I could clip out and post on my wall. May you never stop writing, cooking and photographing. Seriously. I was with you through this whole post. The food, the story, this is why you kids are the future and why storytelling trumps all, even now in the digital age. Keep up the GREAT work!

  • 45. Emily T  |  February 14, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    I love how you talk about weather and “palette” of cities while your pictures are so vivid with colors. I love the picture of the chopped almonds–exquisite!

  • 46. Jordan  |  March 2, 2011 at 12:46 am

    The Writing in this post is amazing as well as the photography. I always look forward to reading your stories.

  • 47. Lynette  |  July 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Elissa your food photography is beautiful! I love olive oil cake and the rhubarb crisp looks like the one we made at Chez Panisse. It was so nice to see you at the restaurant for lunch the other day. Thanks for stopping in.


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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