This frozen dessert is packed with a ton of Meyer Lemon flavor. Freeze in small cups to keep your portion size small (otherwise you may eat the whole batch)!
“Semifreddo” is a semi-frozen Italian dessert. In my version, I combine Meyer Lemon curd, whipped cream, creme fraiche, and vanilla bean paste. This is one of my favorite recipes, and as soon as I finish one batch I’m making a new one. Having a small, tasty treat available keeps me from binging on things I shouldn’t be eating.
Creme Fraiche is pronounced “krem fresh.” It is a thick and smooth heavy cream, similar to sour cream, with a wonderfully rich and velvety texture that is widely used in France, where the cream is unpasteurized and contains the “friendly” bacteria necessary to thicken it naturally.
A Word About Lemons
I love lemons. LOVE. I have always loved them. If I ordered something at a restaurant that came with a lemon as a garnish, I would always finish the lemon off. And probably steal one off your plate if you weren’t gonna eat it! Imagine my thrill when I came to San Francisco on vacation and tried a Meyer Lemon for the first time. WOW! I didn’t know anything about meyer lemons at the time, having grown up on the east coast. All I knew was it was absolutely the BEST lemon I had ever eaten. I am not lying when I say I moved to California for the lemons! Today I am lucky to have several meyer lemon trees growing in my yard. However, before that, I would buy them in local farmers markets. I have also ordered them online and had them delivered.
Slightly more orange in color than regular lemons, meyer lemons are a cross between a traditional lemon and a mandarin. Because of that, their juice is much sweeter. They are seasonal, only producing fruit in the winter months. That means when they are around, I am juicing and freezing the juice in pre-measured portions like a mad-woman! I learned to store as much as I could so I have plenty available throughout the year. The most fabulous juicer helps me makes short work of this task. I also have several orange trees in the yard, so it really gets a workout in the winter months. You can also use a hand-squeezer for juicing, just make sure to use a strainer to get all the seeds out.
I have several recipes I like to make with the meyer lemon juice I squeeze and then freeze. In addition to this semifreddo recipe, I also do an infamous meyer lemon Bar that I take to work often. (I’ll be sharing that recipe in a future post.) In addition, my BF Trilo makes the most amazing Limoncello of Doom. For his recipe he only uses the zest, so I get to use all his meyer lemons for juicing too! (yay!)
Save time by making curd in advance
Because it’s necessary to have the curd chilled for my semifreddo, I like to make the meyer lemon curd in advance. Since it doesn’t take any more time to make twice as much, I double the curd recipe and save it in two airtight containers until I want to use it. By making the curd in advance you can whip this desert up super quick. I highly recommend it!
Time to get cooking!
- 4 Egg yolks
- 1 cup Sugar extra fine
- 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 1 Tbsp Lemon zest finely grated
- pinch Salt
- Ice optional
- 1 pint Whipping cream
- 1/4 cup Powdered sugar sifted
- 10 oz Creme fraiche
- 1 tsp Vanilla bean paste
- Gather ingredients and tools.
- Using 1-2 Meyer Lemons, lightly scrape the zest. You want to get just the yellow part of the zest. The white pith is bitter, so try not to get any of that. You will need about 1 Tbsp of the zest.
- Using fresh Meyer Lemons, slice in half and juice 2-3 lemons until you have 1/2 cup of juice.
- In a glass bowl that will fit in your Instant Pot, add egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice.
- Whisk until well combined and smooth.
- Add lemon zest and stir to combine.
- Cover the bowl with the silicone lid, making sure it is tight. Place on Silicone trivet with handles.
- Put 1 cup of water in your instant pot and lower the bowl into the pot.Cook on manual, high pressure for 5 minutes. Then leave in the pot for a full 10 minutes. (Note, the pin will drop before the time is up, that’s fine. Just leave it in the pot, closed for the full 10 minutes.
- Lift the trivet from the pot, and carefully open the silicone lid. It will look a little speckled on top.
- Use your silicone whisk and stir the curd to mix well.
- You will be able to see if the curd is thickening by testing on the back of a spoon.
- The curd may appear thin. That’s okay, it will thicken as it cools. Tip: If you are making your curd ahead of time, you can put it into a mason jar (or two if you have doubled the recipe like I usually do!) Let it cool completely, then cover and put in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. When you take it out of the fridge, give it a stir before adding it to your cream base.
- The curd must be completely cooled before you can combine it to make the semifreddo. A quick way to cool it is to take a larger bowl and fill it with some ice, and set your curd bowl in it.
- Using a silicone scraper, stir and scrape around the bowl occasionally as the mixture cools. While the curd is cooling you can begin with the cream base.
- Set up your stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
- In the bowl of the mixer, add the heavy cream. Turn it on medium-high for a minute or two till it begins to look frothy. Turn off the mixer.
- Sift the powdered sugar into cream.
- Turn the mixer on and combine powdered sugar into the cream. Turn the mixer off and scrape sides of the bowl, making sure all of the sugar is incorporated. Resume beating the heavy cream on medium-high.
- Keep an eye on the cream! It will quickly go from sloshing around like liquid to getting thicker. Eventually you will be able to see lines in the cream that don’t sink back in. Stop the mixer and scrape around the edges. Test the thickness by scooping the cream with your spatula. The cream should stand up and not droop. If it is still a bit soft, give it another minute. Test again.Do not overbeat! If you beat it too much the solids will separate and it will begin to look chunky. You are looking for stiff, but still smooth whipped cream. (See video below for reference)
- Into the whipped cream, add the creme fraiche and vanilla bean paste. Mix on low for a few seconds to combine.
- Remove your cooled lemon curd from the ice bowl or fridge, and give it a stir to loosen it up. Pour it into the whipped cream mixture and mix for a few seconds on low. Remove bowl from the mixer.
- With your silicone spatula, fold the mixture. Gently scoop from the bottom as you turn it over. Repeat until you don’t see any more lemon curd streaks. Don’t beat the mixture! You are trying to stir it without losing the light and fluffy whipped cream texture.
Fill your cups
- Set up your cups, and using a large serving spoon fill each one almost to the top.
- Don’t fill the cups too much or they will be hard to open when they are frozen.
- Clean off the top edges and sides of the cups. Making sure they are clean and dry.
- Screw the lids on. I like to leave them a bit loose, and then tighten them more once they are frozen.
- Stack the cups in the freezer. They will take about 3 hours to be soft-frozen. You can keep them in the freezer and grab them as you want.
- I like to eat these semi-frozen when I eat them, so I remove the lid and pop the cup in the microwave for 12 seconds (test timing with your microwave).Enjoy!
A word about whipping cream
Whipping cream is a skill worth learning. I used to under-whip most of the time, for fear of turning the heavy cream into butter … until that one time I actually did. Once I understood how far you can take it, I felt a lot more comfortable whipping. If there is one tip I can give it’s ‘don’t take your eye off the bowl’. You can watch the ripples forming, and see how the consistency of the liquid in the bowl starts to move together in a mass. Stop as often as you need to and scrape the bowl, testing the consistency. Thick and smooth, able to hold it’s shape is what you want.