When Johanna from The Passionate Cook announced that the theme for the January installment of WTSIM  was Terrines , I was a bit bummed. Not because I didn’t think it was a good theme, and not because I don’t like terrines, but because I had the perfect recipe to use for a terrine…and I had just posted about it a few weeks before! I’m talking about my Salmon Mousse . It would have made a great terrine, perhaps combined with a layer of shrimp or crab mousse and maybe an asparagus mousse in between.
After I kicked myself for not being psychic and pouted a while, I strained my brain to figure out what I could make to fit this theme. I must confess my repertoire of terrines is a bit thin, but I really wanted to participate, so I put on my thinking cap and tried to figure it out.
It wasn’t until about a week later that the light bulb switched on and I came up with what I thought was a great idea. Last Saturday morning, I was lazily passing some time browsing around downtown in our little historic district, when I stumbled upon the cutest shop/cafe tucked into a tiny side street. It is called The Sarasota Olive Oil Company , and it is fabulous! I’m not going to tell you too much about it now, because I’m already planning to build another whole post around it. (I was THAT impressed!) What I will tell you is that, amidst all of the wonderful oils, vinegars and fresh pasta products, I found a huge basket filled with authentic imported Italian torrone. This discovery truly excited me, because I adore torrone. I’m talking about the traditional, crunchy kind that shatters into a mouthful of sticky, sweet, almond-y splinters when you bite into it. Not very good for the teeth, but great for the soul!
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of indulging in this delicious treat, torrone is a nougat confection made from egg whites, honey, sugar, and nuts. It is said that torrone originated in Cremona, Italy in 1441, when it was concocted to commemorate the wedding of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti . The sweet was molded into the shape of the Tower of Cremona or Cremona Torrione, hence, it was christened “torrone”. It is traditionally served by the Italians during the Christmas season, particularly on the feast of San Nicola (Saint Nicholas).
With a few bars of that wicked good stuff in my hot little hands, I left the shop. Both my mind and my heart were racing a little bit. I knew just what I was going to make for my terrine entry – a torrone semifreddo!
A semifreddo is a type of frozen dessert. The literal translation for semifreddo is “half cold”. It is called this because a semifreddo almost always contains ingredients such as biscuits, candied fruits, or nuts, that don’t usually freeze solid. Since it not really an ice cream it doesn’t need to be churned in an ice cream machine. All it needs is an long rest in the freezer.
Now, delicious as this would be on its own, I also felt that I needed to have another layer on my terrine, for a contrast of color and texture. This second layer should also contain some kind of nuts, and should preferably be Italian in nature. Well, I had two jars of Nutella sitting in my Bermuda Triangle of a pantry, so I decided to break out one and make a chocolate – hazelnut semifreddo too. I mean, what could be more quintessentially Italian than Nutella? I decided to call my creation Torronutella Semifreddo Terrine. Pretty catchy, huh? Believe me, it sounds a lot more aristocratic than it really is!
I did a little trolling for recipes on the web and came up with a number of good ones. For my torrone semifreddo, I chose a recipe from the doyenne of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan . (Did I ever tell you that I’ve met her – several times? She lives in my town and shops at the same Italian specialty store that I do!) My recipe for the chocolate-hazelnut semifreddo was taken from bits and pieces of several different recipes that I found, mostly so that I wouldn’t have to go back out to shop for additional ingredients. ..
Essentially, what I did was make both recipes independently and freeze them together to form the terrine. I prepared the torrone semifreddo first and let it freeze up overnight. The next day, I made the chocolate-hazelnut version, spread it over the frozen torrone layer and froze it again. I wasn’t able to find hazelnuts anywhere, so I used roasted pistachio nuts instead. Crushed pistachios are commonly used in all kinds of Italian pastries, so I felt okay with that.
In order to ensure pain-free unmolding, I lined the mold with plastic wrap that hung over the sides. That way, I could just lift the terrine out in one sinfully sweet, chunky, creamy hunk of frozen heaven. I dressed the terrine up with a little chocolate sauce for the pictures, but it really didn’t need it. Both of the layers harmonized beautifully together and it was marvelous on its own!
Both of these recipes make more than you’ll need to fill your mold. I froze the extra in smaller ramekins, so that the family could indulge without having to wait for me to photograph my entry.
I’d like to send my thanks out to Johanna for hosting this month’s WTSIM event, and for extending the deadline for submissions.
Torronutella Semifreddo Terrine
For the Torrone Semifreddo: (Adapted from Marcella Hazan)
- 6 ounces hard Italian torrone, with almonds
- 6 eggs
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- A pinch of salt1/2 cup carmelized almonds (1/2 cup sliced almonds and 2 tbsp. sugar)
- Line a a freezable loaf pan with a long sheet of plastic wrap, making sure that it hangs over the sides at least 3 inches. Set aside.
- In a small saute pan, add almonds and 2 tbsp. sugar. Saute over high heat until sugar starts to caramelize and the almonds are toasted. Spread out in the bottom of the terrine mold. Set aside.
- Use a sturdy chopping knife to cut the nougat into small pieces, then grind it to a granular consistency in the food processor.
- Separate the eggs, keeping only four of the whites. Pour the yolks into a mixing bowl, adding all the sugar. Whip them until they form a foamy mass.
- In another bowl, preferably a chilled steel one, whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
- Add the whipped cream, the rum, and the ground nougat to the beaten egg yolks, mixing well to distribute all the ingredients uniformly.
- In a clean bowl, whip the four reserved egg whites together with a pinch of salt until they also form stiff peaks. Fold them gently into the egg yolk, cream, and nougat batter.
- Pour the mixture into the mold, cover with the overhang of plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for at least 8 hours or overnight.
For the Chocolate-Hazelnut Semifreddo:
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 jar Nutella, divided
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
- 1 tbsp hazelnut liqueur (I used Frangelico)
- 1/2 cup roasted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
- Heat Nutella in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds to soften it up. Set aside.
- Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the eggs are warm, about 2 minutes.
- Place the bowl in mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.
- Add two thirds of the Nutella and mix on low speed until blended. Gently fold in whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts.
- Scrape mixture into into the mold and spread evenly over the torrone layer. Spoon remaining third of the Nutella lengthwise down center of the mold letting it sink into semifreddo.
- Cover top of pan with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- To serve, lift the terrine out of the mold using the plastic wrap overhang. If the terrine sticks, place the mold on a dish towel soaked in very hot water for a minute or two. This should soften the terrine a bit and make it easier to unmold.
- Cut the semifreddo into 1 inch slices and serve on dessert plates with the garnish of your choice.