Strawberry and thyme semifreddo


After all these years, and with all the fun kitchen appliances I own, I still somehow do not possess an ice cream maker. It’s probably for the best, my tiny kitchen is already bursting with gadgets, and the overflow has spread to the spare bedroom, the living room, and the hall closet. I’m not sure where I would even put an ice cream machine, except perhaps in my bedroom… which, given my midnight sweet tooth, would be a terrible idea.

So, when the summer heat leaves me craving ice cream, I try my hand at all the other varieties of frozen desserts. This semifreddo is a perfect solution. Its classic strawberry and cream flavor is brightened by an unexpected twist of thyme, and its soft, blushing hue make this refreshing dessert as beautiful as it is delicious.

Strawberry and thyme semifreddo

recipe adapted from the book The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking by Samantha Seneviratne 

  • 4 cups (2 lbs /900 g) strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (125 g) sugar
  • 5 sprigs of thyme, plus 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups (300 g) heavy cream

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving excess overhang on each side; set aside.

Set aside 1 cup of strawberries for the garnish. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the other 3 cups of strawberries with 1/4 cup (50 g) of the sugar, 5 sprigs of thyme and a pinch of salt. Scrape the seeds from the split vanilla bean into the pot, then add the whole bean as well. Cook until the strawberries soften slightly, only about 4 minutes. Remove the thyme sprig and the vanilla bean, then process the mixture in a food processor or with an immersion blender until somewhat (but not completely) smooth. Stir in the chopped thyme. Set aside to cool.

In a double boiler over barely simmering water, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar. Make sure the bottom of the top bowl isn’t touching the boiling water. Using an electric mixer (or with a hand whisk), beat the mixture over the double boiler until pale yellow, thick, and doubled in volume, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and continue to beat for another minute. Carefully fold in the cooled strawberry mixture.

With a clean bowl and whisk, beat the cream until medium peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the strawberry mixture, then pour the strawberry mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Fold the plastic wrap over the top to cover completely. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

When ready to serve, toss the remaining 1 cup sliced strawberries with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Let the semifreddo stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate, remove the plastic, and slice into 1-inch thick servings. Top with the strawberries and garnish with thyme leaves before serving.

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