First up was a lemon budino, which I made for Sunday dinner a few weeks ago. We were having pork sugo over pappardelle and we needed something light to finish off the meal. The budino is a cross between a cake and a custard, baked in little pots de crème or ramekins. They are light and airy with a bit of soft custard at the bottom of the pot. Kind of like a surprise ending to the meal. They puff up and brown in the oven, only to fall slightly and crack upon cooling. I served them with just a topper of whipped cream. While I thought they were okay, they were nothing to really rave about or even pass on the recipe.
Last Sunday I tested out a recipe for a lemon mousse. A recipe I had been saving since 2006. It involved making a lemon pudding on the stove, then cooling it down and mixing it with whipped cream. I served these in wine glasses topped with a berry, but it was too much lemon, not enough berry. Part of the problem could have been that it made 8 servings, but I crammed the mousse into 6 wine glasses. (One of those things where you think more is better.) But in actuality, I think it should have been layered with berries, like a parfait. A dollop of lemon mouse, some fresh berries, more mousse, and topped with berries. You could easily get 10 servings out of the recipe this way and it would have been tastier, less caloric, and actually prettier to look at.
I followed all this up with a Meyer Lemon Semifreddo, a recipe I had clipped out of Bon Appetit in June of 2008. I needed a make-ahead dessert for Easter. My nephew was getting married on Saturday about 3 hours away. So we needed to get up early, get on the road, and had to stay the night. We wouldn’t be returning until Easter at noon, and 14 guests were expected at 2pm. So in addition to my bittersweet mousse torte, I made this light and delicious semifreddo.
A semifreddo is a semi-frozen dessert. It doesn’t freeze as hard as ice cream but has a similar custard base. This particular recipe has an extra step where you whip the lemon custard base, making it fluffy and almost ethereal, (I realize ethereal is not really a word associated with food, but it just seemed to fit so perfectly.) Served with toasted almonds and a fresh berry medley, it was the hit of the party.
While it takes close to an hour to make, it can be done up to 3 days ahead. I used a longer and narrower loaf pan (11x4x3), as I think that standard loaf pans make too big of a slice. This is very rich, and you can only eat just so much, but it does serve 10-12, depending upon the thickness of the slices.
Meyer Lemon Semifreddo
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
7 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated Meyer lemon peel (or regular lemon peel)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups mixed fresh berries (such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and quartered hulled strawberries)
Line 9x5x3-inch metal or glass loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang. (You can also use a longer, narrow 11x4x3-inch pan to make smaller slices and serve more guests.) Sprinkle almonds evenly over bottom of pan.
Using electric mixer, beat whipping cream in large bowl until soft peaks form. Refrigerate whipped cream while making custard.
Whisk 1 1/4 cups sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in heavy medium-sized saucepan. Place on medium-low heat, whisking constantly until yolk mixture is thick and fluffy and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170°F, about 4 minutes. (You can also do this in a double boiler.) Remove bowl from over simmering water.
Using electric mixer, beat mixture until cool, thick, and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Fold in chilled whipped cream. Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Tap loaf pan lightly on work surface to remove air pockets. Fold plastic wrap overhang over top to cover.
Freeze semifreddo until firm, at least 8 hours. (This can be made up to 3 days ahead of time.)
Gently mix all berries and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in large bowl.
Unfold plastic wrap from top of semifreddo and invert dessert onto platter; remove plastic wrap. Dip heavy large knife into hot water; cut semifreddo crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Transfer to plates; spoon berries alongside and serve.