Rhubarb Crumble Semifreddo

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I don’t have an ice cream maker. Until recently this has been a bit of an existential problem for me. How could I enjoy my summers, my life, without being able to make the most ultimate, heat-busting, soul-soothing delicacy in the comfort of my home? I also felt personally isolated every time the Barefoot Contessa whipped out her ice cream maker to make fresh peach ice cream. “I want to be part of your club!”, I may or may not have yelled at the television.

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You may be wondering why I don’t just go out and buy an ice cream maker if it’s such a big deal. Because, reader, I have principles (sort of) and I don’t like one-purpose kitchen appliances that take up space and are hard to clean. Plus the nice ones are expensive. I had heard of semifreddo before but I avoided it entirely because I assumed that, without the churning process, the texture would be mousse-y and chewy which also happen to be two of my least favorite adjectives. Once again, I was wrong. When will I learn…

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Reasons why I now like Semifreddo:

  1. You have to make it ahead of time which is the best kind of dessert, especially for parties.
  2. You don’t have to turn the oven on which is convenient for me because my house has no air conditioning. Have I mentioned I loathe summer?
  3. You don’t need an ice cream maker!!! All you need is a pan and a hand mixer.
  4. There are endless possibilities for flavors and add-ins. I’ve got my mind set on trying mint chocolate chip next but I’m also intrigued by cookie dough variations.

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This time around I opted for rhubarb because I have four massive rhubarb plants and you can only have so much pie (theoretically). I pureéd roasted rhubarb and incorporated it into the main egg mixture and then at the very end I folded in whole pieces of roasted rhubarb. The water content in the rhubarb is higher of that than the custard mix so the pieces of rhubarb actually freeze more than the surrounding cream resulting in a really nice texture and pucker. The final component is the spicy crumble which is essentially a loose cookie and I’m thinking of trademarking this. It’s like cookie granola. I would buy that.

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I tried to distribute the crumble in between the two layers of semifreddo and, in all honesty, I wouldn’t do it that way again. It made the semifreddo hard to cut–the crumble didn’t really absorb any moisture like I had wanted it to, therefore it didn’t really “stick” well to the ice cream. I would recommend evenly distributing it across the top of the loaf pan (which will become the bottom once inverted) and pressing it in gently to make sure it really gets into the semifreddo mix. You could also just bake it off and crumble it on top of the semifreddo for serving as a garnish of sorts. See?! Cookie granola. I’m really into this idea.

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Rhubarb Crumble Semifreddo

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Rhubarb Semifreddo

  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 4 teaspoons coconut oil (you could substitute butter)
  • 1/2 cup, divided + 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated into whites and yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Ginger Crumble

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • pinch salt

TIP: You can do the first two steps (ginger crumble and roast rhubarb) at the same time because they both require a 350° oven. Just rotate pans halfway through for even cooking. 

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt for the crumble. Cut butter into small cubes and work in with your fingers until mixture is very crumbly. Spread out into an even layer on baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Let cool and then break into pieces.

Cut rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces. Melt the coconut oil (or butter) and drizzle over top of rhubarb. Sprinkle the 4 tablespoons of sugar over top and toss until rhubarb is evenly coated. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately scrape into a bowl or the rhubarb will stick to the pan. Let cool slightly. Pureé half of rhubarb in food processor*. Leave the other half in pieces.

For the custard: Set up a double boiler on the stove (heatproof glass bowl set over top a pan filled with a couple inches of water). Turn the stove on to simmer water. Set glass bowl on the counter and combine 1/4 cup of the sugar (you’ll use the other half later), vanilla, and egg yolks and beat with a hand mixer until color lightens to pale yellow (about 2 minutes). Now place the glass bowl on top of the pan of simmering water and continue to beat for a few more minutes until the mixture becomes warm and has doubled in volume. Take the bowl off the heat and continue to beat for another minute. Set aside.

In a stand mixer (or another bowl if using a hand mixer) beat 1/3 cup of egg whites (discard any excess), remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and cream of tartar until peaks are formed. Fold this mixture into your egg yolk mixture.

Using the same bowl you just used for the egg whites (you don’t need to wash it), whip the heavy cream until it is light and fluffy. Fold the whipped cream into the main mixture.

Fold in pureéd rhubarb* and rhubarb pieces. Grease a standard 8 1/2 x 4 1/2- loaf pan and line with plastic wrap (lay one long piece down the length and another overlapping piece across the width with enough leftover to fold over the top like an envelope once the mixture is poured in). Pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle crumble mixture over the top and press in gently with your hands. (You may not need all the crumble mixture, save the rest for a garnish later). Fold plastic wrap over top and freeze for a minimum of four hours or overnight. When ready to serve, place loaf pan in a pan with some warm water for about a minute. Unwrap plastic from the top and invert onto serving platter. If the surface is crinkly from the plastic wrap you can smooth it out with a knife.

*If you’re using rhubarb that is very green, like I did, you may want to add a couple of teaspoons of beet juice or a drop of food color to the pureé to improve the color. If you have very red rhubarb, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s Vanilla Semifreddo in Make it Ahead.

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