Coffee semifreddo, toasted cream, pistachio

This is a really wonderful dessert that I unfortunately can't take much credit for. It is a combination of recipes and techniques developed by others with minor finishing touches from me. In some sense I guess that's what cooking is. The line between inspiration and derivation can be pretty thin sometimes. True originality is a rare skill I have certainly not achieved yet.

The coffee semifreddo recipe comes from the kitchen of Contra. Semifreddo is kind of in between a mousse and an ice cream (the name literally means "semi-frozen"), and at Contra they use an iSi whipper to dispense a mousse that's then frozen, yielding an airy texture that is not at all icy or overly laden with eggs. The recipe for the coffee mousse appears on page 228 of their cookbook; I substituted glucose for Trimoline which I do not have.

The toasted cream technique comes from Serious Eats. A bit of baking soda creates an alkaline environment that combined with the high heat of the pressure cooker accelerates the Maillard reaction, yielding a toasty, nutty, browned cream that's unlike anything else. In this dish, it's combined with some sugar as in a whipped cream recipe, but whipped to just the consistency of a thick sauce that does not hold peaks. However, you could absolutely take it all the way to a conventional whipped cream texture and use it anywhere you would otherwise use whipped cream.

I bought the smoked salt garnish from Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco but really any nice finishing salt would do nicely. Next time I will probably use less than pictured (the dark brown pieces) to let the semifreddo and toasted cream really shine on their own.


For 4 servings. You will have extra of all components but it is difficult to make less.

For the coffee semifreddo:

50g coffee, coarsely ground

290g cream

Cream, as needed

1 sheet gelatin

45g sugar

20g glucose

12g milk powder

80g milk

70g egg yolks (4)

For the toasted cream:

200g cream (100%)

20g sugar (10%)

1g baking soda (0.5%)

To serve:

Pistachios, shelled

Smoked salt


Whipping siphon

Pressure cooker


  • Prepare the coffee semifreddo (at least 48h in advance): Steep the coffee in the cream overnight. Strain and add cream if necessary to reach 220g (you will lose some yield during the straining process)
  • Bloom the gelatin in a bowl of cold water for 5m.
  • Bring the sugar, glucose, milk powder, milk, and 1/4 of the infused coffee cream to a simmer.
  • Whisk the egg yolks together in a heatproof bowl. Slowly temper in the milk mixture and whisk to combine. Transfer back to the pot and heat gently while stirring until thickened. Do not exceed 180F.
  • Squeeze excess water from the bloomed gelatin and add to the pot, stirring until dissolved. Strain into a bowl set over an ice bath and let cool. Add the remaining infused cream, season with a bit of salt, and chill thoroughly.
  • Place in a siphon and charge twice, shaking well until the mousse is thick and airy and holds its shape. Line a 9x4 loaf pan with parchment paper and dispense all of the mousse into the pan. Cover and freeze overnight.
  • Remove the frozen semifreddo, slice into squares of desired thickness, and then punch out circles of the desired size with a ring mold. Place on a tray lined with parchment paper, wrap tightly, and freeze until needed.
  • Prepare the toasted cream (at least 24h in advance): Combine the cream, sugar, and baking soda in a mason jar, shake to dissolve all ingredients.
  • Seal the jar finger tight and place in a pressure cooker with several inches of water (place it onto a rack or trivet to prevent direct contact with the heating surface).
  • Cook on high pressure for 2h. Depressurize with cold water. Remove the jar and chill thoroughly, ideally overnight.
  • Lightly whip the toasted cream with an immersion blender until it has the consistency of a thick sauce. Do not overmix; it should still be a viscous liquid and not hold peaks. Chill until needed
  • Prepare the pistachios: Toast the pistachios in a pan until aromatic but not browning. Remove, let cool, and chop into fine pieces. Reserve until needed.
  • To serve: Place a disc of semifreddo into a serving bowl. Cover completely with a thin layer of the toasted cream. Top with the toasted pistachio pieces and a few grains of smoked salt.
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