Brownie Espresso Semifreddo

Posted by Dani on November 10, 2012

Cool.  Creamy.  Delicious.

You can’t beat semifreddo for the perfect summer dessert.   And in our house, the semifreddo love lasts year-round.  This is a great recipe to pull out any time you want an easy, low-effort, high-impact dessert.  And I’ll share a few tricks I use to make it look and taste spectacular.

Our house favourite has always been lemon semifreddo, but recently the kids have developed a liking for Starbucks frappuccinos, so I thought I would try to make a coffee-flavoured one.  I used a recipe for Mocha Semifreddo by Martha Stewart as a guideline for quantities and then jazzed it up to create a delicious Espresso Brownie version.  Here are my tips and tricks for making this over-the-top dessert.

1.  Get Your Hands On These Ladyfingers

I can’t stress this enough.  These are pre-made light and airy lady fingers available in the bakery section of larger grocery stores like Loblaws and Metro.  Sometimes you have to hunt around for them, but it is totally worth it.  They are a perfect size to line my pan and give the semifreddo a professional look.  Plus they are perfect for dipping into something mouthwatering to add another layer of flavour.  I have tried a number of other things, including home-made sponge cake, but nothing beats these ladyfingers.  And they’re pre-made, making this dessert a snap to put together.

2.  Dip The Ladyfingers Into Something Delicious

This is something I learned from the Italian ladies in my family who can whip up a swoon-worthy tiramisu with their eyes closed.  In fact, they would probably advise you to throw a little grappa into any special dessert you’re making.  Somehow this eye-watering fire-water works beautifully to enhance sweets.  For this dessert, I dipped the ladyfingers in a sweetened mixture of espresso coffee and Kahlua.  You could really add a touch of any liqueur you like in this step.  And if you have some good grappa on hand, a hint of that would be nice too.

3.  Up The Flavour Bar

I like strong flavour in my coffee or chocolate desserts, especially for cream based ones.  Martha’s original recipe called for 1 tablespoon of instant espresso in this recipe, which I thought might be a little too bland and creamy.  I tripled the amount of coffee and the taste was perfect.

4.  Add Brownies

How can anything coffee flavoured not go well with the added taste of chocolate?  For this dessert, I added crumbled brownies to the semifreddo mixture itself, and used some more as topping to give it a professional look.  Just to make it easier, I used store bought 2 bite brownies.  I thought the texture of those would work perfectly and I do like the way they taste.  Quick and easy was the guideline here.

The semifreddo turned out delicious.  And it was pretty easy to make.  Here are some step-by-step pics.  Try it out for your next special occasion!

Line your pan with plastic wrap.  Prepare your coffee mixture for dipping.  I used a stovetop espresso maker and delicious Kicking Horse Cliffhanger Espresso beans.  I added sugar to taste and about an ounce of Kahlua.

Give the cookies a quick dip and use them to line your pan.  If there is any extra coffee mixture, you can use a spoon to add it to drier parts of the ladyfingers in the pan.  If there is a little liquid in the pan, don’t worry – it will freeze with the semifreddo and add a great flavour boost.

Crumble the brownies.

Combine sugar, egg yolks, and espresso powder and cook gently over a pan of simmering water, whisking until the mixture is thick, pale and almost doubled in volume.   Allow it to cool and then whisk in about a third of the whipped cream.

Fold in the remaining whipped cream and then the crumbled brownies.

Pour the mixture into the pan.

Top with the crumbled brownies.  Freeze for at least 3 hours and up to 1 week.

Remove from the freezer.  The semifreddo should pop out of the pan quite easily with the plastic wrap.  Place the semifreddo onto a chilled serving dish.  If the dish is room temperature your semifreddo will start to melt at the bottom and slide around.  Peel the plastic wrap from around the sides and work it out from the bottom using a spatula to lift the dessert.

And voilà, a delicious and gorgeous semifreddo!

In this case, I made the semifreddo to celebrate my oldest daughters first week at her first part-time job.  My whacky youngest daughter decided to add a personal touch – a huge dollar sign she made from melted white chocolate.  She thought it would be the right theme to kick off her sister’s working career.




Dani’s Brownie Espresso Semifreddo


2 packages soft ladyfingers
1 cup espresso or strong coffee
1 oz Kahlua liqueur
1 package 2 bite brownies (about 300 grams)
1 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
6 large egg yolks
3 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 ½ cups whipping cream


  1. Line a 9” round pan with plastic wrap.  Crumble the brownies and set aside.
  2. In a shallow bowl, combine the espresso, Kahlua, and 1 tbsp of sugar.  Stir to dissolve.
  3. Give the ladyfingers a quick dip in the coffee mixture and line the sides and bottom of the pan.
  4. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, combine ¾ cups sugar with the egg yolks and espresso powder.  Whisk mixture and cook until it is pale, thick, and almost doubled in volume.  Cool for about 10 minutes.
  5. Beat the whipping cream with ¼ cup sugar until stiff peaks form.  Mix about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the egg yolk-coffee mixture, and then fold in remaining cream.  Add about 1/3 of the crumbled brownies.
  6. Transfer the mixture to your pan.  Top with the remaining brownies.  Freeze until firm, about 3 hours.
  7. Once the semifreddo is frozen, remove it from the pan by pulling at the plastic wrap.  Place it on a chilled serving plate.  Remove the wrap from the sides, and pull it out from the bottom using a spatula to carefully lift the semifreddo if necessary.  Keep the semifreddo in the freezer until ready to serve.



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