SPICED FRUIT, MASCARPONE AND MUSCAT SEMIFREDDO
For New Years Day I served a wonderful dessert I found in the Christmas and New Year addition of delicious magazine. I do find at Christmas there can be an excess of rich dried fruit in mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas puddings. This dessert was described as a `stunning semifreddo with rainbow-hued tropical fruits, sharp mascarpone and flavours of spice and sweet muscat. All the drama of a Christrmas pud, but with a lighter touch.’
250g mixed dried tropical fruits and nuts. (I used dried cranberries, papaya, pineapple, apricots, glace cherries and pistachio nuts)
2 tbsp mixed peel
150ml muscat dessert wine (any sweet wine will work)
3 large eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
300ml double cream
large pinch of ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and ground allspice
1. Line a 1 litre pyrex bowl with a double layer of clingfilm, leaving an overhang at the top. You need enough extra clingfilm so you can cover the dessert later.
2. Put the dried fruit, nuts, mixed peel and muscat into a small pan and simmer over a medium heat for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely. I found that the mix was not cool when I needed it. I quickly put it in the freezer to chill as I didn’t want the dessert to curdle or separate if I added warm fruit. It would therefore be a good idea to simmer the fruit and leave to chill a few hours before needed.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar with an electric hand mixer for 2-3 minutes until they have increased in volume and turned the colour of rich cream.
4. Add the cream, spices and mascarpone. Why is it that whenever I go to a supermarket to follow a recipe for a dessert there is some sort of creamy ingredient that proves elusive? In the past I have struggled to find soured cream, creme fraiche and fromage frais! It is always the ingredient that you need that hides in an unusual place with no shop assistant nearby to help. This time I have learnt that Mascarpone is a thick, creamy, soft Italian cheese. You will not therefore find it with the cream. However neither was it located with the cream cheese, but with the hard continental cheeses!
Whip into soft, billowy peaks. I have had a disaster with egg yolks and cream before where the whole thing has collapsed and gone watery again. I therefore made sure I had soft peaks and didn’t over whip.
5. In a separate, spotlessly clean bowl and with clean beaters, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. If the equipment is not clean you will struggle to whip the egg whites and they will go watery.
6. Gently fold 2 tbsp of the egg whites into the cream mix using a balloon whisk. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites in 3 additions using a slow figure of eight motion. A whisk is gentler on the mix than a metal spoon. I made two desserts at one go. This was a challenge as I didn’t really have a big enough bowl to mix the ingredients and had to be creative with several bowls to prevent a tidal wave of cream mix all over the work tops.
7. Gently fold through the cooled fruit and muscat, ensuring the fruit is evenly distributed. (Big bowl!) Be careful not to be too vigorous or you will knock the air out of the mixture.
8. Carefully transfer the mixture to the lined basin and cover the top with the excess cling film. Put in the freezer for at least 12 hours. I suddenly had to rush to the shops the day before I needed the dessert, as it had to be made the day before not on the day it was needed due to freezing time!
9. To decorate you will need to prepare crystallised fruit a few hours in advance. In a small bowl gently whisk an egg white with a fork until slightly foamy. Use a pastry brush to spread a thin coating of the whites over fruit and nuts.
Drop each piece of fruit into a saucer of caster sugar, then toss gently to coat. Once evenly frosted leave on a a wire rack to dry for 2-3 hours. The recipe advised leaving in a cool place. I put my beautifully frosted fruit in a plastic tub in the fridge. This was a mistake! The fruit ended up sitting in a sugary syrup rather than staying beautifully frosted! I would also add that harder fruit such as grapes and cherries seemed to frost more successfully than softer raspberries. Never mind I have learnt a valuable lesson and will be able to crystallise rose petals in the Summer.
10. Thirty minutes before you want to serve, transfer the bowl to the fridge. Just before serving, open up the cling film at the top. Invert on to a serving plate and peel off the cling film. Top with crystallised fruits and nuts to decorate and serve.
So there you have it a lighter alternative to Christmas Pudding still packed full of Winter fruits and spices. Yum! It really was delicious. Good thing too as I eat it twice this week! I am thinking about adapting the recipe for Summer fruits later in the year….