Semifreddo Spin on a Food Truck Treat

If you live or work near a big, metropolitan city, chances are you’re familiar with the growing Food Truck Trend.  And if you’re a food-lover, like me, you’re not only familiar with the term “Food Truck,” but you regularly spend your lunch hour tracking down your favorite trucks, regardless of how close (or how very, very far) they’re parked from your office that day.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, allow me to explain.  The idea behind food trucks is that while they are essentially miniature restaurants on wheels, they allow for all of the downtown employees who’ve grown sick and tired of the same old, overpriced sandwich shop chains that surround their office building to enjoy exciting and delicious gourmet cuisine, made fresh to order, all at a pretty reasonable price.  The reason they’re able to serve their high-quality dishes at such a low price?  Because their kitchen and staff has been immensely scaled down to fit into a tiny truck, also scaling down their menu to only a few of their specialty dishes, and, never having to worry about over-purchasing ingredients or excess food going bad since its guaranteed they’ll sell out by the end of lunch (as all the hungry employees are ecstatic to have a new addition to their lunch selection).  These food trucks are, to food-loving adults, what ice cream trucks are to children.

As enthusiastic as I am about my favorite food trucks, I must admit, I’m still just as overjoyed to see an ice cream truck cross my path.  I caught a glimpse of one earlier in the week… the first one I’ve seen this year.  Hearing the familiar tune of the friendly truck brought me right back to my childhood, during which I would’ve been thrilled to run down the sidewalk, calling after the truck until it stopped, at which point I’d place my order for a strawberry-shortcake popsicle.

This time, instead of chasing after the truck (and potentially frightening the young children surrounding it), I came straight home and formulated my own recipe for a gourmet version of this tasty treat.  After a few tweaks and some unexpected pop-ups, I’m in love with the final product: a creamy and tangy strawberry-vanilla semifreddo (meaning semi-frozen) that can be made and served as either a icy parfait or a handheld popsicle, both complete with an almond-shortbread cookie crumble.  They’re a sure-to-please treat for ice cream lovers of any age, and include all of the delectable elements of the familiar treat from the original “food truck.”

Strawberry Shortcake Semifreddo Pops

Inspired by: Strawberry Shortcake Popsicles

Adapted from Tartelette’s  “Fresh Cheese & Raspberry Semifreddo”

1 ½ cups fresh strawberries                               2 ½ tablespoons water

¼ cup plus 1½ tablespoons honey, divided        3 large egg yolks

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar                           ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

¾ cup heavy cream                                             200 grams Greek yogurt

-recipe yield: about 8-10 servings                      1 half-batch of shortbread*

Prepare your serving glasses.  For desserts to be eaten with a spoon, simply set out some tall shot glasses or parfait dishes, as no further preparation is necessary.  For popsicles, cut 2 long, thin strips of parchment paper per each tall shot glass and push the centers of each of the strips down into the bottom of the shot glasses, allowing the ends of the strips to fall outside the glass.  The excess parchment paper on the outside of the glasses create little tabs that allow for easy removal of the popsicles once they’ve frozen, without the risk of pulling out the popsicle sticks.  I also like to further line the popsicle glasses with a square cut of parchment paper to further assist in the smooth removal of the treats.

Give the strawberries a thorough rough chop and toss them in a small bowl, along with 1 ½ tablespoons of the honey and the balsamic vinegar.  Toss the mixture together and break up the strawberries with the back side of a fork.  Allow the berries to macerate into the liquid for about 10 minutes, or until the berries have broken down somewhat and the liquid has thickened into a syrup.  Spoon a small amount of the berries and syrup into the bottom of each of the serving dishes, setting aside a small amount to later be swirled into the semifreddo base (if desired).  Set serving glasses and remaining strawberry mixture aside.

In a separate, large bowl, empty the heavy cream.  Beat the cream until they’ve just barely reached soft peaks.  Refrigerate the bowl of cream while preparing the remainder of the semifreddo base.

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together the ¼ cup honey and the water.  Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally and allow the syrup to reach 238 degrees (the “soft-ball stage”).  As the syrup heats up, beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl until the yolks have broken up and combined.  Once the syrup has hit 238, turn off the stove heat, remove the saucepan from the stove top, increase the electric mixer speed to high, and beat the egg yolks while pouring in the hot syrup in a slow but steady stream.  Once all of the syrup has been added to the yolks, continue to beat the mixture on a high speed until it’s light and airy and  has completely cooled.  Mix in the vanilla bean paste.

Remove the chilled cream from the refrigerator.  By hand, whisk the yogurt into the cream, followed by about 1/3 of the yolk mixture.  This will loosen up the cream slightly.  Fold the remaining yolk mixture into the cream.  Spoon the creamy semifreddo base into the glasses on top of the macerated berries, leaving a little extra room on the top of those glasses that will be used as frozen parfaits.  If desired, spoon in a very small amount of the strawberry-syrup mixture onto the top of the cream in each (or some) of the glasses.  Using a toothpick or skewer inserted just slightly into each glass, swirl the berry mixture into the cream, creating a marble effect.  For popsicles, place popsicle sticks into the center of each dessert.  Allow desserts to chill on a flat surface in the freezer (I like to put the cups into cupcake or mini-muffin pans to prevent slanting or tipping) for 3-5 hours, or until firm.

When ready to serve, remove glasses from the freezer and allow them to sit at room temperature for 5-8 minutes.  While the desserts rest at room temperature, break up about half of the prepared shortbread cookies into crumbs with your hands.  For semifreddo parfaits, top the rested desserts with enough shortbread crumbs to reach the top of the glass.  For popsicles, remove the desserts from the glasses by pulling gently on the parchment paper “tabs.”  If the popsicles don’t easily pull out of the glasses, submerge only the bottom half of the cold glasses into a cup of warm water for a few seconds to slightly melt the berry portion of the popsicle, and then attempt to remove the dessert again.  As each popsicle is removed, lay it on a cutting board and, using a sharp paring knife, slice off the very tippy-top of the red, rounded tops of the popsicles so that they’re completely flat on top.**  Lay out the shortbread crumbs into a skinny strip on a flat surface, and roll the popsicles through the crumbs so that the center of each popsicle is coated in the crumbs.  Serve the semifreddo parfaits with spoons and simply hand over the popsicles.  Enjoy!

*I split the recipe from my shortbread post in half.  I also altered the halved recipe by substituting the two cups of all-purpose flour for  1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour plus ½ cup of almond four, as I was aiming to replicate the crumbly almond-like topping from the ice cream truck popsicles.  The addition of the almond flour did just that and really turned out amazing.

**I don’t suggest skipping this step… just trust me.

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