Balanced combination of semifreddi and parfait
I have already written about semifreddi in a post dedicated to the differences between mousse and parfait.
Today I am going to dwell on the balanced combination of their ingredients.
As in baker’s maths, here balancing means creating a perfect balance among the elements of a dessert in order to devise an excellent structure.
Semifreddi and parfait do not contain gelling or thickening agents: the structure of these desserts is only given by the cold. Accordingly, an increase in temperature would make them semi-liquid mixtures.
These desserts consist of the following elements:
- Italian meringue or pâte à bombe
- Pastry cream (found in Italian-style semifreddi)
- Fruit puree or classic flavouring pastes
- Whipped cream (35% FC)
Italian Meringue and Pâte à Bombe
In recipes they are called “basic components”; their main function is to provide our desserts with sugars and air.
As you already know, sugar is “the best antifreeze” but its doses must be perfectly measured out.
The perfect ratio to make a soft semifreddo at -12/-15°C is a sugar percentage of 23%-24%.
I’ll explain how to figure it out in a second.
The required amounts of these basic elements vary from 10% to 40%.
Used as a base, alone or with the addition of Italian meringue, pastry cream gives structure and sugars to our
According to baker’s percentages the balanced combination of a cream used for Italian-style semifreddi contains a
higher amount of sugars than a standard recipe precisely to bring about the antifreezing effect.
The average amount of cream therefore ranges from 20% to 40%.
Fruit purees are used in semifreddi made with the Italian meringue. When we use a fruit puree we must remember
to subtract their sugar content from the total amount of 23%.
Let’s see a few examples with the average sugar content in some fruit:
- Strawberries: 5.5%
- Melon: 7.9%
- Pineapple: 9.3%
- Apples: 10%
On average the amount of puree varies from 10% to 35%.
Classic Flavouring Pastes
These are the pastes we add to desserts to make them flavoursome. They can be pure (such as some hazelnut
paste, pistacchio paste, etc.) or contain sugar and other substances.
If we use pure pastes (like the ones listed above) only a small amount of fats must be calculated in the balancing
while sugary pastes contribute a 23% of added sugars.
The usual percentage of pastes is 10% to 15% but it is advisable to always read the manufacturer’s instructions.
Whipped Cream (35% FC)
Whipped cream adds fat (Fat Content) and air into the mixture.
Thanks to the fact that it solidifies with the cold fat is a key ingredient to optimal structure, but it also adds
For a dessert structure with small cavities, lesser risk of disassembling and for great creaminess my advice is to
always use fresh 35% semi-whipped cream.
The average amount usually varies between 30% and 60%.
How to calculate the right sugar percentage
This is easy maths, but I will add a few examples to make things very clear.
Let’s see the case of the Italian meringue:
- 100 g egg white
- 210 g sugar
- 70 g water
The total weight of these 3 ingredients is 310 g (excluding water, because it evaporates almost completely).
At this point we just need to calculate an easy proportion:
For the sake of convenience, we shall round this coefficient up to 70%.
Once understood that a meringue contains 70% of sugar I can proceed to calculate the necessary amounts.
Knowing that the amount of sugar in 1000 g must be 230 g (23%) first we must figure out the necessary amount
of Italian meringue.
230:70 (sugar contained in Italian meringue) = 3.28
Now we can devise a base recipe for a semifreddo / parfait:
328 g Italian meringue or pâte à bombe
672 g semi-whipped cream 35% FC
Obviously the aromatic part given by classic paste or fruit is missing.
When using pure hazelnut paste containing a large quantity of fat I will have:
328 g pâte à bombe
600 g whipped cream
72 g pure hazelnut paste
When making a fruit semifreddo I shall also take into account the amount of sugar contained in the fruit puree.
Let’s see the example of a semifreddo with 30% strawberry puree:
300*5.5% =16.5 (sugar content of the fruit)
230 (total sugar 23%)-16.5=213 g
213:70 (sugar content of the Italian meringue)=3.04
300 g (strawberry puree)+304 g (Italian meringue)=604
I will proceed by subtracting 604 from 1000 (total weight)
End result: 396 g of whipped cream.
Have a good and… perfectly balanced dessert!