This Semifreddo is inspired in part by my previous S’Mores Semifreddo I made over the summer. It was so good that I decided the general recipe bears both repeating and revamping for the Holiday season. In part because of its seasonal flavors but also because of it’s simplicity and ease to make when entertaining-mode is in full swing. A semifreddo is an Italian version of ice cream- but much softer and in my option, much more forgiving. My version also doesn’t require heating or cooking beforehand and while there’s dairy in it of course, there are no eggs and its extremely customizable. It’s essentially a no-churn frozen dessert, no big ice cream machine required. And whether it’s your first-time hosting or you’re a seasoned entertaining pro, when you’re hosting for a big holiday you know that countertop and oven space are prime real-estate. This recipe takes care of both- it’s make-ahead and doesn’t require an oven or counter space when the big day comes around. Simply make it one or two days ahead, and when dessert time comes around just take it out of the freezer, slice and serve!
One ingredient in my Caramel Apple Semifreddo may be new to some of you, but in my opinion it shouldn’t be: Icelandic-Style Skyr. Pronounced “skeer”, it’s a thick, cultured dairy product that’s slightly more sour and less sweet than traditional yogurt. It’s a very popular dairy product in Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, although the earliest known mention of it dates back 1100 years ago in Medieval Icelandic Literature. No wonder it’s the proud national food of Iceland.
A stroll through the yogurt section of any upscale grocery store in most cities now shows a resurgence of Skyr- and with good reason. It’s extremely high in protein, most companies are making it all-natural meaning no artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors, and it therefore contains low amounts of sugar. It’s also densely concentrated, it takes 4 cups of milk to make 1 cup of Skyr, making it thicker than Greek yogurt with a tangier taste to it. It’s also non-GMO and Gluten-free in some cases (always check the labels), not to mention vegetarian-friendly. So there’s a lot about Skyr that’s appealing to our diet-conscious and healthy ingredient-minded consumers in this country. I usually buy my Skyr from Whole Foods, and my two favorite brands are Icelandic Provisions and Siggi’s, shown below.
Now, if you don’t live near a Whole Foods or specialty grocery store, or just don’t want to try something new, don’t worry. You absolutely can use plain non-fat Greek yogurt or cream cheese that’s been softened to room temperature, if you want. It will still taste great, but I do encourage you to give it a shot the next time you’re at the store. You never know- if you try it, you just might like it!
This semifreddo is reminiscent of an apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream- but with a LOT less work. It’s got your classic apple-pie flavors like cinnamon and cardamom, a healthy dose of cider caramel sauce, the creamy semifreddo base thats slightly tangier thanks to our Skyr, along with fresh pieces of apple and apple butter. And don’t forget the graham cracker top for some nice crunchy texture. It’s satisfying on pretty much every single level of a holiday dessert. And the best news: it’s impressive as all get-out, yet you didn’t have to lift a finger on the big day to make it. You could even make this several days in advance- the flavors only get better. Which gives you less time stressing over hosting- and more time enjoying the moment with your friends and family.
And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?
Caramel Apple Semifreddo with Cider Caramel Sauce
1 C. Heavy cream, chilled
1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
1-8 oz container of Plain Icelandic-Style Skyr yogurt (I like Icelandic Provisions or Siggi’s brand)*
3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
9 oz. jar of apple butter
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 sleeve of graham crackers, crushed
For Salted Caramel Cider Sauce:
14 individual soft caramel candies
2 tsp apple cider
¼ tsp kosher salt
Line a 22x11x6 cm loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving enough extra on each side to fold over the top of the loaf pan once the semifreddo is in. Set aside.
In stainless steel or glass bowl, whip up the heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk with a hand mixer or stand mixer until thick and creamy, will take 4-5 minutes.
While the cream is whipping, make the Salted Caramel Cider Sauce: Place 14 caramels, 2 tsp of apple cider and ¼ tsp of salt into a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high power for 2 ½ minutes, checking after each minute to gently stir until caramel sauce is melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
To the whipped cream mixture, add in vanilla bean paste, ground cardamom and Skyr yogurt, stirring until just combined
Pour in apple cubes, apple butter, and the caramel cider sauce, folding once or twice to just swirl “veins” into the mixture.
Pour mixture in plastic-wrap lined loaf pan, mixture will fill all the way to the top. Carefully tap loaf pan to release bubbles and allow it to settle more. Fold the extra plastic edges up over the loaf pan so the top is covered.
Freeze for 5-6 hours, top with graham cracker pieces, then scoop or slice and serve immediately. Enjoy!
*If you can’t find Icelandic-Style Skyr yogurt or don’t like it, you can substitute with plain Greek yogurt or cream cheese that has been softened!