dark chocolate hazelnut semifreddo

dark chocolate hazelnut semifreddo

This dark chocolate hazelnut semifreddo is the perfect summer treat and let’s you enjoy homemade ice cream without a machine!

My husband, Kenny, loves ice cream. As someone who yearns to nurture my loved ones with home cooking, it’s disappointing that I can’t make Kenny’s favorite dessert for lack of an ice cream machine. I always had fleeting thoughts of how to make the creamy treat without special equipment. My research lead me to semifreddo, an Italian dessert that means half frozen. Traditional semifreddo combines a sweetened custard with whipped cream that is frozen in a loaf dish and served in slices.

When Nielsen Massey asked me to create a recipe using their amazing vanilla for national ice cream month, I knew a semifreddo recipe was in the works! I chose to combine the classic duo of dark chocolate and hazelnut for my version of semifreddo. Nielsen Massey’s high quality vanilla is produced with a unique cold-extraction process that preserves over 300 flavor compounds. This is important because when those intense flavor compounds are added to this semifreddo, they enhance the dark chocolate flavors for an incredible eating experience.

Once I decided my ice cream recipe would include bold chocolate flavors and pure vanilla from Nielsen Massey, I turned my attention to developing my technique. Semifreddo recipes that I researched and cross referenced all had one thing in common. They only use one part of the egg; either the yolks or the whites. Recipes that used only egg yolks relied on the fat in the yolks for a creamy semifreddo. Recipes that used only the egg whites involved making a light meringue that would fold into whipped cream for a light and airy semifreddo.

Based on my experience with this chocolate mousse frosting I knew that using whole eggs would combine the creaminess of the yolk with the lightness of the egg whites for a balanced, creamy texture. An added bonus was that neither whites nor yolks were wasted in the making of this semifreddo. After some experimentation in the kitchen, I came up with this perfect semifreddo recipe that’s smooth, creamy, and rich. The texture can be described as a cross between ice cream and frozen mousse and the vanilla lends bold chocolate flavor to eager palettes!

Pin this recipe to your summer desserts board and leave a comment below if you get a chance to make it!

dark chocolate hazelnut semifreddo
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dark chocolate hazelnut semifreddo

dark chocolate hazelnut semifreddo

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  • Author: Sepideh Campos


This dark chocolate hazelnut semifreddo lets you enjoy homemade ice cream without a machine!


  • 7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (use 70% cocoa or higher)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ kosher salt 
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 
  • ¾ cups hazelnuts 
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • Maldon flaked salt for serving (optional)


Make the ganache: 

  1. Combine the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium heat proof bowl. Set aside. 
  2. Pour the heavy cream into a medium pot and heat over medium until steam rises from a spoon dipped in the cream. You just want the cream to be warm, not too hot or boiling. About 3-5 minutes over medium heat should do it. 
  3. Pour the warm cream over the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. Let the mixture sit for a couple minutes. 
  4. Whisk the mixture to fully combine the cream and chocolate, which should be fully melted by now. 
  5. Add the vanilla and stir again. 
  6. Cover the ganache bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the whipped custard. 

Toast the hazelnuts:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter in preparation for skinning the hazelnuts. 
  3. Place the hazelnuts in a rimmed baking sheet, toast on the center rack of the oven until the hazelnuts are fragrant, darkened in color, and the skins are slightly blistered, 10-15 minutes. 
  4. Remove the hot nuts from the oven and place on the towel in a single layer. 
  5. Fold the towel over to cover the warm nuts and let them steam for a couple minutes. 
  6. Rub the hazelnuts in the towel to remove as much skin as possible. 
  7. Let the hazelnuts cool completely and roughly chop the nuts, set aside. 
  8. Line a 9X5” loaf pan with two strips of plastic wrap, making sure a few inches of plastic hangs off the sides of the pan. Set aside. 

Make the custard: 

  1. Fill a medium pot with a couple inches of water and bring the water to a boil. 
  2. Lower the heat to low and keep the water at a simmer. 
  3. Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. 
  4. Place the bowl of eggs on top of the pot of simmering water. 
  5. While the eggs and sugar heat up over the pot of water, continuously whisk the mixture together until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is a bit foamy on top and syrupy, about 3-5 minutes. 
  6. Remove the bowl from the stove and place the mixing bowl in the mixer with the whisk attachment in place. 
  7. Whip the eggs on low speed for a minute, then increase the speed to high and whisk the eggs until they have increased in volume and turned a pale yellow color. 
  8. You’ll know the eggs are ready when they reach the “ribbon stage”, meaning that when the whisk is pulled out of the eggs, the stream of eggs that falls back into the bowl is thick and leaves a ribbon of eggs, 3-5 minutes. 

Combine the elements: 

  1. Transfer the whipped egg mixture to a large bowl but don’t wash out the stand mixer bowl.
  2. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator and transfer the now cold ganache to the empty stand mixer bowl. 
  3. Whip the ganache on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Pour ⅓ of the egg mixture into the ganache and whip for 20-30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. 
  5. Add half of the remaining egg mixture to the ganache and whip for 10-20 seconds, until just combined. 
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold the rest of the egg mixture along with most the chopped hazelnuts into the ganache. Reserve a couple tablespoons of the hazelnuts to top the semifreddo. 
  7. Pour the semifreddo into the plastic wrap lined loaf dish and cover all sides of the mixture with the plastic wrap. 
  8. Chill the semifreddo in the freezer until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight. 
  9. Let the frozen semifreddo sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before scooping into serving bowls. 
  10. Top with the reserved hazelnuts and some flaked salt, if using. Serve immediately. 
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