I know its almost Christmas when bags of Pfeffernüsse start appearing in supermarkets and delicatessens. I’ve always had a huge soft spot for these delicious little German “pepper nut” cookies. Full of a heady mix of honey, molasses and ground spices; nutmeg, cardamom, anise, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper they’re heavily redolent of a very sophisticated gingerbread. I can imagine them being enjoyed in colder climes dunked in hot chocolate or mulled wine as a warming festive treat. Not so practical here in Australia whilst we are sweltering in the summer heat.
Ever resourceful, I’ve taken to crossing multicultural boundaries, crushing my precious pfeffernüsse to incorporate them into a cooling raspberry yoghurt semifreddo. Light and airy, meltingly delicious, but not quite an ice cream (semifreddo translates as half cold in Italian) it’s ridiculously easy to prepare. No churning required. Just a little foresight for a prepare ahead dessert that needs about 8 hours in the freezer to set. So much so, I find it easiest to make a few batches at a time, and pop them in the freezer in readiness for a simple but impressive impromptu dessert.
In this version I whisked egg whites with honey into stiff peaks, then simply folded them through a tub of lemon infused raspberry yoghurt. For a lusciously thick and creamy semifreddo, strain the yoghurt for at least an hour in the fridge before using. Then it’s just a matter of pouring the mixture parfait style, with layers of crumbled gingerbread pfeffernüsse into a cling film lined loaf tin. Cover, freeze and you’re done. A cooling taste of Christmas made from a couple of store bought ingredients – a packet of gingerbread cookies and a tub of raspberry yoghurt with a few frozen raspberries thrown in for a flamboyant finish.
Raspberry Yoghurt Semifreddo With Gingerbread Crumbs
4 egg whites
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
a generous pinch sea salt
2 cups raspberry yoghurt
juice of half a lemon
200g soft German gingerbread cookies (pfeffernusse)
1 cup frozen raspberries, to garnish
LINE a 20cm long x 10cm wide x 6cm deep loaf tin with cling film, leaving enough hanging over sides to fold over.
STRAIN yoghurt in the fridge in a muslin lined sieve for at least an hour to thicken.
CRUMBLE gingerbread into a bowl. Set aside.
IN A LARGE HEATPROOF BOWL, combine egg whites, honey, cream of tartar and salt. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (the bottom should not touch the water) and using an electric beater, whisk on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5-8 minutes.
STIR together thickened yoghurt and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Fold a few large tablespoons of the meringue mixture into the yoghurt to lighten the base, then gently fold the base back into the remaining meringue until well incorporated.
SPOON 1/3 of the yoghurt meringue mixture into the prepared loaf tin, pressing down with a spatula to make sure the mixture is evenly distributed over the base and into the corners of the tin.
WORKING IN LAYERS, sprinkle over 1/3 of the crumbled gingerbread and cover with a further 1/3 of the yoghurt meringue. Repeat once more using another 1/3 of the gingerbread crumbs and all the remaining yoghurt meringue. Set aside the remaining 1/3 of gingerbread crumbs in a covered container to use as a garnish at serving time.
LIGHTLY tap the filled tin against your work surface to remove any bubbles and smooth the surface of with a spoon. Cover and freeze until firm, about 8 hours or overnight.
REMOVE semifreddo from the freezer and leave to stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes to soften slightly. Turn out onto a serving platter, scatter with frozen raspberries and gingerbread crumbs. Slice thickly and serve.