Diary of a Foodie

Wildflower-Honey Semifreddo with Honey Sesame Wafers

Diary of a Foodie: Season Two: New Zealand: The Rugged Land

Serves6 (dessert)
  • Active time:1 hr
  • Start to finish:2 3/4 hr
INSPIRED BY "WILD HONEY," U2, 2000
January 2008
This sophisticated dessert makes the most of contrasting textures. The subtle floral flavor of wildflower honey connects all of the components.

For semifreddo

  • 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz package)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons mild honey (preferably wildflower)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg yolks

For sesame toffee

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey (preferably wildflower)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds (not toasted)

For honey wafers

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey (preferably wildflower)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For orange topping

  • 2 navel oranges
  • Special equipment:

    a candy thermometer; 6 (4-oz) ramekins; parchment paper; an offset spatula

Make semifreddo:

  • Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and let stand to soften.
  • Beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks, then chill, covered.
  • Stir together honey, sugar, salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons water in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Boil, undisturbed, until mixture registers 238F on thermometer (soft-ball stage; you may need to tilt pan to get temperature; see cooks' note, below), about 4 minutes.
  • Beat yolks in a medium bowl with cleaned beaters at high speed until they are thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and pour hot honey mixture in a slow stream into yolks (try to avoid beaters and side of bowl). Reserve pan. Immediately add gelatin mixture to hot honey pan, swirling until dissolved, then beat liquid gelatin into yolk mixture and continue to beat until mixture is pale, thick, and completely cool, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Fold one third of whipped cream into honey mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined, then fold in remaining whipped cream gently but thoroughly.
  • Divide mixture evenly among ramekins, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze until frozen, at least 1 hour.

Make sesame toffee:

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • Stir together cream, sugar, honey, and salt in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is golden and registers 260F on thermometer (hard-ball stage; see cooks' note, below), about 6 minutes.
  • Remove mixture from heat and immediately stir in sesame seeds, then pour evenly onto parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and spread into a very thin layer (about a 9-inch round) with an offset spatula. Cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes (candy will be slightly flexible), then chill on sheet in the refrigerator until hard, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove toffee from parchment and break into very small pieces (less than 1/4 inch) with your hands or a rolling pin.

Make honey sesame wafers:

  • Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, then add honey, beating until combined. Beat in egg white until combined well, then reduce speed to low and add flour and salt until combined. Chill batter, covered, until slightly firm, about 30 minutes.
  • Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375F.
  • Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment. Using offset spatula, spread half of batter (about 1/3 cup) into a very thin, sheer 14- by 11-inch rectangle on 1 sheet. Using tip of spatula or a butter knife, section off 12 squares by scraping knife through batter to make a 1/4-inch-wide space between batter sections. Sprinkle half of sesame toffee evenly over batter. Repeat with remaining batter and brittle on second sheet. Bake wafers, switching position of sheets and rotating 180 degrees halfway through baking, until golden (some parts may be pale golden), about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature on sheets on racks, about 10 minutes. Peel parchment off wafers.

Make orange topping:

  • Peel and cut any white pith from oranges with a sharp knife. Cut oranges lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, discarding white pith from center, then cut slices into 1/4-inch dice.

Assemble dessert:

  • Fill a large bowl with cool water and dip 1 ramekin (with semifreddo) into water 3 seconds.
  • Run a sharp paring knife around edge, then invert ramekin onto a dessert plate, gently releasing semifreddo. (It may be necessary to run knife around more than once and gently pry semifreddo out slightly; if necessary, smooth top and sides with knife.) Repeat with remaining ramekins.
  • Spoon diced orange over and around each semifreddo and serve each with 1 or 2 honey sesame wafers.
Cooks' notes:
  • To take the temperature of a shallow amount of syrup, put bulb of thermometer in saucepan and turn thermometer facedown, resting other end against rim of saucepan. Check temperature frequently.
  • Honey wafer batter and sesame toffee can be made 3 days ahead and chilled, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
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