Check it out on Crunchyroll right here.
Ok everybody, as your loyal food-blogger I feel it’s my duty to call cooking BS when I see it, and boy oh boy, was there a lot of BS going on in Takumi’s Shokugeki.
Takumi competed in an infamous Shokugeki where his prized mezzaluna was at stake and…..SPOILERS……lost. It was a frustrating loss, and heart-breaking to boot. Since I prize my kitchen tools very highly, and am actually operating without most of them at the moment (more on that tragedy later), I actually feel really bad for him. Cooking without your trusty tools can be really unsettling. However, I have a bone to pick with the creators of this series.
Out of sympathy for Takumi, I decided to make his four-layer semi freddo, replicated as closely to the source material as possible. A praline layer on the top with almonds and hazelnuts, then a lemony-almond semi freddo with meringue, a lemon curd that uses olive oil instead of butter, ending with a genoise liberally doused in limoncello to moisten the cake.
For one thing, Mimasaka is well known for using the EXACT SAME ingredients as his competitor in the EXACT SAME dish. All well and good, but the ingredient that pushes him ahead of Takumi is the use of preserved lemons, made with lemons and salt. Ok, ok, surely Takumi had those ingredients. BUT, as stated in the show, preserved lemons take weeks before they’re ready. And, I’m sorry to say, but once they’re ready, it’s no longer just lemons and salt- it’s a preserved lemon. A whole new ingredient that Mimasaka would have had to make on the spot in the Shokugeki in order to adhere to his own weird rules. Except that this dish takes several weeks to make. How did he do that in the span of a single Shokugeki?
I know we’re operating in the anime world here, but can I also make it known that somehow, someway, Takumi and Mimasaka essentially made ice cream during a food competition with NO FREEZE TIME? Hear me out here, I’m well-aware that there are fancy ice cream makers that can fully freeze the ice cream base and pop it out, ready to eat, in no time flat. However, the point of a semi freddo is that you don’t NEED an ice cream maker to make it. That is one of the great benefits of a semi freddo. Semi freddo means semi-frozen, and is traditionally made by pumping the base materials full of air and then freezing WITHOUT using a ice cream maker. And when you do that, a semi freddo needs at LEAST 12 hours to harden completely, as I ever-so-tragically discovered when I only waited 8 hours for my four layer version to harden. So what’s the point of making a semi-freddo if you somehow cheat the freezing stage? HOW DID THEY DO THIS IN A SINGLE SHOKUGEKI??
Do you sense some frustration and sadness? I’m kinda getting ahead of myself here. Let me start at the beginning of this truly soul-crushing story.
I decided to catch up on Food Wars!, partly because I really like the series, and partly because I was doing research for this article, looking for something new to make. I was having a grand old time, and when I saw Takumi’s dessert, I was really inspired! A semi freddo! Lemon curd with olive oil! Toasted nuts! This was truly a dish meant for the great and mighty. I decided to set about making this dish with great fervor. I couldn’t find a recipe that even came close to replicating this entire dish, so I had to do my best to find individual recipes for each part of the whole dessert. I drew from the wisdom of our Lord and Savior, Ina Garten, the great Southern Monarch, Paula Deen, as well as a handful of other internet denizens who helped me understand what genoise is, the traditional components of a semi freddo, and the basic ingredients for a lemon semi freddo. That’s right gentlefolk of the internet, I did so much research on this dessert my brain almost exploded. I couldn’t even comprehend making dinner in addition to this, so I went and got WingStop to calm the pitter patter of my excited heart.
So busy am I with my other jobs, I decided to start this at 7 pm last night to give myself adequate time. I didn’t finish until 2 am, and here is the reason why: Three out of the four layers of this semi-freddo require extensive aeration. And I do mean extensive. No trouble for any old person at home who has a hand or stand mixer. Except I’m not at home, I’m living in the Bay Area for a few weeks to do some work here, and my friend’s kitchen is woefully ill-equipped compared to my own kitchen.
The funny thing is that I actually stole a Kitchen Aid stand mixer from a very un-deserving friend for recipes such as this one, but it’s at home, with all my other kitchen tools. (He moved out of his old apartment and abandonded his mixer in a closet, so I rescued it, cleaned it up, and haven’t bothered to tell him I took it. After a year, he still hasn’t asked about it. I sure hope he doesn’t read this.) So, lacking a stand or even a hand mixer, I decided to hand-whip EVERYTHING that required mixing. This includes: The genoise cake mix, lemon curd, the zabaglione for the semi freddo, the meringue for the semi freddo, and the whipped cream for the semi freddo. This seemed daunting, but I figured “hey, I like challenges, so why not?” A day later, with a seriously hurting wrist and suffering from physical exhaustion, I could give you a whole list of reasons “why not”, so just take my word for it and use a hand or stand mixer. You’ll thank yourself later.
I worked so hard on this. And in the end, I made two big mistakes: praline thickness and freeze time. On the upside, this dessert is frickin’ DELICIOUS. My god, it is really heavenly. It doesn’t matter that mine ultimately fell apart, because it still tastes amazing. I highly recommend you try this! But, it isn’t for the faint of heart, and if you get impatient waiting for things to freeze completely, you might struggle with this recipe, as I did. Let’s get into it, and buckle up. Four layers means there are a LOT of steps.
Here’s what we’re recreating:
OK, some notes before we get started: 1) This is going to take a decent amount of time to make, even if you use a hand or stand mixer. Prepare yourself. (And that’s another thing! This would take a REALLY LONG TIME TO MAKE, probably around two hours. What did everyone do while they were waiting around? 2) This makes a LOT. Prepare your pans.
You need some kind of container to put this in that is rectangular and long. A loaf pan works. I found a plastic container from Daiso that had sharp corners and was perfect for what I wanted, so I used that. It should be at least 9 inches long, 3 inches tall, and 4-5 inches wide. I also ended up using another plastic container for leftover materials, so as not to waste anything.
So this semi freddo has four layers. Semi freddo refers to the frozen part in the middle- not anything else. The semi freddo itself is made up of three components, the cream, meringue, and zabaglione. I will list ingredients by layer. All recipes are adapted from the links above, mostly to accomodate the volume of product I needed.
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sliced almonds (I couldn’t find hazelnuts. If you can, do half and half.)
Lemon Curd layer:
2 lemons and zest of both lemons
3/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
pinch of salt
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted twice (You can make your own cake flour using regular flour and cornstarch!)
about 1/4 cup limoncello (this is alcoholic- if you are under 21, either get a parent to help, or use a simple syrup)
Semi freddo layer:
1 3/4 cup whipping cream (Cream component)
4 egg yolks, 2 egg whites (Zabaglione and meringue components)
1/2 cup sliced almonds (Final mix in)
1 cup and 1/4 cup sugar (Meringue and zabaglione components)
1/2 cup lemon juice (Zabalgione component)
1/4 tsp salt (Zabaglione component)
1 tsp cream of tartar (Meringue component)
Candied Lemon Slices:
1 1/2 lemons
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Thank god that’s over. Onto the steps.
Making the 4 Layer Semi Freddo
Start by lining the bottom of your container. Set the container on a piece of parchment paper, trace around it, and cut out. Place in the bottom of your container, and spray the bottom lightly with non-stick spray.
With that done, let’s start on layer #1- The praline. It turns out praline is a way to prepare nuts, but turning them into a soft candy. Very simply, you make it by making a caramel, and dumping nuts in. I thought this would be really overpowering in the end, because it’s so sweet, but I found that the richness of the caramel and slight saltyness of the nuts went a long way to enhancing the overall lemony flavor of the rest of the dessert.
First, roast the nuts on the stove in a pan over medium heat. You’ll need roasted nuts for this as well as the semi freddo, so it will behoove you to do it all together. Stir every few minutes until nuts are toasty brown and smell yummy. This can also be done in the oven, as seen in the anime, but I find I always burn things this way, so I avoid it if possible.
While nuts are going, put all ingredients except for the nuts and vanilla into a pan over medium heat. Allow everything to melt together and start to bubble up. You will be cooking this for a long time, basically altering the structure of the sugar crystals, to make a soft candy.
Mine took about ~15 minutes to be fully ready, once everything had started bubbling. Stir constantly to avoid burning the candy, and get a glass of cold water (it MUST be cold) to test the done-ness of the candy. Every few minutes after the 5 minute mark, drizzle some candy into the cold water. If it immediately disperses into the water, it’s not ready. If it turns kind of whispy but dissolves when you touch it, it’s not ready. If you can pick it up and it’s squishy but can keep a shape, it’s done. Remove from heat immediately.
Set aside to cool for 10 minutes then pour in the nuts and vanilla. Stir vigorously with a spoon for about two minutes to aerate the mixture and help it cool down more.
Then, spread a thin, THIN layer of praline on the bottom of the container, using gentle motions to dab it into the corners and around the paper. My layer was way too thick, and ended up crushing the middle layer due to weight, so go really thin here, and be ok with the fact that you’ll have a lot of leftover, which you can spread on a piece of parchment paper to cool and enjoy later.
Set this aside, and let’s begin semi freddo layer. I orgininally saved this for last, but in hindsight it’s best to do it sooner so it gets more freezer time.
First, whip the cream in a bowl with a whisk, using my patented fire-building technique of rolling the whisk handle between my palms vigorously. This took me about five minutes. You want hard peaks here, so it should stick up in firm peaks. I find this technique more effective than the standard side-to-side whisking method. Once done, set aside in the fridge.
Next, work on the zabaglione. Over a pot of steaming water, whisk the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, and salt together for 4 minutes traught. Do not stop whisking, or you will get lemony-sweet scrambled eggs. You can use a hand mixer instead. After four minutes, take off the heat and continue to whisk/ beat with a hand mixer until about doubled in size and lightened in color. Set aside.
Next, work on the meringue. In a pot over steaming water, again, place a bowl or pot of egg whites, 1 cup sugar, and cream of tartar. With a hand mixer or whisk, beat continuously about 5 minutes until you have a white syrup.
Then, off the heat, keep whisking/beating until the meringue is glossy, thick, and makes ribbons. When you lift the whisk/beaters, the meringue should fall in ribbons and sit on top without merging fully back into the rest of the meringue.
Now it’s time to mix it all together. Pour the zabagione into the meringue and fold it together. Don’t stir, or you’ll loose all the bubbles! Fold by scraping the bottom and bringing it over the top. Rotate the bowl, cut down the middle, scrape along the bottom, and fold up. Repeat until no streaks remain.
Then, fold this into the whipped cream until no streaks remain.
And finally, fold in the rest of the toasted nuts. Make sure they are completely cool at this point!
Pour this on top of the praline layer, leaving some space at the top for the cake and lemon curd layers. Place in the freezer. If you have extra, set aside in a tupperware container and place in freezer.
And now time to work on the lemon curd. Take out your two lemons and zest both of them.
Place zest and sugar in a Magic Bullet mixer, a food processor, or a bowl. I used a Magic Bullet knockoff because, hey, I’m doing what I can in this strange kitchen. Ironically, I didn’t notice the food processor sitting innoculously on the counter, which would have been my first choice. Blend until zest is super fine.
Blend in eggs one by one, and then olive oil, then salt, then lemon juice. Once it’s all thoroughly mixed together, place in a pan over medium low heat and stir continuously, about 10 minutes until the curd thickens up and you can draw a line in the curd on the back of a spatula.
Set aside in a bowl, and let chill in the fridge.
And onto the final layer: the genoise.
Also known as my new arch-nemesis. I spent 40 MINUTES whisking this batter to get it fluffy enough. Start by pre-heating the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with some parchment paper. The baking sheet should have edges, and should be both long and wide enough to bake a sheet cake that could fit the bottom of your container.
Aerate the flour and salt by whisking it vigorously, or sifting it twice.
Heat the butter in a pan and let it brown up. You’ll know it’s ready when it goes from golden to brown and starts to smell nutty and amazing. At first it will get all foamy on top, and then gradually the surface will clear, revealing the brown shade.
Next, place eggs and sugar in a bowl, and set over a pot of simmering water. Be careful to not let the water touch the bottom of the pan, and start whisking. Don’t let the water boil. Whisk continuously for 5 minutes (if you stop, you’ll get sweet scrambled eggs).
Once five minutes are up, remove from the heat and keep mixing until the mixture is about tripled in volume and the batter makes ribbons- when you let it drip from the mixers, it creates a ribbon of batter that sits on top and doesn’t sink back into the rest of the batter. This is the part that took me 40 minutes by hand. PLEASE use a hand or stand mixer.
In thirds, carefully fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Be really careful here- you don’t want to deflate your egg mixture too much and, after 40 minutes of whisking, it’s pretty disheartening to see how quickly it de-fluffs. Only add the next portion when you can’t see any more flour.
Add a cup full of this mixture to the butter and stir together until combined. Add this back into the big bowl of egg mixture and fold together until just combined and you can’t see any more flour or butter.