Coca River Caramel Semifreddo

I’ve been in a bit of a baking funk lately.  Can’t seem to think up any ideas for what to bake … a total wasteland of inspiration.  Or maybe I just couldn’t be bothered.  Which probably means I need professional help, cos that is just not on.

But hey, what’s this?  In my quest for a total cacao experience, I’ve been sampling some brewed cacao.  Huh?  Yep, brewed.  In a French press.    It’s a bit like a coffee drink but not.  It’s like cocoa, but not really.  The beans are roasted, like coffee, and ground.  Want to check it out?  Knock yourselves out at Crio Brü Australia or Crio B.

Well, hey … now, I love drinking it.  I love adding chilli or vanilla or cinnamon or all three to it.  I’ve even added natural mint extract, pistachio aroma … all delicious.  But the first thing I did was inhale the mmmmmmmm aroma … and then I grabbed a spoon and ate some of the grounds.  Wow.

So aside from drinking this delicious cacao nectar of the South American gods, I wanted to make something with it.  A bit like using cacao nibs but with a more subtle flavour.   It’s also seriously healthy.  Yes!  Full of antioxidant shazamness and other fabuloso stuff.  Anyway, I’ve gone to town on the Coca River variety, all the way from beautiful Ecuador.  A lovely river that flows into the Amazon.  I love trying new ingredients 🙂

It’s cacao, Jim, but not as we know it … 

What does this alien cacao taste like?  Not as bitter as raw cacao beans and nibs and you can detect some of the varietal flavours of the beans used, probably as a result of roasting the beans.  The Coca River has quite a sweetish chocolately aroma and a little of the astringency of the fruity flavours.  Just my personal view.  It’s hayfever season here so I’m not able to pick up any really subtle flavour notes at the moment.  Totally compromised.

Given my total blaaahhh on baking and the warmer weather, I made a semifreddo.  Lovely warm caramel flavours given a bit of a kick from swirling through some Coca River grounds and a little spicy hint of cinnamon and vanilla.  Ecuador, here we come!  It’s downright CACAO-TASTIC.


It’s BODACIOUS.  Yes, my friends, totally, over the top, BODACIOUS.

It makes a great dessert served with biscotti or tuiles.  I just served them in little animal print cupcake liners because it was too darn hot to do anything fancy.  Plus, you know …  Amazon, jungles, jaguars … they looked cute and matched the caramel colour of the ice cream.

This semifreddo firms up as it sets but never sets hard, staying creamy and lush.  The caramel is warm, not too sweet and beautifully rounded.  The grounds are a revelation.  I feel like a proud mamma 😀

I hope you love it too.

Serves 4 to 6

4 egg yolks
135 grams sugar
400 millilitres pure cream (about 45% butterfat)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon cinnamon
24 grams Crio Brü Coca River

Place the egg yolks into a medium-sized bowl that has been warmed.  You can do this by pouring hot water into it, leave it for a few minutes and then drain and dry the bowl.  Whisk the yolks until frothy and light.

Make the caramel.  Place the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan.  I use a solid stainless steel saucepan for this as it is a dry caramel and I like to keep a close eye on the colour.  If it burns, the caramel will be bitter and you will have to throw it out and start again.

Place the saucepan over a low to medium heat.  Using a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon, keep the sugar moving a little over the base of the saucepan so that it doesn’t stick or burn as it melts.  This will help it to melt evenly.  Don’t stir it around vigorously.  Just gently keep it moving until the sugar is completely melted.  Keep an eye on it as the sugar starts to caramelise and darken, stirring it gently to keep the colour even as it darkens.   A lovely deep caramel colour is what you are aiming for, not a light golden hue.  The latter is great when making praline but we are looking for a really intense caramel flavour.  Once the caramel begins to colour, it will darken very quickly.  Be extremely careful not to touch it with your fingers.

Once the caramel has reached a lovely deep amber colour, remove it from the heat.  Start whisking the egg yolks on medium speed.  While the egg yolks are being whisked, pour the warm caramel into the egg yolks in a thin steady stream.  If the yolks are warm, the caramel will not set on contact.  If you notice a few lumps, it means the caramel is cooling but as you pour more in the mixture will heat up and it will melt again.  Keep whisking on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick and the consistency of cream.  If the bowl is still too warm at this point, you can place it into a larger bowl, half filled with iced water, to cool.

In a large bowl, use a hand-held whisk to gently whisk the cream until soft peak stage.  Add the vanilla, cinnamon and Crio Brü Coca River grounds and stir through.  Gently fold in the caramel egg yolk mixture.

Scoop the semifreddo into a container, seal, and freeze for at least several hours, until ready to serve.

It will keep for several days, if required.

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