By Chef Vincent Tropepe
For the crust
- 5 oz. amaretti cookies
- 1-3/4 oz. (3-1/2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
For the praline
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds (1 oz.)
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the semifreddo
- 1 lb. sweet red cherries, stemmed (about 3 cups)
- 1 500-mg vitamin C tablet, crushed to a powder
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup almond-flavored liqueur, such as Amaretto
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/8 tsp. pure almond extract
- 1 cup heavy cream
Make the crust
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F. Invert the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, then lock on the side.
- Put the amaretti in a large zip-top plastic bag, and finely crush with a rolling pin. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the butter and salt. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and one-third up the side of the pan. Bake until the crust is firm and a shade darker, 4 to 5 minutes. Put the pan on a rack, and cool completely. Leave the oven on.
Make the praline
- Spread the nuts on a small rimmed baking sheet, and toast in the oven, stirring once or twice, until fragrant and golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a small bowl. Lightly coat the same baking sheet with cooking spray. Coat a silicone spatula with cooking spray, and set aside.
- Put the sugar in a small, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan occasionally, and cook until the sugar melts. Reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook until the syrup turns medium amber, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir the nuts into the caramel with the prepared spatula. Scrape the coated nuts onto the prepared baking pan, and let stand to harden and cool completely, about 15 minutes. Transfer the praline to a cutting board, and coarsely chop. Sift the praline in a medium-mesh strainer to remove fine powder and crumbs. Set aside.
Make the semifreddo
- Pit half of the cherries, and cut each into 6 to 8 pieces. Set aside. Put the remaining cherries in a blender (pit them, if you like) with the vitamin C, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the liqueur, and blend, 15 to 30 seconds. Press through a medium-mesh strainer set over a medium saucepan, pressing on and then discarding the solids.
- Have ready a large metal bowl set over a larger bowl filled with ice and water. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a hand-held electric mixer until well blended. Transfer to the saucepan with the cherry purée. Place the pan over medium heat. With the mixer on high speed, beat until the mixture is thick and pale, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to the chilled bowl. Add the almond extract, and continue to beat until thick and pale, about 5 minutes.
- In another bowl, using clean beaters, combine the cream and the remaining 2 Tbs. sugar, and beat until the mixture just holds stiff peaks, about 1-1/2 minutes.
- Fold the cream into the cherry mixture gently and thoroughly, then fold in the reserved cherries and half of the praline. Pour the semifreddo onto the cooled crust, and sprinkle the remaining praline on top. Freeze, covered with plastic wrap, until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight. Let stand in refrigerator for 30 to 40 minutes before serving.