Chestnut orchards cover extensive portions of the Mugello, a vast, lush valley tucked into northeast Tuscany’s Apennine mountains, yielding the chestnuts and chestnut-based products like flour and honey that are among its principal agricultural specialties.
Chestnut-blossom honey has a robust, distinct flavor that pairs well with bold cheeses like aged pecorino. Some describe this clear, dark amber honey as having a slightly bitter aftertaste, while others note its herbal and nutty aromas. Look for the IGP Marrone Fiorentino variety from Marradi, Palazzuolo sul Senio, Dicomano, Borgo San Lorenzo, Firenzuola, San Godenzo, Scarperia and Vicchio.
But it is also a wonderful ingredient in desserts such the semifreddo offered here. Note that chestnut-blossom honey is not only less sweet but tends to stay liquid longer than other honeys. For this recipe, you can substitute another, more delicate type as long as it is in liquid form.
RECIPE: Chestnut honey semifreddo
4 egg yolks
125 g chestnut honey, plus more for drizzling
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
300 ml heavy cream
30 g or 1 small handful pine nuts, toasted, for garnish
Line a loaf pan (about 25 x 11 centimeters) with cling wrap and set aside.
Fill a pot (large enough to accommodate a glass bowl placed on top of it) about halfway with water and bring to a simmer.
Whisk the egg and egg yolks, honey and vanilla extract in the glass bowl set into the pot of hot water until the mixture thickens and turns creamy and pale. (If you are not using an electric whisk, expect to spend at least 5 minutes on this step.)
Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside while you whip the cream until thick and pillowy. Gently fold the egg cream into the whipped cream and then transfer to the loaf pan. Cover with cling wrap and freeze for about 3 hours.
The semifreddo is ready when firm to the touch, but keep in mind it will not freeze completely solid (hence its name). Carefully unwrap the semifreddo and transfer it to a serving platter.
Drizzle the top with more honey, sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and slice as you would a cake to serve. Because semifreddo melts quickly, have the honey and pine nuts ready, and chill the serving dishes.