What is Tiramisù? You’ll Love It.

Tiramisù.  Possibly one of my favorite desserts. Possibly one of the richest I’ll be making here.  I find myself sad to say that my favorite version of this dessert comes from The Olive Garden. As a city girl, I scoff at this, but the heart wants what it wants. Or, I guess the stomach in this case.

I had tried to make Tiramisù once before, and it ended up tasting for whatever reason a lot like my mom’s Viennese honey cake (more on that in a few months…).  For my second attempt, I’m trusting Cooks’ Illustrated once again.  According to them,tiramisù translates to “pick me up,” probably because of the sugar, espresso and alcohol that are key players in this recipe.  Funny enough, this isn’t even an “Old World” hand me down tradition, but rather a restaurant creation.  Good job, restaurateurs!

Having the whole day ahead of me, I went all in when making this, meaning I made everything down to the lady fingers from scratch. I’d never made ladyfingers, but the recipe sounded easy enough and I figured it was a good recipe to have under my best in the event of a ladyfinger emergency. So let’s start with that.

For the ladyfingers (adapted from the recipe in The Joy of Baking)

Yields 24
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  1. ½ cup cake flour, sifted
  2. 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  3. 2 TB white sugar, divided
  4. ½ tsp vanilla extract
  5. 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  6. 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  7. 3 tablespoons (36 grams) granulated white sugar
  8. Powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar for dusting the tops of the cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In your electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 2 TB of the sugar high speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sift the cake flour over the batter but do not fold in.
  3. In a clean bowl, with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 3TN sugar and whip until stiff peaks form and the whites are glossy. Fold the whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture in three additions, mixing only until incorporated.
  4. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag and, holding the bag at about a 45 degree angle to the baking sheet, pipe the batter into 3 inch long ladyfingers, using the lines drawn on the parchment paper as your guide. Pipe the batter leaving about a 1 inch space between the cookies.
  5. When you have piped all the cookies lightly sift the powdered sugar over the tops of the cookies.
  6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the ladyfingers are firm but barely browned and are still spongy when pressed with a finger.
  7. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and slide the parchment paper from the baking sheets onto a wire rack. Let the ladyfingers cool for a few minutes and release them from the parchment paper, with a flat spatula, while they are still warm. If you left them completely cool before removing them from the parchment they stick and hard to remove without breaking. Finish cooling the ladyfingers on the wire rack before using.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/


That was easy enough, so now on to the filling.  Cooks’ Illustrated’s main version uses raw eggs. I actually have no problem with this. I mean, I’ve eaten enough cookie dough in my lifetime without getting sick. However, since raw eggs are generally frowned upon, I used the cooking method, a move that, in retrospect, I feel may have been the downfall of this dessert (spoiler alert).

Serves 9
Classic Italian Favorite
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  1. 1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
  2. ¾ TB instant espresso
  3. 2 ½ TB dark rum
  4. 2 ½ TB coffee-flavored liquor
  5. 3 large egg yolks
  6. 1/3 cup sugar
  7. 3 TB heavy cream
  8. Pinch salt
  9. 12 ounces mascarpone
  10. 6 TB cold heavy cream
  11. About 21 ladyfingers
  12. 2 TB cocoa
  13. TB grated semisweet chocolate
  1. Stir together the coffee, espresso and the rum in a wide bowl and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the yolks at a low speed until just combined. Add the sugar and salt and beat until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the 3TB heavy cream. Set the bowl over a double boiler and cook, constantly scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir vigorously to cool slightly and set aside to cool to room temp, about 15 minutes. Once cool, add the coffee flavored liquor.**
  4. Transfer this to a standing mixer and add the mascarpone, and beat until no lumps remain, about 45 seconds. Set this mixture aside.
  5. In the now-empty mixer bowl, beat the cream until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes, careful not to overbeat into butter. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture, a little at a time until well combined. Set aside.
  6. Working one at a time, drop half the ladyfingers into the coffee mixture, roll them over and transfer them into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish. DO NOT submerge the ladyfingers- they will get too soggy. Arrange the soaked mixture into a single layer in the baking dish.
  7. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers. Dust half of the cocoa over this.
  8. Repeat steps 5-6 to create another layer.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and let meld 6-24 hours.
  1. **If you aren’t raw egg squeamish, rather than do Step 2 as stated above, simply beat the yolks, sugar and salt until pale yellow. Add the coffee liquor and mascarpone directly, beating until smooth. Carry on with the rest of the recipe.**
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/

So…the result? The taste was perfect. The texture…not so much. It ended up not really holding together well. I think this happened for possibly three reasons: 1) my ladyfingers were not crispy enough 2) the mascarpone custard did not thicken enough or 3) the whipped cream did not hold.  I actually suspect it was a combo of 2 & 3, and I actually considered putting gelatin in the whipped cream as a stabilizer but then in the end thought it’d be fine. Always trust your instincts!  No matter, the taste is fabulous, and I’ve already eaten too much of it tonight. I’ll make it again, bask in the glory of the raw eggs and add the gelatin. And it will once again be fabulous, but perhaps a little bit prettier.


I also apologize for the blur…

UPDATE:  I retract what I had formerly said about this ‘not coming out.’ Everything came out fine. Then what happened? My fatty self could not wait 6 hours to let it set properly. If you let this set the appropriate amount of time, it will come out perfect.  Here’s a new picture:


Much better.

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