Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I had Tiramisu to make for someone. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about this. I have not made Tirsamisu since I was in culinary school, which was about 7 years ago. I certainly hadn't made anything this complicated in a long time. It turned out not to be too difficult with just a few classic techniques. And it was quite delicious!

Tiramisu really only has two major components. First is the ladyfingers or Savoiardi in Italian. A lot of recipes call for store bought ladyfingers. I would NEVER buy ladyfingers in a store to make this luscious dessert. Firstly, I think that they would be much too hard to absorb the liquid in
which you soak them. Secondly, obviously they are not as delicious as homemade ladyfingers. Ladyfingers are a fairly complicated cookie to make. They are not just a straightforward mix and scoop cookie. I was a little intimidated when I looked at my recipe for these simple little cookies. I actually had to go back in my baking book from school and refresh myself on the mixing technique. I use a lot of the recipes in my baking book, but rarely do I need to go back and read up on techniques. It is a variation on what is called the sponge mixing method. First you must heat the egg yolks and sugar over a double boiler. Then they are whipped for quite some time. Then, in a separate bowl, you whip egg whites. They are then folded into the egg yolk mixture along with some flour. The batter is piped onto parchment lined baking sheets and baked. Ladyfingers are a rather involved cookie, but they turned out beautifully and tasted delicious.

The next step is not really a major component, but it is an important step. The ladyfingers must be soaked in syrup. There are a few options. A classic recipe would call for a mixture of simple syrup and espresso and often a sweet liquor. I chose to use straight Kahlua in this particular recipe. I chose Kahlua mainly because my espresso machine is packed away, but also because I knew that the person that I was making this for liked it with Kahlua. It obviously is not kid friendly if you use Kahlua though.

The second major component is a delicious light mixture of mascarpone cheese, eggs, and whipped cream. My arm was very tired from folding in cream after making it. I chose a method that you cook the eggs slowly for a bit of time over a water bath on the stove. Many classic
recipes for Tiramisu call for raw eggs, but I prefer to cook them. They must be stirred constantly though so that they do not scramble. Mascarpone cheese is then stirred in. Then, whipped cream is folded in. You layer the ladyfingers that have been soaked with the syrup with the mascarpone mixture. Top that with some cocoa powder. Voila! You have Tiramisu! This is definitely not a beginner's dessert, but don't be afraid to try it! The first time you try it, use store bought ladyfingers and try to perfect your mascarpone cream. You can only learn if you try!

Tiramisu's origin is debated. It may be a variation of the zuppa inglese which is the Italian take on a classic English trifle. One might think of it as a very traditional Italian dessert. It is a very popular dessert, but it does not date back that far. Some claim that the first documented mention of Tiramisu in a published work appears in a 1971 article by Giuseppe Di Clemente. It was mentioned in a 1983 cookbook by Giovanni Capnist called I Dolci Del Veneto. Merriam- Webster's online dictionary gives 1982 as the first mention of the dessert.

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