Saturday, October 13, 2012


I traded a cardboard house for dessert last summer. I was working at a fair with a colleague I rarely see. We both wanted the cardboard houses on display at one of the booths and she ended up getting the last one at the end of the day, but gave it to me instead of keeping it for her own daughter. I said I'd make her whatever dessert she wanted the next time I saw her. She picked tiramisu. Kinda took me off guard since I've never had tiramisu, let alone made it, but whatever. I'm up for a challenge!

So tiramisu is layers of cookies (savoiardi or ladyfingers or langues de chat) dipped in sweetened espresso, and creamy filling, this one made by combining mascarpone, vanilla pastry cream, zabaglione and whipped cream. Then the whole thing is dusted in cocoa powder.

I picked the recipe the Daring Bakers had made back in February 2010, a full year before I joined.

In the challenge, they were supposed to make the mascarpone from scratch, but I ran out of time and didn't plan ahead properly, so I bought it. And the zabaglione was supposed to be flavored with marsala wine, but there was an option to use coffee, so that's what I did. I don't know my colleague very well, and didn't know if she liked wine. What I do know is that she's trying to get pregnant, so I chose to go with coffee in case she's avoiding alcohol. Now I don't know if coffee zabaglione is even a thing, since I think zabaglione is a custard made with alcohol. But whatever, I'm going with zabaglione anyways.

I made the zabaglione and the pastry cream the first day, let the mixtures chill overnight. Felt really fancy flavoring the zabaglione with coffee and lemon zest. Felt European. Although I don't drink coffee, I love the smell of it. And this mixture smelled so good!  The next morning, I made the savoiardi, whipped the cream and combined the four components of the creamy filling. I made the required 2 cups of sweet espresso (which was a cup too many) and layered the dessert.

Dipping the cookies in coffee before layering them with the creamy filling seemed wrong. Soggy cookies are gross, unless it's because oreos were dipped in milk. And even at that, they need to be dipped quickly, and consumed immediately. But then again, the cookies by themselves were not that delicious either. They had a crispy meringue-like shell, but a dry cookie texture inside. And I was surprised that they kept their shape in the oven, just puffing up a bit, just barely spreading.

I wish I could have prettied up the dessert a bit, but it needed to travel a couple of hours by car, then spend the day hanging out in a small fridge before travelling a couple more hours to it's final destination, so I played it safe, and left it in its throwaway container.

This dessert got rave reviews. I was told the flavors were perfect, and the sugar didn't overwhelmed the coffee. The cookies were not soggy and the final product could have  been served in an Italian Piazza. Score 1 for the tiramisu.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
6 tablespoons confectioner's sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1 recipe savoiardi/ladyfinger biscuits
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency. Strain into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. Strain the cream into a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a  8" by 8" serving dish.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

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