Monday, December 26, 2011


Tiramisu ('pick me up' in Italian) is the ubiquitous coffee-spongecake-liquor infused, no-bake desert, that's generally a cinch to make, but is not always equal in quality (too sweet, too dry, too soggy, too little alcohol or too much alcohol). I've made my share of Tiramisu over the years and have finally come up with a version which I think incorporates just the right amounts of the few main ingredients. The base recipe is adapted from The Best International Recipe cookbook by the editors of Cook's Illustrated but also includes a touch of vanilla for that extra flavor element. Most recipes don't call for it, but I like to pipe on some fresh sweetened whipped cream to the Tiramisu as a final touch. My liquor of choice is rum, but brandy will also work well. My version, like many out there, has raw eggs in it, which I'm not squeamish about using, so long as they are fresh (preferably 3-4 weeks before expiration date). 

2 1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temp.
1 1/2 tbsp. instant espresso or 1 packet of Starbucks Via (single serve) Ready Brew - Italian Roast
9 tbsp. dark rum (Meyer's is my fav)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 lbs. mascarpone cheese (3 8-oz. containers)*
3/4 cup cold heavy cream
3 3-oz. pkgs. of fresh lady fingers (about 60)**
3 1/2 tbsp. Dutch cocoa
1/4 cup grated semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Freshly whipped cream with sugar & vanilla***

*Do not let mascarpone come to room temp. before using, or it may become grainy in texture.

**You can also use dried lady fingers. To dry the fresh lady fingers, just separate and place on a sheet pan in a single layer for 1-2 hours or overnight. 

***Whipped Cream:
2 cups (16 oz.) heavy or whipping cream
4 tbsp. King Arthur Flour's Whipped Cream Stabilizer (optional)
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine whipped cream stabilizer and sugar in a small bowl. Beat heavy cream until just before stiff peaks form. Add whipped cream stabilizer/sugar mixture and vanilla extract and beat to stiff peaks (do not over beat or the cream will turn into a butter-like consistency). Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to use. The stabilizer will prevent your whipped cream from 'weeping' and losing its form. 
1. Combine coffee, instant espresso and 5 tbsp. of rum in a large bowl. Stir well to dissolve. Set aside.

2. Beat egg yolks over low speed in a stand mixer (with whisk attachment) until just combined. Add sugar & salt and beat at medium-high speed until yolks are pale yellow, about 1-2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add the remaining 4 tbsp. of rum and 1/2 tsp. of vanilla and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20-30 seconds; scrape the bowl. Add mascarpone and beat at medium speed until there are no lumps, about 30 second, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer to a large bowl & set aside. 

3. In the same stand mixer bowl (you don't have to wash it out), add the heavy cream and beat at medium speed for about 1 1/2 minutes until frothy. Increase speed to high and beat cream to stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set aside. 

4. Very briefly drop the lady fingers, one at a time, into the coffee mixture, rolling over once (1-2 seconds for fresh lady finger, 2-3 seconds for dry lady fingers). Line them in a single layer on the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish (about 30 lady fingers). Pour half of the mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers and smooth out evenly with a spatula. With a wire-mesh strainer, sprinkle 2 tbsp. of the cocoa powder evenly over the top of the mascarpone mixture. Repeat the process of lining coffee-soaked lady fingers and mascarpone mixture, and then sprinkle top with remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. of cocoa powder. Cover the tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours (preferably overnight). Before serving, pipe on freshly whipped cream and top with grated semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. 

Dark rum & vanilla extract.

Fresh lady fingers are generally available in your local supermarket's bakery department (I got these from Albertson's).

Starbuck's ready brew (Via) Italian Roast coffee is a good sub for instant espresso.

Hershey's special dark cocoa (for dusting between layers) and Ghirardelli's bittersweet chocolate (for shaving on top).

Coffee, instant espresso, and rum.

Mascarpone cheese. It usually comes in 8-0z. containers. 

Put 6 large egg yolks in a stand mixer and mix on low speed until just combined. 

Add sugar & salt.

Beat 1 1/2 - 2 minutes at medium-high speed until pale yellow, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Add 5 tbsp. of rum.

Add vanilla. Beat 20-30 seconds on medium speed until just combined.

Add mascarpone and beat about 30 seconds, or until there are no lumps (don't over beat).

Remove mascarpone mixture to another bowl and set aside.

Dip lady fingers into coffee mixture very briefly, rolling over once.

Line a 13x9 baking dish with soaked lady finger in a single layer (about 30).

At medium speed, beat whipped cream until frothy. Increase to high and beat to stiff peaks. 

Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until no white streaks area showing.

Pour half of mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers.

Spread evenly.

Dust with 2 tbsp. of cocoa powder over the top.

Repeat with a second layer of soaked lady fingers.

Pour remaining mascarpone mixture over the top.

Dust with remaining 1 1/2 tbsp of cocoa powder.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

King Arthur Flour's Whipped Cream Stabilizer is a great product - keeps the whipped cream from 'weeping' and losing its form.

Heavy cream, sugar, vanilla & whipped cream stabilizer.

At medium speed, whip the cream until almost at stiff peaks. 

Add sugar/whipped cream stabilizer mixture.

Add vanilla, then whip to stiff peaks.

You can get fancy and whip out the pastry bag. I use disposable bags with a star tip (a ziploc bag with the tip cut off will also work).  Just fold back the edges for easier filling.

Spoon the whipped cream into the pastry bag.

Pipe the whipped cream decoratively on top of the tiramisu and sprinkle with shaved chocolate. This one was served  after our traditional Christmas hot pot at my parent's house.

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