Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Recipe Box: Tiramisu

Desserts are my shtick, really. I love to make them, make them better, and make them pretty. I especially love the look on people's faces when I pull a recipe off the way I wanted to; it's like I've created actual happiness out of sugar and cream. I wonder if that's what an artist feels when they finally get the canvas to match the image in their head. The difference is that desserts are more of a momentary triumph: they're only really successful when they've been eaten. Very zen, now that I think about it.

Yes, there was a point where dessert was the enemy, but then I found that while something really luscious usually has more calories and fat, it almost always takes less of it to satisfy. I asked myself if I'd rather have a truffle than an entire bar of cheap baking chocolate, and the answer is definitely yes. From there I moved into the first glimmers of my fat acceptance journey, where I'm trying to teach myself that if I crave something, a substitute is probably not going to ease that craving. I'm learning to eat intuitively. Part of that, I believe is a matter of quality. If I can eat anything I want without guilt, there's no reason to eat anything that doesn't taste as good as it can. If I'm craving a salad, I'm not craving iceberg lettuce and Colby-jack, I'm craving field greens with Gorgonzola and pecans. If I try to satisfy that craving with iceberg lettuce and Colby-jack, I'll keep eating and grazing on things I don't want, past the point of fullness, trying to drown out the craving I should have satisfied in the first place. Maybe that's just my understanding of it, and since it's a new concept to me, I'm sure it'll evolve as I learn more.

That being said, here's my Tiramisu recipe. I don't use the raw eggs of the traditional recipe, because that's a good way to die :-) This recipe makes about a square baking pan (8"x8") but can be doubled or more to serve a bigger crowd.



4 extra large egg yolks (or 5 large egg yolks)
1/3 cup fine (not confectioner's) cane sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup brandy (or frangelico)
1/4 cup coffee liquor (kahlua)
1 cup espresso (about 6 shots from the coffee shop)
1 pound (16oz) Mascarpone Cheese
16 oz heavy whipping cream
Approx 30 toasted ladyfingers, or 30 savoiardi cookies
1/2 bar gourmet white baking chocolate (Ghiradelli)
1/2 bar gourmet dark baking chocolate (Ghiradelli - I use the 60% cacao but you can go darker)
Dark Cocoa powder (I use Hershey's "Special Dark" cocoa powder)
2 teaspoons vanilla


*serving dish(es) (see notes below)
**double boiler, makeshift or otherwise
wire whisk
grater for chocolate (the "fine grate" area on a cheese grater works well)
Mixer (hand or stand)
fine strainer or mesh sieve (cheesecloth works in a pinch)
The usual collection of mixing bowls, spoons, etc.


*For a fancier presentation you can use an 8" or 9" round springform pan with the sides lightly dusted with cocoa powder. If the Tiramisu sets up firmly you can remove the springform and it looks terrific. If something goes wrong, like the custard or cream doesn't set up right, or the world just hates you that day, you run the risk of the whole thing "oozing" out on you and being ruined. "You pays your penny and you takes your choice" :-)

Another option is to use individual serving dishes, or even large wine glasses, which looks impressive and elegant. I haven't measured out the recipe for that but you could probably get at least 10 wineglass size servings out of this recipe, probably more.

**Until someone notices me looking yearningly at the double boilers at Ikea and takes pity upon me, I use a steel or ceramic pot (not Teflon, it will be scratched by the whisk) set in a slightly larger pot that has about 3 inches of simmering water at the bottom.


Place beaters and the mixing bowl you'll be using for the cream in the freezer to chill.

Fill the sink or a large glass or metal bowl 1/2 way with cold water and ice.


bring the water in the bottom of the double boiler to a simmer.

In the top of the double boiler, add egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla.

Start whisking the moment the yolks touch the pan and don't stop for 8-10 minutes.
The mix should ideally turn the color of ivory and thicken to pudding/custard consistency.

Remove top of double boiler from heat and dip the bottom 1/2 of pan in cold water to stop the cooking. continue to whisk for a minute.

Pour mixture through mesh strainer into another bowl (pref. glass or metal) to sort out any bits of cooked egg that escaped your whisk.

Cover and place in refrigerator to chill.

While the custard is cooling, you can prep other aspects of the Tiramisu:

dust the serving dish with a light layer of cocoa powder (you can skip this step if using clear individual serving dishes as the cocoa gets smeared when you add the cream and will spoil the look.)

grate the chocolate and mix the gratings together evenly. the chocolate may be easier to work with if you chill it first.

Coffee mix:

Combine the espresso, brandy, coffee liquor, and 1 Tbs sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Once the custard is chilled, gently stir the Mascarpone cheese until smooth to even out any settling from the package.

Add the Mascarpone cheese to the custard and stir (don't whisk) until smooth and even. Place in refrigerator.

Wash the mesh sieve, as you'll need it later (unless you have two)


Retrieve the cold bowl and beaters from the freezer.

Use an electric mixer to beat the whipping cream and 1tsp vanilla until just after the soft peak stage.

gently fold the mascarpone/custard mix into the whipped cream until even.


give the coffee mixture a stir in case it's separating

dip half the ladyfingers/savoiardi in coffee mixture (they should be moist but not soaked) and arrange in a layer on the bottom of the serving dish.

Add 1/2 the filling mixture

Add 1/2 the grated chocolate mix

Repeat: dip the other half of the ladyfingers/savoiardi in the coffee mixture and arrange in a second layer.

Add the other half of the filling mixture

Using a mesh sieve, dust the top lightly with cocoa powder (not too thick), then lightly sprinkle the other 1/2 of the grated chocolate over all. If you have a lot of grated chocolate, it's ok to have some left over, you don't want a thick layer of it or it will be overwhelming.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

If you have a high sided pan you can do three layers for a more dramatic effect, using 1/3 of the ingredients in each layer. If you're doing individual servings you might want to make it a single layer, but go with your instincts to do whatever looks right.

A garnish sets this off well. I'd recommend some arrangement of a few strawberry slices, candied orange zest, or chocolate-covered espresso beans.

That's good Zen :-)

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