A couple of weeks ago, I made tiramisu for a very special occasion. Not only did I recently celebrate a big birthday, my brother - who's ten years old than I am - marked a milestone birthday of his own!
About a week before my brother's big birthday, my sister in law planned a family gathering to celebrate not only his birthday but ones for two of my nephews (late August and early early September is a busy time!). There was champagne and nibbles, ice cream cake for the kids, and we planned to go out to dinner. I wanted to contribute a little something to the at-home festivities and I knew it would be tiramisu.
My brother orders tiramisu for dessert almost every time we go out. It might well be that we tend to go to an Italian restaurant when my siblings and I go out to dinner together but all the same, tiramisu is just a favorite dessert of his (and my husband, too; it seems to be a "guy" thing). Before this, I'd made individual tiramisu but I'd never done the traditional classic version in a larger serving pan.
I was a little nervous about this. Making something you haven't really made before for a special occasion - even when it's just family who wouldn't mind if things aren't exactly stellar - is a bit daunting. This is the time when you do some homework, cross your fingers, and get to work.
Making this tiramisu wasn't without some minor hitches but all was well. My tiramisu, with amaretto as the liqueur of choice, turned out just fine. I'm told it was quite tasty, actually. I have to say I enjoyed what I tasted very much even though I'm no expert. The important thing is that the birthday boy said it was as good as any restaurant's, and I have to be satisfied with high praise like that!
The tiramisu I turned out is a compilation of a few recipes, leaning heavily on David Lebovitz's recipe I used previously for the individually portioned ones. It uses egg yolks as well as egg whites (as opposed to heavy cream), which I think makes for a lighter texture and flavor. We don't personally have issues with using raw eggs but you have to decide on your comfort level in that regard.
It's no wonder so many people love tiramisu. It's rich and creamy, yet so light. The coffee flavor, as well as amaretto liqueur in my case, gives it just the right kick.
Photos of the sliced tiramisu above are actually from the second tiramisu I made. My husband angled for his own "personal pan" and I was happy to oblige.
I mentioned a couple of minor hitches when making the first tiramisu. One of the problems I had was running out of the espresso mixture near the end. Since I wasn't following a specific recipe, but something of a combination of a few, I had to estimate a bit on my first round.
Luckily, it wasn't a huge issue to make more. And let me tell you a "secret"... I use instant espresso powder to make the espresso (and it still turns out wonderfully). If you can brew fresh espresso, by all means do so, and instead of using amaretto like I do, you can go with other common options including dark rum, marsala wine, or coffee liqueur.
I always worry a bit about mascarpone breaking...I vaguely remember you should use cold mascarpone cheese when incorporating it this way. I can tell you that I used mascarpone cold from the fridge both times I made this tiramisu and it incorporates without a problem. I whisk in a few big spoonfuls at a time and blend it right up with the egg yolks that I've also whisked until thick and pale yellow.
To lighten the filling, I fold in whipped egg whites (whipped cream is the other alternative you see often).
Then it's the fun part of putting the tiramisu together. I used a baking dish that's about 8x10 inches in size (measuring from the edges on top) though the interior/actual capacity is less. Think of this recipe as enough to fill the more standard 9" square baking dish.
In my case, I fit 9 ladyfingers into the bottom layer. Then smoothed half the filling over the soaked biscuits.
Top that with a dusting of cocoa powder, then repeat the process one more time. Since my baking dish has flared edges, I was able to fit 11 ladyfingers on the top layer.
If you can remember, leave off the final dusting of cocoa powder on top of the second layer of mascarpone filling until serving. In the meantime, wrap the tiramisu up with plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. I like to do it the day before...that refrigerator resting time allows the ladyfingers to soften, the flavors to meld, and everything to blend together.
"Frozen Hot Chocolate Tiramisu" (just for fun...)
With extra ladyfingers in hand, and with my little guy in mind, I had a little fun with the idea of tiramisu and made a couple of what I'm calling "frozen hot chocolate tiramisu".
|Kid-friendly spin on tiramisu, with layers of hot chocolate-dipped ladyfingers and ice cream|
The idea came from Williams Sonoma's frozen tiramisu recipe but instead of dipping the ladyfingers in the usual espresso/coffee + liqueur combination, I dipped them in (cooled) hot chocolate! So what I have here is layers of hot chocolate-dipped ladyfingers, alternating with layers of ice cream instead of the mascarpone cheese and egg filling! I used vanilla and chocolate ice cream.
I'll warn you that this is a little messy to make but if you're interested...start by lining a ramekin(s) with plastic wrap, leaving about a 2-3 inch overhang. Take some ladyfingers, break them apart into big pieces and dip them in some cooled hot chocolate, then fit them into the bottom of the plastic wrap-lined ramekin. Top with a layer of ice cream. Repeat this again with another layer of the biscuits and another layer of ice cream. Finally, finish it with a third layer of the biscuits, patting it down into the ice cream to flatten. Cover the top of the ramekin with the plastic wrap and freeze overnight. When you're ready to serve, set the ramekin in a bowl of warm water for a few seconds. Invert on to a plate and remove the plastic wrap. Dust the top with cocoa and/or top with chocolate shavings.
This frozen hot chocolate ice cream tiramisu is quite different from the classic but a fun frozen treat that anyone can enjoy!
- Approximately 8 servings -
4 tablespoons amaretto liqueur, divided
3 large or extra-large eggs, separated, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons granulated sugar (use superfine sugar if you have it), divided
8 ounces mascarpone cheese (chilled, straight from the refrigerator)
Approximately 20 Savoiardi Italian ladyfingers
Cocoa powder, for dusting
Espresso mixture: In a bowl, stir espresso with 3 tablespoons of the amaretto. Set aside.
Mascarpone filling: In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until they begin to get stiff. Gradually add 3 tablespoons of the sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Scrape the whites into a small bowl.
Add egg yolks into the same mixer bowl with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk the yolks and sugar together by hand until it turns light in color and thickens. Whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon of amaretto. Gently beat in the mascarpone with the whisk, a few spoonfuls at a time, until combined and lump-free. With a rubber spatula, fold in the beaten egg whites in 2 installments until fully incorporated. The mascarpone cream should be fluffy and light.
Assembly: Dip a ladyfinger into the espresso mixture, roll, and remove it within about 2-3 seconds. Place it into the bottom of a 9-inch square pan (or similar capacity baking dish) and continue until you have an even base layer. Spoon half of the mascarpone filling and spread it evenly on top of the ladyfingers. Dust with a light coating of cocoa powder. Repeat with a second layer of dipped ladyfingers and the rest of the mascarpone filling.
Chill before serving: Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours). This is important to allow the flavors to meld together.
Right before serving, dust the top with cocoa powder. Slice and serve cold.