You can click here to jump directly to the Tiramisu recipe, though there are some words between here and there I hope you find useful.
SHOPPING / INGREDIENT LIST
- Egg yolks
- Unrefined cane sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Instant espresso powder
- Lady fingers
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Dark chocolate bar
- Rum (or sorghum molasses)
THE CLASSIC PICK ME UP, KIND OF
List out three desserts you think of when someone says “let's get an Italian dessert” and I'm sure Tiramisu is on it. Why? Because it’s a Classic. But the thing is, this dish isn't really found in the old italian cookbooks, it’s actually somewhat “new” as of the 1960’s and became the quintessential Italian-American dish in the 80’s. There are of course origin tales of people and places claiming to be the first, and with almost countless variations it’s not as easy to find the original. The story tends to point back to a restaurant in Venito called Le Beccherie, though it could very well be older, quietly enjoyed by families in the province of Treviso before it became popular.
“Tirami su” is a Treviso Italian dialect that translates into “pick me up” which is a reference to the espresso based desserts' almost immediate effect after being eaten; energized and refreshed.
The recipe below is a somewhat simple version, intended to provide a solid dessert that can be modified, if you like.
ISN’T MASCARPONE JUST FANCY CREAM CHEESE?
The short story is yes, sort of. Mascarpone is categorized as a “cream cheese” and has similarities to American style cream cheese, or a French creme fraiche, plain Greek yogurt, and even sour cream.
There is a difference to note though, and that is “cream” vs “milk” as the main ingredient in soft cheese style of cheese making. Cream based soft cheeses will have a richer and fuller flavor, silkier texture that is smooth and creamy. While, milk based soft cheeses tend to have a slight tanginess, along with a thinner consistency and mouthfeel. These attributes can be affected by temperature and process, so it’s more of a guideline, not a rule.
Tiramisu is intended to be a dessert that is light, and provides an after meal boost of energy and liveliness. Mascarpone cheese has the best balance of light texture, rich flavor and is super smooth.
If you want a cream that is slightly tangy, try blending the mascarpone with cream cheese, or add a spoonful of sour cream. It’ll add some depth to the flavor and can make a perfectly tasty treat.
NOT ALL COCOA POWDER IS THE SAME
- Dutch-Processed cocoa powder is preferable for this type of recipe. It has a smooth, mellow flavor and because it’s unsweet, brings a lot of balance of flavor to this dessert.
- Hot Cocoa or Hot Chocolate mixes tend to be sweetened or flavored with “extras” and will only add more sweetness to Tiramisu, which is intended to be a slightly, but not too sweet, dessert. Save hot cocoa for a mug of tasty hot chocolate.
- Natural cocoa powder is perfectly fine in this recipe. It tends to have a fruiter flavor than Dutch-Processed, and because it is less refined Natural Cocoa will also be slightly bitter.
RECIPE FOR OUR SPIN ON A CLASSIC TIRAMISU
6 to 8 servings
PANS AND UTENSILS
- Stand mixer with bowl and whisk
- Medium pot
- Small whisk
- Rubber spatula
- 9x9 serving dish or similar
- Small sieve
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 ounces unrefined cane sugar
- Pinch of Himalayan salt
- 16 ounces mascarpone (room temp for 1 hour)
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract or to taste
- 12 ounces hot water
- 3 Tablespoons instant espresso powder
- 1 ounce unrefined cane sugar
- Rum* (see substitutions for alternative flavoring)
- 1 package lady fingers
- 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ dark chocolate bar, grated on microplane
METHOD FOR THE CREAM
Place the yolks and 1 ounce of sugar into the mixing bowl.
Mix on medium speed to blend the sugar and yolks. Continue to mix until the yolks become a lighter, pale color and have almost tripled in volume, about two minutes. If you’re using a hand held whisk, this step will take longer.
Add the mascarpone, vanilla and pinch of salt to the whipped egg yolks and gently fold the mixture with the spatula until it is smooth, about one to two minutes.
METHOD FOR THE ESPRESSO DIP FOR THE LADYFINGERS
Place the water into the medium pot and bring to a simmer.
Add the espresso powder and sugar, mix together with the whisk and remove from heat to cool to room temperature. The flavor should be very strong and lightly sweetened and if you wanted to add a splash of rum, this is when to do it.
ASSEMBLE & COMPLETE THE DISH
The goal is to make five distinct layers: three layers of mascarpone cream and two layers of ladyfingers. Portion each layer evenly.
Arrange each ingredient into a row on your table from left to right: Lady fingers, espresso dip, serving vessel, mascarpone cream sauce, cocoa powder.
Spread ⅓ of the mascarpone evenly in the vessel.
Place 1 Tablespoon of cocoa powder into the sieve and spread evenly over the cream.
Dip one ladyfingers at a time, sugar side down for exactly two seconds in the espresso. Turn over and dip the plain side for exactly one second.
Arrange the ladyfingers onto the cream, evenly covering the pan with one complete layer. No need to overcrowd the layer, you may end up with a few leftover cookies.. Just crunch them and use them as a crumble garnish on the final layer if you want, or don't.
Repeat the laying of the cream, cocoa and ladyfingers until the final layer is the cream garnished with the cocoa powder.
Grate the chocolate bar on the top layer, for extra chocolaty tastiness. Be generous.
While the rum can be a tasty addition, it's entirely optional. Skip it, the dessert won't really miss it. Instead, add a couple teaspoons of sorghum molasses to the espresso mix.