Monday, May 18, 2009


Tiramisu is a popular Italian dessert, made with ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese, egg, sugar, espresso and cocoa. Some versions also include alcohol (such as brandy or Marsala wine). Whenever I see tiramisu on a dessert menu, it's a must-order, but I had never attempted making it at home before now.

I found this recipe in my binder of ripped-out magazine pages and decided I would try to overcome my distrust of all things Rachael Ray and try it out (I know, if I was so distrustful of RR then why did I save the recipe in the first place? Chalk it up to my love of tiramisu.). I had already done exhaustive research on the Internet and had yet to find what I thought was The Definitive Tiramisu Recipe so it seemed as good as any. The Everyday with Rachael Ray recipe called for savoiardi, which are crisp ladyfingers; I've seen other versions which use soft cakey ladyfingers. After combing my local (usually well-stocked) supermarket and finding no savoiardi, I decided to make my own. Here's the savoiardi recipe I used, found on Allrecipes.

First the savoiardi. The process itself wasn't too tough, although I had trouble incorporating the flour into the mixture. I probably stirred some of the air out of the batter in the process, even though I deliberately tried not to do that. Sometimes with folding in ingredients, it's better to be decisive than careful and slow. I also had a little difficulty piping the batter on the parchment-lined pans. I guess I'm just not adept at working with drippy stuff in pastry bags -- the batter ran out the other end almost as fast as I could fill the bag! When I took the baked savoiardi out of the oven, though they were golden and firm as instructed, the surface felt a little sticky to the touch. I baked my second pan a little longer and they were browner than I would've liked but less tacky. I ended up flipping the first batch over and gave them a couple more minutes in the oven.

Now that I had my savoiardi, I made my tiramisu. Here's the process in a nutshell. I mixed espresso, brown sugar and vanilla together (no booze, because I was making it to share with my kids) and set that aside. I whisked together egg yolks, sugar and heavy cream, first over heat in a double boiler, then over/in a bowl of ice water. As it cooled, the mixture thickened up and became more custard-like. I then whisked in the mascarpone. To assemble, I dipped the savoiardi in the reserved espresso and lined the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch pan with them. Then I spread a layer of the mascarpone mixture, followed by another layer of savoiardi, and a final layer of mascarpone. After chilling for a few hours, I topped the dessert with some homemade whipped cream, a sprinkling of cocoa powder and some dark chocolate curls.

P. and L. both really loved the tiramisu but I felt it was just too rich and heavy. (And believe me, I don't say that often. I'm the girl who always finishes her dessert. And has seconds.) The cake to custard ratio was off; there wasn't enough cake, and there was way too much creamy stuff. I actually felt sick after having just a half-portion. (I had another half piece the next day to be sure. Still ugh.) I'm just going have to keep hunting for The Definitive Tiramisu Recipe. And until I find it, I'm going to keep ordering tiramisu off the dessert menu.

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