The first time I ever heard the word 'Tiramisu' was in front of the erstwhile Holiday Inn, in Pune (I believe its now the Sun and Sands). It was a cool night, my friends and I were returning home after a movie and my room mate S exclaimed that the Tiramisu at the Holiday Inn cafe was absolutely delicious ! Now I don't exactly remember the sequence of events ( this was some 7-8 years ago ), all I do remember is that I never got to taste the famed Italian dessert, we had to satisfy ourselves with some ever delicious chocolate ice cream instead..
After that I forgot all about it.
Tiramisu is an Italian layered dessert meaning 'pick me up' or 'cheer me up'. (Probably due the coffee/espresso and sugar used in the dessert !!). The original recipe consisted of briefly soaking the special lady finger biscuits (savoiardi - long finger like delicate biscuits which are super absorbent) into espresso (with an optional splash of brandy). These are then layered with a mixture of mascarpone cheese and a custard made with eggs, Marsala wine and sugar. A light sprinkling of cocoa powder or chocolate shavings provides a subtle finish. The whole thing is refrigerated for some time before serving.
I kept coming across the item in most of the menus when I came to the US. I never tried it though. Recently I decided to try it out at home myself...I checked out a few recipes on the web and most of them either had some kind of a liqueur or an egg-based custard. Since I do not use either in my cooking, my recipe options were limited. Eventually I did find one and reproduced it with delicious results !
20 - Savoiardi (Lady finger biscuits)
16 oz plain mascarpone cheese
1.5 cups strong coffee or espresso (cooled)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/3 C powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla / almond extract
cocoa powder or chocolate shavings
finely chopped nuts (optional)
1. Prepare the coffee / espresso beforehand and make sure it is cool.
2. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator and make sure it gets to room temparature.
3. Whip the heavy whipping cream in a large container. ( A hand held mixer can do this in minutes)
When the cream starts getting thicker, add about half the amount of the sugar and the vanilla and whip again for a couple of minutes until stiff peaks are formed.
4. Mix the remaining sugar well with the mascarpone sugar. Gently fold in the whipped cream into the mascarpone cheese, in batches if required. This is to be done with a light hand so that the whipped cream doesn't lose all its airiness !Keep aside.
5. Dip the lady fingers into the coffee for 2 seconds on each side. ( This might depend on the type of biscuits used. They should not get too soggy, just enough to soak some of the coffee).
6.Lay them into a 9 X 13 glass dish or any container of your choice. Once the base of the container is covered with the coffee-laden biscuits, pour half of the whipped cream - mascarpone mixture over them and gently spread over the entire surface.
7.An optional step here would be to sprinkle some nuts and chocolate shavings over the first layer.
8.Repeat the process with the remaining lady fingers and the whipped cream mixture.
9. Sprinkle cocoa powder over the whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap / foil and set into the refrigerator. Keep chilled until time to serve.
Slice into squares and enjoy !!!
Since I have not tasted any other kind of Tiramisu, I have no idea how close( or distant !!) it is to the original recipe. I am sure the inclusion of Kahlua (coffee liquer) or an egg based custard might produce superior results. You will have to test that and judge for yourself. But this version, although a very plain and basic one, did not disappoint me. The biscuits were soaked just right and had a melt in the mouth feel to the dish. The taste of the coffee was very pronounced. I could try using espresso or a different flavoured coffee for a slight variation. The whipped cream mixture could also be flavoured differently. That however, is for another post !
Here are a few other Tiramisu recipes: