Friday, April 22, 2011

Last Minute Easter Dessert: Tiramisu

Portions of this article first published as Easter Dessert: The Perfect Tiramisu on Blogcritics.

I first learned how to make Tiramisu during my semester in Florence in college.  I remember almost every recipe I learned in that class, but the class where we learned tiramisu sticks out like no other.  See the class was divided between two tables, each held 8 people. My table was the foodie table, we were excited to play with the beautiful ingredients and to enjoy the fruits of our labor, all while sipping on a glass of wine. The other table was a bunch of kids who just wanted an easy class, guys with too much hair gel and emaciated girls who winced every time the teacher add more than a drop of olive oil to the pan.  What's better than a class that encourages wine consumption, in small amounts anyway.

On this day, each table made their own 11"x17" dish of tiramisu.  My table finished first, of course, and the professor had us make another full batch but this time we folded chocolate shavings into the mascarpone mixture, making a kind of straciatella tiramisu.  This all sounds faboulous I'm sure.  We then let all of the tiramisu sit in the fridge for as long as we could wait before diving in.  Here's where it all went awry. Once we were encouraged to try our dessert, my table dove into our first batch and finished it in short order. We then couldn't help but pull out the straciatella version and without even thinking polished that one off too.  It was just so damn good we couldn't help ourselves.  Later that evening we paid, oh did we pay with tummy aches from the large amounts of sugar, cheese and eggs. Now it wasn't food poisoning from the eggs, as I'm sure many of you think, I promise you that.  It was that kind of tummy ache you get from eating too many sweets, which we absolutely did.   I swore I'd never eat tiramisu again and I actually didn't for the rest of the semester, partly because of my tummy ache, but mostly because I didn't have a mixer in my teeny tiny studio apartment kitchen to beat the egg whites.

The beauty of this dish is how ridiculously simple it is and how impressed people are when they, not knowing how easy it is to make, hear that you've made it from scratch. With the craziness of planning a big meal to feed the family around the holidays, dessert can often end up as an afterthought. Especially if you aren't too keen on baking. I promise this dessert is for you, if you want no baking, only about 20 minutes max to assemble, special and delicious.  The hardest part is waiting for it to chill.  Since it requires so much cooling time you can make it up to the night before your dinner, leaving you with one less thing to stress about on the day.

The key to making this really work is all in the cookies. On most restaurant menus you'll see ladyfingers listed as an ingredient for tiramisu. It is important to note that they are specifically Italian ladyfingers, known as Savoiardi biscuits. Many large grocery stores will carry them either in the cookie aisle or with the Italian food. You can also find them at any Italian market or specialty food store. My large grocery store used to carry them but I found out as I was shopping for ingredients that they no longer did.  Lucky for me I remembered that my friends over at Communal Table had made tiramisu not too long ago.  So I headed over to their blog and lucky for my they shared where they got their biscuits.  So I woke up early the next day, drove across town to Fiesta Farms (on Jenny & Neil's recommendation), my new favorite grocery store in Toronto.  It's a blessing and a curse that it isn't closer to home.

This has been layered into a large trifle dish to add to the wow factor as it's placed on the table.  It is best served with a large spoon, much like a trifle, giving that rustic quality that is so common in Italian food. It also works nicely in an 11"x17" baking dish, which if you use, you can try to cut into pieces to serve, but if you're all aout ease I say go with a spoon.

serves 8
printable recipe

8 eggs - separated*
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups mascarpone
1/4 tsp vietnamese cinnamon
Savoiardi biscuits
2 cups espresso - cooled - instant is fine if you don't have an espresso maker
1/4 cup cocoa powder

1. In a large bowl beat the eggs whites with an electric mixer until they are form stiff peaks. Set aside.
2. In a second large bowl whisk together the eggs & sugar. Add in the mascarpone, this works best if it is at room temperature. Then whisk in the ground cinnamon.
3. Fold half of the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture until just combined. Repeat with the remaining egg whites. Place the bowl in the refrigerator while preparing the serving dish.
4. Pour the espresso into a shallow dish and coat the Savoiardi biscuits in espresso. Place a single layer of coffee soaked biscuits at the bottom of your trifle dish** (you may have to trim some of the biscuits to get an even single layer) and then around the sides of the dish. Pour half of the mascarpone mixture into the dish.
5. Top the mascarpone mixture with another layer of coffee soaked biscuits (again you may need to trim some). Add the remaining mascarpone mixture, cover with foil and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, with longer being better.
6. Sift cocoa powder over the top just before serving.

** If using an 11"x17" dish, simply place a single layer of biscuits on the bottom or the dish, top with half of the mascarpone mixture, add another single layer of biscuits and top with the remaining mascarpone mixture.
** Consuming raw or under cooked eggs may cause illness

Do you have any special Easter traditions?  What will you be making this year for dessert?  Share links and recipes please!


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