Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tiramisu



                                                                                

Tiramisu is an Italian dessert whose name literally translates to "pick me up" or "lift me up". It is a coffee-flavored dessert made of lady fingers ( a type of cookie) that are dipped in coffee, layered in a whipped mixture of egg yolks, sugar and mascarpone cheese, flavored with cocoa. Countless variations of tiramisu exist. Some cooks use sponge cakes or sweet yeasted breads as an alternative to ladyfingers. In the original recipe, there are no liquor or egg whites used. Another variation involves the preparation of the zabaglione (cream) with eggs mounted in a water bath, in order to pasteurize them and lengthen the storage of the cake. The cake is usually eaten cold, having spent at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. This recipe I'm about to share employs the use of Marsala wine, amaretto liqueur or brandy in the preparation (depending on your preference), and the pasteurization of the egg yolks over a water bath. The use of the water bath in this recipe is to calm the voices in my head that keep screaming "Salmonella!!" at the thought of using raw egg yolks to prepare this recipe. I'd much rather be safe than sorry, thanks!


Serving Size: 12

Equipment:
-A 9x13  OR  8x11 casserole dish (I used a 9x13 glass baking dish).
-Electric mixer OR a whire whisk (if you decide to whisk by hand, prepare to use some muscle power).
-2 mixing bowls.
-A rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
-Small fine mesh sifter.
Ingredients for the zabaglione (cream):
-5 egg yolks from large eggs (save the egg whites for an egg white omelette).
-1/4 cup granulated sugar.
-1/4 cup Marsala wine.
-1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional).

Other ingredients needed:
-1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled.
-1 lb. (16 Ounces OR two small tubs)  Mascarpone cheese , at room temperature. Alternatively, you can substitute mascarpone cheese with 2 8OZ. Packages of cream cheese at room temperature, combined with 1/2 cup of chilled heavy whipping cream and 5 tablespoons of sour cream).
-2 cups (16 OZ.) freshly brewed espresso or other strong brew coffee.
-1/2 cup brandy, amaretto or Marsala wine.
-1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract.
-2-3 7OZ. packages of lady finger cookies (if you're using a 9x13 dish to assemble your tiramisu like I did, you'll need 3  7OZ. packs if these cookies).
-3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
-Chocolate curls or grated chocolate, to garnish (optional).
-4 tablespoons granulated sugar.

Instructions For Making The Zabaglione (cream):
-Place a small pot filled with 2 inches of water on medium heat.
-Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof bowl and whisk until light in color. You can do this with a whisk or you can use an electric mixer like I did. Sit the bowl over the pot of water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl containing the eggs does not touch the surface of the water in the pot. The objective here is to heat up the egg mixture to kill any bacteria, not to cook it.
-Add 2-3 drops of almond extract into the Marsala wine (if you decide to use the extract). Gradually add the Marsala into the egg mixture, beating continuously.
-Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl occasionally with a spatula and Cook for 6-10 minutes until the mixture is thick (it should have the consistancy of shaving cream). If you use a spoon to scoop the mixture, it should fall back into the bowl in ribbons.
-Allow the zabaglione to cool down, cover with foil and Refregerate for about 30 minutes.
-In the meantime, in a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to whisk the whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks form.
-Take about 1/4 cup of the whipped cream and gently mix it into the cooled zabaglione (cream). This helps lighten the zabaglione before adding it into the whipped cream.
-Now gently fold the lightened zabaglione and mascarpone cheese into the whipped cream until well blended. The mixture should be smooth; cover this mixture and Refregerate for 45mins-1 hour.
-Combine the fresh espresso, 2 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of brandy, Amaretto or Marsala wine. Mix well. Pour this mixture into a shallow bowl.
-When the zabaglione/mascarpone cheese mixture has completely cooled down, it's time to assemble your tiramisu.
-You will need to work very quickly in the next step or you risk ruining your tiramisu. Very quickly dip your ladyfingers into the espresso/Marsala mixture and flip it over quickly as if you were coating it with the mixture. If you work too slowly, the ladyfingers will absorb too much of this mixture and fall apart.
-With the dipped ladyfingers, go on to arrange them into two rows laid horizontally at the bottom of the baking/casserole dish you'll be using (see picture below).
-Carefully spoon about  1/2 of the cream/cheese mixture over the soaked cookies and smooth the mixture using the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula into an even layer.
-Sprinkle the cream/cheese layer with 1/2 of the cocoa. Repeat the layering process again, finishing with the cocoa. For the second layer though, arrange the soaked ladyfingers vertically. If you have to break some ladyfingers in half to fill any small spaces, please do so. If you decide to garnish with the shaved chocolate, you can either sprinkle some over the top layer of cocoa, loosely cover the tiramisu with cling foil and Refregerate for at least 3-5 hours (this step is important as the ladyfingers will have time to absorb the coffee and all the flavors will get well acquainted) or you can garnish individual slices with the chocolate when serving.
This is one of my all-time favorite desserts and I hope it'll give you as much pleasure as it does to those I serve it to. See? We just took a culinary safari to Italy without ever paying for flight tickets. As the Italians would say, "Chi mangia bene, viva bene!" (He who eats well, lives well). Enjoy!