In September, I posted an article on how to make a simple tiramisu (I used the term "basic" at the time). It turned out this was quite a popular article and I received a lot of praise for the fast and simple recipe (it takes less than half an hour to assemble). I also received several e-mails telling me how to make a real tiramisu: use rum, don't use rum, ladyfingers aren't traditional, no chocolate ontop, with eggs, with raw eggs, etc. So, what is a classic tiramisu? I decided to get to the bottom of the tiramisu mystery.
It turns out it's pretty difficult to find a published recipe of tiramisu more than a decade old. The reason? Tiramisu was probably invented in the late 1960's or early 1970's at a restaurant called Le Beccherie in Treviso, Italy. Heavenly Tiramisu, Google's highest ranked site when doing a search on tiramisu, claims that Tiramisu has the same roots as zuppa inglese dating back to the 19th century. Unfortunately, like the reader that wrote into Heavenly Tiramisu, I have to object to this classification since the use of coffee or espresso is not traditional in zuppa inglese. If you add the espresso, then it is no longer zuppa inglese but tiramisu. This addition did not seem to happen in a regular manner or recorded recipe until Le Beccherie introduced it over thirty years ago.
Anna Maria Volpi has an article on the history of tiramisu that supports the Le Beccherie origin. Having determined the origins of tiramisu, I had to find the recipe. Unfortunately, I have only Anna Maria Volpi's classic tiramisu recipe (which she claims is the original Le Beccherie recipe) to go by. I was unable to determine if this is (or was) indeed the original recipe, but it's the only one that claims to be, so I shall proceed (for the moment) as if it was.
Most of the ingredients were readily available, but I was not looking forward to purchasing 1-1/2 cups of espresso from my local coffee shop. I asked how many ounces were in a shot of espresso and they told me it was one fluid ounce. I quickly did some mental math and realized that it would be over $15 in espresso alone for me to test this dessert. I explained what I was trying to do and they offered to "work something out". Because I was trying a tiramisu recipe, the coffee shop sold me 12 shots of espresso for $1.95. Amazing. I'm bringing those people some tiramisu tomorrow. Now that I've acquired my espresso, it's time to start preparing the tiramisu.
I began by assembling four large egg yolks, 1/2 cup sweet marsala wine, 16 ounces mascarpone cheese, 12 ounces espresso, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and enough lady fingers to layer a 12x8 inch pan twice (40). I stirred two tablespoons of granulated sugar into the espresso and put it in the refrigerator to chill. [IMG]
In a heatproof bowl, I whisked the egg yolks until they became a light and fluffy cream. [IMG]
I poured in the sugar and wine and whisked briefly until it was well blended. [IMG]
I poured some water into a saucepan and set it over high heat until it began to boil. Lowering the heat to medium (enough to keep the water boiling), I placed the heatproof bowl over the water (a convenient double boiler) and stirred as the mixture began to thicken and smooth out. I stopped when the mixture began to slowly bubble. [IMG]
I removed the mixture, which has now become a custard, from the heat and put it on the side. This custard by itself is a great Italian dessert called zabaglione (sabayon in French cooking) and can be served as is or made into a more complicated dessert by mixed with fruit, serving with cookies, or made into tiramisu (and many more possibilities). [IMG]
While the zabaglione cools a bit, I whipped (with my stand mixer to save time) the heavy cream until soft peaks. Soft peaks is when the whipped cream can almost stand on its own. Dip your whisk or finger into the cream and see if the spike that forms when you withdraw just curls over at the tip. If so, you've got soft peaks. If it stands up by itself, you've over beaten and produced stiff peaks. If the peak just sinks back into the cream, you don't have whipped cream yet. Keep beating. [IMG]
Now, in a medium bowl, I beat the mascarpone cheese until smooth and creamy. I used alternated between beating with a whisk and mashing it with a spatula to make quick work of the cheese. [IMG]
I poured the zabaglione onto the cheese and beat until smooth. [IMG]
I then folded in the whipped cream. Folding prevent the whipped cream from continuing to progress on the path toward butter and separation (which is what happens when you over whip cream). To fold, simply use your spatula to cut into the mixture and scoop up mixture from below and "fold" it over the cream. Rotate and repeat. The final mixture should be have a fairly even distribution, but it's okay to still see some patches of yellow and white. [IMG]
Now, I began to assemble the tiramisu. The recipe called for filling a 12x8 in. pan, but that's not a readily available size. I decided to try my luck with a 13x9 in. pan, so I prepared enough ladyfinger cookies to fill the pan twice (for two layers). Then I quickly dipped each ladyfinger into espresso. I poured about half the espresso into the bowl at a time, to make it easier to work with and ensure that the bottom layer didn't soak up all the espresso. No need to worry. There's so much espresso that the ladyfingers will fall apart before the espresso will run out. A gave the each ladyfinger cookie a one second soak on each side and then arranged it on the pan. Do each ladyfinger individually or you'll have ladyfingers falling apart. [IMG]
After the first layer of ladyfingers are done, I used a spatula to spread half the cream mixture over it. Then, I smoothed it out in preparation for the next layer. [IMG]
I covered the cream layer with another layer of soaked ladyfingers. [IMG]
The rest of the cream was spread onto the top and cocoa powder sifted over the surface to cover the tiramisu. [IMG]
The tiramisu was now complete and would require a four hour chill in the refrigerator. [IMG]
The flavor of this "original" tiramisu is very similar to restaurant tiramisu incarnations, except that the espresso flavor is extremely strong. The soaked ladyfingers were so strong that eating a piece of that layer by itself produced a strong bitter taste. Not something I've experienced with restaurant tiramisu (since many use coffee to dilute the espresso). Also, most of the restaurant recipes have a very strong alcohol component (perhaps because it's served in the evening as dessert instead of in the afternoon as a "pick me up"). I felt that the alcohol flavor was very mild (although my wife felt the alcohol flavor was more than adequate). As a combination (and eaten as a whole), this tiramisu was delicious (but the caffeine kick is strong enough to have me writing this article at almost two in the morning). It's easy to see from this recipe why this dish became so popular so quickly. [IMG]
I'm married to a chemical engineer who's a great cook and your post just made me laugh myself silly! He negotiated a better deal for an espresso maker from Target arguing that it was the floor model (it worked by the way.) You engineers are great at realizing the true cost but sometimes I'd love to eat a meal without having to do a feasibility study first!
Hi, I'm an enthusiastic cook from Italy and I'd like to add my two cents to this yummy question.
I write from Turin, northwestern Italy (while Treviso is in the north east) and eveybody I know, including lots of restaurants, DON'T use marsala wine and whipped cream. Marsala turns the custard into zabaglione, as you said, but zabaglione has nothing to do with Tiramisu (although there are variations on the *basic* recipe that call for it).
As for the whipped cream, we simply use 100% mascarpone. Don't know if this makes the dessert lighter or heavier, but the slightly cheesy taste of mascarpone is absolutely a must.
I use the same technique as yours to make the custard, but if you use a sugar syrup (i.e. you melt the sugar with just enough water to dampen it) and pour it over the eggs while still very hot, it speeds up the process and makes for a smoother custard.
a zing of rum or, better still, coffee flavoured liquor in the custard and in the coffee for dipping, will easily pass unnoticed but lift up flavours.
one last word, and I hope not to sound TOO heretical... I never use espresso to dip the biscuits... a strong brew of nescafe is more than enough (and I never add sugar in it: it has to be bitter, to counterbalance the custard sweetness).
This article couldn't have come at a better time, as I just made Tiramisu for the first time a few days ago and was wondering about its origins and the autheticity of my recipe. I made it from the recipe at Leite's Culinaria (http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipes/tiramisu.html), and while there are some things from your recipe that sound better, there are some things from that recipe I'd keep.
That recipe has you mix the 1 1/2 cup espresso with some simple syrup (1/2 cup water with 5 tablespoons sugar dissolved in it); that prevents the tiramisu from being too bitter, and is probably why restaurant Tiramisu tastes different from yours. I also liked the vanilla bean scraped into the cream, though I don't know whether that's common practice or not. That recipe also has you make a Genoise instead of using ladyfingers; I didn't get the consistency of the Genoise quite right (made a couple small mistakes making it), but it was still quite good and seems more appealing to me than ladyfingers. I'd like it to be a bit lighter, but I suspect the mistakes I made caused it to be heavier than it would otherwise be.
I think if I was doing it again I'd try using all Marscapone cheese instead of the Marscapone + Cream Cheese that recipe recommends; the tiramisu was a little heavy and not really as cheesy as it could have been, and I suspect that using only Marscapone would fix that. I'm also curious about the Marsala; either Marsala or some good rum sounds like it'd improve the recipe.
I'll have to try making Tiramisu again sometime with a mixture of elements from both these recipes. Thanks for the interesting post :-)
i thought there were no eggs in a teramisu because it was uncooked and could cause illness. mabybe i din't read enough or something. i alsop read that you can use just about any cake to make this dish and not just ladyfingers.
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1644 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2005 1:30 am Post subject:
It is common to find tiramisu recipes with and without eggs, with and without ladyfingers, etc.
I guess it's safe to say that traditionally (if you can call three decades a tradition), tiramisu is served with cooked eggs in the form of zabaglione and with ladyfingers.
I have of course seen sponge cakes and genoise instead (perhaps a blending of zuppa inglese with tiramisu?) and many recipes leaving out eggs for fear of salmonella. Several recipes in recent cookbooks have been pushing nearly raw eggs, but I don't think they add substantially to the texture or flavor. My Simple Tiramisu recipe does not use eggs at all, while this one does (in the zabaglione).
Love your approach to cooking! The strong espresso flavor probably depends on the beans used (espresso coffee in Italy is a blend of different types of beans). Sometimes in the USA they roast the beans too much until they get that "burned" taste that gives the coffee a very bitter flavor. Either you have to find a coffee shop that carry the good espresso or you have to buy an espresso machine and make it yourself using Italian coffee. I make my espresso myself.
Regarding my recipe, it was posted before my research on the tiramisu', and I have to admit that there are few differences from the one published by Capnist in their book and signed by Alba Campeol (the owner of Le Beccherie).
1. They don't put sugar in the coffee. As I said before, Italian espresso is generally not as bitter as the American one.
2. They don't put liquor in the cream.
3. They use raw eggs.
Their procedure is the same. I will have to change the text on my pages to reflect these differences, sice I cannot claim my recipe is the original one, but I will stick with my recipe for the folllowing reasons:
1. I don't want the coffee flavor to be too bitter.
2. The liquor in the cream gives a distinct and richer flavor of zabaglione.
3. I don't want to risk salmonella using raw eggs.
My compliments for your great blog!
Anna Maria Volpi
I forgot one point.
4. They don't use whipped cream or whipped egg whites either.
The differences between the original recipe and my recipe don't depend only on the personal taste but also on the conditions. Let me clarify again the different points:
Item 1. You need sugar in the coffee if your coffee is too bitter (American espresso). Also, some ladyfingers sold here (the Italian ones) are not very sweet and I add sugar in this case. Some French ladyfingers have a sugar glaze and are sweeter. I don't add sugar in this case. I normally use the French ladyfingers because they soak much better. The Italian ones are bigger, and sometimes they are too soft outside and remain dry in the center, and you have to increase the quantity of coffee.
Item 2. They don't put liquor in the cream, but you need more liquid in the cream for two reasons. Mascarpone in Italy is very very soft and creamy (and sweet). In the US (at least in Los Angeles where I live) I find mascarpone harder than cream cheese. You need the cream to be little more liquid. and....
Item 3. You need some liquid to cook the egg/sugar custard. They beat raw egg yolks and sugar only instead (salmonella problem). I guess if you don't want to use liquor in the custard you could add some coffee instead of the liquor.
Item 4. Adding whipped cream: Same as item 2: I need more creaminess to soften the American mascarpone cheese. Also you don't need to beat the mascarpone cheese in Italy to make it creamy at all: it is very fluffy.
I hope I clarified what happened. I will post the original recipe and change my article later when I will update my site.
I would like to thank you for your great Tiramisù recipe. I tested it this weekend on some guests and it was just wonderful.
Let me just give two little remarks: for simplicity you may replace Espresso by simple soluble coffee (Nescafé for instance). Adding a little shot of Amaretto (e.g. Disaronno) to the coffee gives it a slight blend of almond, which harmonizes very well with the other ingredients.
This recipe has becaming almost a forum... Nice!
I know that much has been said but I wanted to share some of my secrets with you. Some of my Italian friends tell me that I make the best tiramisu they had ever eaten.
Secrets? Just these:
1 - I use raw eggs
2 - I use whipped egg whites, one more that egg custard (¿?)
3 - I use just a bit of cofee flavored liquor on the cofee
4 - I add a few lemon drops to the mascarpone and also just a bit of salt (NaCl?)