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.
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.
In a heatproof bowl, I whisked the egg yolks until they became a light and fluffy cream.
I poured in the sugar and wine and whisked briefly until it was well blended.
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.
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).
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.
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.
I poured the zabaglione onto the cheese and beat until smooth.
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.
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.
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.
I covered the cream layer with another layer of soaked ladyfingers.
The rest of the cream was spread onto the top and cocoa powder sifted over the surface to cover the tiramisu.
The tiramisu was now complete and would require a four hour chill in the refrigerator.
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.}?>
The Original Tiramisu (serves 12)
|4 (70 g) large egg yolks||beat||beat||whisk over steam||beat||fold||assemble||sift||refrigerate 4 hours|
|1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar|
|1/2 cup (120 mL) sweet Marsala wine|
|1 lb. (450 g) mascarpone cheese||beat|
|1 cup (240 mL) heavy cream||whip to soft peaks|
|about 40 ladyfinger cookies||soak 2 seconds|
|12 oz. (355 mL) prepared espresso||dissolve|
|2 tsp. granulated sugar|
|2 Tbs. (11 g) cocoa powder|
|2 Tbs. cocoa powder|