Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Recipe File: Simple Tiramisu

Tiramisu has recently become an extremely popular Italian dessert that is now served in virtually every Italian restaurant. Originally served in the afternoon as a "boost", tiramisu contains both caffeine and alcohol in a creamy cheese mixture served in layers. Tiramisu can be complex (featuring layering of different flavors and textures) or simplistic. This recipe does not use any eggs (cooked or raw) and provides the simplest blend of ingredients to form a fast and tasty basic tiramisu.

First, start by assembling the ingredients. We'll need one pound of mascarpone cheese, a cup of heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons rum (brandy also works well), ~20 lady's fingers (a light, oblong italian cookie with powdered sugar on one side), cocoa powder, a double shot of espresso, 1/2 cup of coffee, and shavings of unsweetened dark chocolate to top (1 oz. should do).

Chill whipping cream and bowl. Mix coffee and espresso and chill.

Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks.

Put the cheese, sugar, and brandy into a medium bowl and mix until smooth. Add more sugar or alcohol as desired. Fold in whipping cream to create cheese mixture.

Soak lady fingers in espresso for a couple seconds, rotating to coat all sides. Place lady fingers side by side on bottom of a 7x7 pan.

Put half the cheese mixture on lady fingers in pan. Smooth with a spatula or spoon. Sift cocoa powder liberally on surface of layer.

Apply second layer of lady fingers and remaining cheese. Sift cocoa powder and half of chocolate shavings.

Cover in plastic wrap and chill.

To serve, use the remaining chocolate shavings by sprinkling a bit onto eight plates. Cut tiramisu into eight rectangles and serve on plates (or simply spoon them out).

Basic Tiramisu (serves 8)

about 20 lady's fingersdiplayer & spread twicecover
2 shots espressomix & chill
1/2 cup coffee
1 cup heavy whipping creamwhisk to stiff peaksfold
1 lb. mascarpone cheesemix
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons rum (or brandy)
cocoa powder
shavings of unsweetened dark chocolate
Copyright Michael Chu 2004


At 9/8/2004 11:07:36 PM, Anonymous said...

no pictures?!?

At 9/9/2004 04:59:00 AM, Anonymous said...

IMHO, there should not be any chocolate shavings on a Tiramisu and the liquer (try Amaretto) should be mixed into the coffe (only take espresso anyway - do not mix with regular coffee).

Originally the mascarpone is mixed with some egg yolk, but i too prefer not to eat raw egg and take whipped cream instead.

If you've never done a tiramisu before, try it. It is amazing how relatively quickly this ultra delicious desert is done.

At 9/9/2004 09:13:58 AM, Michael Chu said...

No pictures yet. I'm bringing tiramisu to a potluck and wanted to post the recipe before doing so. Unfortunately, I am posting from the convention floor of Intel Developer Forum and my wife is following the recipe that I laid out here. Thus, no pictures. (I plan to make it again and post pictures to this article then; I figured I shouldn't gate the release of an article simply because I lack pictures, right?)


This is the simplest tiramisu that I know how to make and enjoy the results (thus Basic Tiramisu). Cook's Illustrated has an exquisite recipe involving both egg white and egg yolks (cooked for safety) and no espresso (it over powers the layers of flavors they have). It's a few more steps and ingredients than the basic tiramisu presented here. I'll try to dig up a copy of the recipe and post it here.

At 9/9/2004 07:18:54 PM, Anonymous said...

May I ask whether you are actually coming up with these recipes and advice? I mean, there's no credit given anywhere for any information, nor any "about this site" content.

Would you mind telling us about your background and why you're creating this site? I'd hate to think you were passing off other people's work as your own.

At 9/10/2004 12:06:43 AM, Michael Chu said...

I'm glad you asked! The recipes that are listed as "Recipe File" are the recipes that I use when I want to make a particular dish. "Recipe Test" are recipes that have been recommended to me or I have come across that I test and don't necessary stand behind. Some of the "Recipe File" recipes are my own recipes or have been passed down to me and "perfected". Others are not, but the source is credited (see Basic Pancakes or Lemon Bars for some examples).

I am a Computer Engineer (currently in the role of a hardware application engineer) that works for a large semiconductor manufacturer in Silicon Valley (San Francisco Bay Area, California). A few years ago, I used to host dinner parties once a week (and later twice a week) to watch "Family Guy" episodes and enjoy good food. Sometimes the dinners (that I would cook for twelve to twenty people at a time) would be excellent and sometimes they didn't come out at all (such as burnt beef stew). Over the last several years I've been cooking in my free time and writing "cheat sheets" on post it notes for quick reference during the cooking process. These "cheat sheets" became the recipe summaries that I have at the end of each recipe article.

This website was started because I needed a repository for cooking info that I wanted to refer to as well as some of my favorite recipes. I used to keep all this information on my Palm through the Memo Pad application. Unfortunately, I was synchronizing Memo Pad with my laptop (on Outlook) and discovered that after three months our Exchange server deletes old Outlook Notes. So, exactly three months after synchronizing all my recipes, they all got deleted and on the next synch, were consequently removed from my Palm. I've been reinventing some recipes and looking of other since and decided to put them online.

At 9/10/2004 03:19:30 AM, RobC said...

Michael... Great site... will be back for seconds!
I love your idea for presenting recipes, very concise and logical.
Keep up the fantastic work!

At 9/10/2004 12:41:24 PM, Anonymous said...

I just thought I'd say that your format of directions is really intuitive. Maybe it's just because I'm an engineer though...

At 9/10/2004 06:20:43 PM, Anonymous said...

Love your work! Very clear and easy to follow. Consider yourself bookmarked!

At 9/10/2004 06:59:27 PM, Anonymous said...

Be careful what kind of ladyfingers you use. I made tiramisu once with some ladyfingers that had a sugary glaze. The espresso just wouldn't soak into them, and they floated! It was a disaster. I've actually had much better results using poundcake sliced thin.

At 9/10/2004 07:05:40 PM, J said...

intuitive? i think those charts are brilliant, not just intuitive! are you taking on recipes from other engineers who like to cook (i.e. me)?

At 9/10/2004 07:05:46 PM, sharkey said...

Great concept! The logical diagrams are cool. Who says cooking and engineering can't mix, right?

At 9/10/2004 07:19:15 PM, Cowboy Caleb said...

Your site rocks. Please don't ever stop posting new recipes. Hope you don't mind, but I linked to you.

At 9/10/2004 07:37:15 PM, M said...

Absolutely fantastic. I'm gob smacked...
I'm also thinking that the potential of this site is being severely limited by its format.
Have you considered opening it up a bit (not completely as its your dream) and making a WIKI of it?

At 9/10/2004 08:12:55 PM, Anonymous said...

Good idea, as a professional chef I can see your "cheat sheet" being a real help remembering how a recipe goes together. One suggestion, though. To be really accurate, most of the measurements should be in weight, not volume. (One can take this to extremes, see the recent "Fox Trot" comic strip, where Jason calculates that a 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder weighs 0.0256 grams.)

At 9/10/2004 08:12:55 PM, killah said...

I had tiramisu when I was in Italy and I loved it, I had been wondering what it took to make it and now I see it's much simpler than I could have thought, great site, great job, keep up the good work

At 9/10/2004 08:15:17 PM, Anonymous said...

Here's a *new* requirement straight from the stakeholders:

Enable dropdowns of alternatives for each recipe ingredient, and have the encapsulating actions adjust according to the user's selection based on user defined business rules (yes, you must write an interface for defining business rules that people wicked into cooking can learn AND OF COURSE you will implement all the default rules necessary to support three permutations per ingredient (yes, I want to see a report in two days on the system requirements for this endeavor which takes into account the speed in which the average browser can dynamically generate intricately cssed dropdown boxes) using javascript to manipulate your DOM (yes, consistent "cross browser javascripting" is possible).

We need this right away.

At 9/10/2004 08:42:54 PM, Anonymous said...

Just found your web site from /. and wanted to say that it looks good in Firefox 0.8. Keep up the good work :).

At 9/10/2004 09:00:07 PM, Anonymous said...

That table recipe format is really easy to follow! I like it.

At 9/10/2004 09:03:36 PM, Susan said...

Actually, the ingredients listings of recipes don't belong to anybody per se (at least that's my understanding). The instructions detailing what to do with me can however ... and it seems unlikely that anyone else has ever thought to present recipes this way. As an engineer myself, I love it!

At 9/10/2004 09:13:47 PM, Anonymous said...

I'm using Safari, and things look fine to me - maybe there's some extra fancy stuff going on if you use a different browser, but everything's nice and clear.

At 9/10/2004 09:53:22 PM, Anonymous said...

Hello Michael,

I was quite impressed with your site and called my wife down for a quick look. She said it was very good and geeky looking. I said I'm not a geek but I can follow those recipes. (maybe just a little)
I'm also in the programming industry, enjoy cooking but have a hard time following recipe books for some reason. I find myself reading and re-reading recipes while cooking because they are not written in a logical step by step sequence. Your recipe format seems inherently very well structured in a manner that makes it easy to step through the process and not get lost doing so.

Keep the great ideas flowing,

ps. Enjoyed your freezing article. Would enjoy reading more of these types of informational articles if you thinking about writing others. Its interesting to get the technical side of why we should or shouldn't be doing something in a certain way.

At 9/10/2004 10:23:34 PM, anna. said...

excellent site! the only thing i dislike is the fact that you only have a few months worth of recipes. i would love to browse all night... thank you. :)

At 9/10/2004 11:38:12 PM, Anonymous said...

Double (heavy) cream alone works as a well as mascarpone (and egg in the traditional way), imo, perhaps better and saves time, cost and effort. As mentioned above, amaretto is mixed with express/coffee and the biscuits are dipped - it's quite important that they have a little crunch. I agree with the other comment about no chocolate.

Btw, I heard from a normally reliable source that this isn't an Italian dish but was invented in a Geneva restaurant about 30-40 years ago.

At 9/11/2004 12:16:10 AM, Anonymous said...

There's a large part of the world that doesn't use American recipe measures. Some of us use those screwy metric kilogram and litre things, some of us use those screwy imperial pints (a pint is 20oz NOT 16oz).

Can you include metric measures in your recipes?

How about some automation, so I get a browser cookie set that says, "screwy european, give him metric stuff" and if I view a recipe it's automagically converted.

We also measure oven temperatures in celcius, not fahrenheit. The British even have a thing called "gas mark" for gas oven temps.

At 9/11/2004 01:33:22 AM, Anonymous said...

Your recipe overview (cheat sheet) is an excellent design. Your site looks good viewed in OmniWeb5. Hope the next dish you cook is yummmmy!

At 9/11/2004 02:39:02 AM, Anonymous said...

You can find a picture here:

Tiramis├╣ in the picture on the left side, with number 2.

In Italy Tiramis├╣ means "pick me up", maybe because of the high energetic content (eggs, mascarpone, coffee).

At 9/11/2004 03:02:21 AM, Anonymous said...

I am one of the many people directed here from /. I just looked at the first recipe I could find, this one, and by god I must say that this sight is pure genious. I don't know if this recipe is any good, allthough I believe so as it sounds very similar to one I have tried. However it is not the recipe itself I am applauding, it's the layout of the ingredient list coupled with short direct instructions. This is the first time I see it applied to recipies and it is pure genious. From now on this will be my source for recipies . Thank you.

At 9/11/2004 03:04:02 AM, Anonymous said...

I can't believe I wrote "sight" instead of site in my previous post. Too tired, too lazy.

At 9/11/2004 07:11:46 AM, Anonymous said...

For the receipe:

Note that tiramisu is often made with stale layfingers, which in my opinion enhances the dish in a most pleasing way.

Bakeries (like the one I used to work at) and most well run kitchens have many uses for foods that can't be sold in their condition (staleness, etc.). Stale bread makes a lovely bread pudding, and if that's too sweet for you, bake it again and grind it up for breadcrumbs.

Also, anyone looking at this site would probably enjoy
"The New Professional Chef", from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). It's a cooking textbook with scores of useful information about selecting quality equipment, cooking techinques, determining freshness of materials, understanding sauce making, and much more. Being a textbook, most engineers should digest it rapidly.

I can't really say enough about this book. It has a few recepies in it, but not many. It's a book on how to improve cooking skill and understand the basic (and not so basic) cooking principles.

At 9/11/2004 07:32:56 AM, WanMaster said...

That's a great recipe! Although the provided cooking diagram that accompanies this article will satify most visitors, I needed a more practical solution. The implementation below helped me to compile the recipe and its ingredients to a succesful desert. As a software architect and open source enthousiast, I would like to share the information to all cooking engineers... Happy cooking!

var cheese;
var cream;
var sugar;
var brandy;
var ladys_fingers;
var cocoa_powder;
var expresso;
var coffee;
var chocolate;

var bowl1 = new Bowl;


var coffee_and_espresso = rnd(coffee + espresso);

while (!bowl1->ingredients[cream]->stiff_peaks)

var bowl2 = new Bowl;


while (!bowl2->ingredients[cheese]->smooth || !bowl2->ingredients[sugar]->smooth || !bowl2->ingredients[brandy]->smooth)

for (i = 0; i < bowl2->ingredients.length; i++)

while (!bowl1->folded)

var t = GetTickCount();

while (GetTickCount() - t < 3000)
soak(ladys_fingers, expresso);

var pan = new Pan(7, 7);


var cheese_mixture = bowl1->pop(bowl1->ingeredients[0]);

pan->push(&cheese_mixture * 0.5);

if (!pan->ingredients[1]->smooth)


pan->push(&cheese_mixture * 0.5);

if (!pan->ingredients[3]->smooth)

pan->push(chocolate * 0.5);


At 9/11/2004 08:54:49 AM, Anonymous said...

> Sift cocoa powder and half of chocolate shavings.

What happens to the other half of the chocolate shavings? Munchies for the chef?

At 9/11/2004 09:02:43 AM, Anonymous said...

Lol, I love your recipe website! I actually understand it too...which is scary. :)

Keep up the good work and I think I'll be adding your site to my bookmarks. *two thumbs up*

At 9/11/2004 11:34:25 PM, Anonymous said...

your text leaves half teh chocolate shavings (uses only half). not what i expect from engineer (dont you unit-test yout algorithm?)
thanks anyway for the nice recipe. i will try & fwd.

At 9/12/2004 12:15:23 AM, Michael Chu said...

Oh! I forgot an important step - plating. To serve, sprinkle remaining chocolate shavings on plates and spoon portions onto plates (or cut into squares and place on shaving sprinkled plate).

This is what happens when you try to rush out a post during a thirty minute break in a busy convention center.

At 9/12/2004 01:40:36 PM, Anonymous said...

Tiramisu can also be made in deep dessert dishes. It freezes very well, and even tastes good frozen (I'm ashamed to admit that ;> ). If you have some self-discipline, most batches of tiramisu will last through two small dinner parties. When you thaw the tiramisu, take it out of the freezer the day before and stick it in the fridge. If the plastic sticks to the surface of the dessert, just dust with chocolate again to make it pretty.

I've often thought about making tiramisu in small plastic holiday cups, for a dessert reception, but I would need a "chilling tray." I don't know if such a thing exists.

Your recipe seems fine to me, but there are many variations available at . If my guests are reasonably sophisticated, I use sherry instead of brandy. (Rum? No, don't think so.)

At 9/12/2004 02:55:40 PM, Anonymous said...

The original tiramisu is of course with Marsala-wine...Tastes better that way. Also, use cream in stead of whipped-cream (cream for whipping is different) and add some cream-cheese (like monchou-cheese), whip that.
But most of all USE MASCARPONE! It's really essential, even for a basic-tiramisu...

At 9/13/2004 02:14:16 AM, Anonymous said...

Wanmaster forgot to define his variables? how much of each?... etc.

At 9/13/2004 02:59:29 AM, Anonymous said...

Here is a cheap alternative for Tiramisu I have used sometimes with fair results:

* Substitute Lady's Fingers with dry sponge cake (We call these "Bizcocho de Soletilla" in Spain, unfortunately I don't know the correct English name)

* Mascarpone can be substituted by any sweet creamy cheese. Philadelphia Cream Cheese works fine.

I find the main trick is not to make it too sweet and use very strong coffee. I also recommend to avoid the chocolate shavings.

Of course, this is just a very cheap knock-off of true Tiramisu, but it is good enough for most purposes.

At 9/13/2004 06:44:02 AM, Anonymous said...

First things first: This way of presenting recipes is INGENIOUS! I suppose, you win the next cooking nobel price!

And now my 2ct to the recipe:
I substitute the mascarpone with stiff (made with fewer liquid, i.e. milk) vanilla blancmange/pudding (I am not sure if the translation is right. My translator has the firm believe that the german "Pudding" translates to "blancmange". In Austria, blancmange is made from almonds (wich would not taste well).).
As topping, I use cocoa powder, leaving the chocolate shavings (as suggested before).

At 9/13/2004 07:44:17 AM, Anonymous said...

Once a recipe is published it becomes public domain. You can not trademark a recipe but you can give credit to the original author if you know who it is. Recipes get tweaked by the cook so they are generally never the same as the original to begin with.

At 9/14/2004 03:10:39 AM, Martin said...

A few suggestions about the tiramisu:
I wouldn't use Amaretto at all. It is to sweet (for me). Perhaps you could use grappa.
Or try to omit the espresso and use for the liquid strawberry-juice mixed with gin and add a layer of strawberrys beetween the ladys fingers. Just heat them with a bit of sugar to make them soft.
Greetings from Berlin, Europe

At 9/18/2004 12:54:57 PM, Astrid said...

hi, i'm from italy and i can confirm you that the "original" tiramisu has no chocolate and no liqueur, and that the cocoa powder is sifted only on the final layer, not in the middle.
it is not meant as a criticism, yours is a great site =) ciao!


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