A few days ago we celebrated a milestone family birthday ('21st', to be exact) and the requested cake was none other than Tiramisu. It has been a while since I last made this decadent dessert and I truly forgot how absolutely simple it is. The tiramisu was a unanimous and uncontested HIT! I will now keep it at the forefront of my "mental dessert library" for when I am needing to prepare a quick, easy, and delightfully delicious dessert.
What is Tiramisu?
Tiramisu is a quintessential classic, Italian layered dessert that, in its original and simplest form, consists of eggs, sugar, mascarpone cheese, ladyfinger biscuits, strong coffee (or espresso) and unsweetened cocoa powder. Other ingredients occasionally work themselves into the assemblage based on the whims of the pastry chef. I, for example, add some whipped cream into the cream mixture and some Sweet Marsala wine into the coffee mixture. The Marsala adds a subtle nutty flavor to the cookies while the whipped cream makes the cream layer airier and light. To visually appreciate the various layers, tiramisu could be constructed and served in a clear glass dish or trifle bowl.
What are its origins?
When reviewing its origins I found several locales and centuries each vying to take credit. So I guess the real answer is that we don't know for sure. One story suggests that tiramisu originated in Siena (in Tuscany) in the early 18th c. at the specific request of the Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici. Another claim alludes to bordellos, in the late 19th c., offering their patrons complimentary espresso, cookies, and a cordial or wine ... which "one Madam" ultimately combined into this confectionary delight. This claim is supported by the explanation that 'tira mi su' literally means "pick me up" in Italian and that the "serviced" patrons needed just such an "energy booster" after visiting the establishment. LOL! The most consistent and likely claimant, however, dates to the 1960s and is Le Beccherie restaurant in Treviso, which is a town just north of Venice. There, a pastry chef Loly Linguanotto allegedly elaborated on a common Venetian dessert called Sbatudin, which is a combination of egg yolk whipped with sugar.
OK ... Let's make it already!
2 pkgs (24) hard ladyfingers
unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp sugar
1 lb. (16 oz) Mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp + 1/3 cup Sweet Marsala wine
2 cups strong coffee or espresso
Mix 2 cups of coffee, 1 Tbsp sugar and 1/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
Beat 1 cup heavy cream with 2 Tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form
With countertop mixer on high speed, beat 1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Then add 16 oz. of Mascarpone cheese and 2 Tbsp of Marsala wine and mix well. Adjust mixer to low speed and add the whipped cream, mixing until incorporated.
One at a time, briefly (2-3 seconds), dip each ladyfinger into the coffee mixture and lay them into the glass dish until the bottom is covered with one layer of ladyfingers. Spread half of the cream mixture over the ladyfingers. Repeat with another layer of ladyfingers (I try to alter the orientation of ladyfingers in the second layer from that of the bottom layer) and then the rest of the cream mixture. Smooth the top with a spatula. Dust surface with the cocoa powder. Cover gently and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Cut into squares and ENJOY!
Tips - Use good quality, freshly brewed coffee or espresso. Use the best imported Italian Mascarpone that you can find.