After having yet another disappointing tiramisu at a local restaurant (name withheld to protect the guilty) I decided it was about time I gave it a whirl. I've been a little scared to try and make tiramisu, one of my favorite desserts, though after taking a look at the recipe, it didn't seem at all as daunting as I had made it out to be. The biggest debacle was finding the ingredients -- it took three stores until we finally found mascarpone cheese. The only choice for ladyfingers was a packaged brand that contained about a zillion ingredients, so I decided I'd have to make my own. For the liquor, I opted to use brandy, though other options include dark rum, cognac, or marsala wine. (I picked up one of those tiny $1 bottles of brandy at the Safeway liquor store.)
Step one was making the ladyfingers. They turned out a little flat, but tasted fine. I think one problem was that I didn't have the correct tip for my pastry bag . . . guess I'll have to upgrade next time I'm at the kitchen gadget store! Otherwise, they were fairly easy to put together. The recipe I used was from the Joy of Baking.
Theoretically the recipe makes 4.5 dozen; I barely got out 19!
1/2 C organic pastry flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
5 T raw sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/8 t cream of tartar
1/3 C powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you'd like, mark the underside of the parchment paper with three parallel lines to aid in piping your ladyfingers.
2. With the aid of an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to beat the egg yolks and 2 T raw sugar until thick and pale yellow (about 5 minutes).
3. If you do not have another mixing bowl, spoon the yolk mixture into another bowl and clean the mixing bowl. Sift the pastry flour over the yolk mixture, but do not stir it in.
4. In the clean mixing bowl, use the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip the whites until soft peaks form. At this point, add 3 T raw sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form and the egg whites appear glossy.
5. Fold the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture in three parts.
6. Place the batter in a pastry bag with a 1/2" round tip. (I used a random icing tip.)
7. Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheet in 3" lines, approximately one inch apart.
8. Sift the powdered sugar over each piped ladyfinger.
9. Bake the ladyfingers for 8-12 minutes, or until they are barely brown in color, and firm, but spongy to the touch.
10. Remove the parchment paper with the ladyfingers from the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack. Let cool for a couple minutes then place each ladyfinger directly on the cooling rack to completely cool.
11. Use the cooled ladyfingers immediately (or freeze for later use).
(Adapted from a recipe on the container of BelGioioso mascarpone cheese)
Makes 4 large individual servings
3 egg yolks
1 C espresso or very strong coffee, cooled
3 T raw sugar
2 T brandy
8 oz container mascarpone cheese
1/8 C cocoa
20 ladyfingers (or 19 works too!)
1. Combine the egg yolks, coffee, raw sugar, and brandy in the bowl of an electric mixer. Use the paddle attachment to beat together the ingredients for about 2-3 minutes. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth (about 5 minutes).
2. If you do not have another mixing bowl, spoon the mascarpone cheese mixture into another bowl and clean the mixing bowl for its next use.
3. In the clean mixing bowl, add the 3 egg whites and a pinch of raw sugar. Beat the egg whites using the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
4. Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone cheese mixture. Be careful not to overmix.
5. For my tiramisu, I made four individual servings -- obviously, you could opt to make one large serving instead. To put together the tiramisu, quickly soak a ladyfinger in the remaining coffee (I dipped each ladyfinger in the coffee using tongs for about 1 second; if you leave the ladyfinger in the coffee too long it will fall apart) and place along the bottom of your serving dish. (You can cut the ladyfingers to fit to ensure the entire bottom of the dish is covered.)
6. Add a layer of mascarpone cheese over the ladyfinger layer.
7. Sift cocoa powder over the mascarpone cheese layer.
8. Continue the process by adding another layer of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, then mascarpone cheese, then sifted cocoa powder. End with a cocoa-covered mascarpone cheese layer.
9. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.