Feb 242008

Espresso. Brandy. Ladyfingers. Chocolate. Marscapone.

When you look at that list you may find yourself wondering, “What possibly could go wrong?”

And if you answered an enthusiastic “Nothing!” you would be so, so wrong. I sure as hell hope you didn’t bet the farm on that one.

Yummy, perfect tiramisu
Nikon D50

Tiramisu, at its best, is light yet rich, warm-tasting with brandy notes, with espresso to offset the sweetness, and because everything is better with chocolate, a liberal dusting of some Scharffen Berger. However, when executed improperly, it’s flat tasting, bitter, and soggy. Trust me, you don’t want soggy tiramisu.

It’s one of those dishes where everything has to go right. Because of that, I won’t order it in restaurants anymore, not even the one that Cory took me to for dessert on my birthday, because they screw it up and frankly, mine is a hell of a lot better (sorry Cory, I know you meant well!).

Luckily, if you have a good recipe, like the one I’m about to share with you, you can’t go wrong. Too many recipes for tiramisu are too vague and include verbiage like “stir a couple of times” or “heat until lukewarm” and that sort of imprecision, while maybe appearing a little less intimidating to the novice cook, is a recipe for disaster. For soggy, flaccid, bitter disaster. And you know I would never do that to you.

Yummy, perfect tiramisu
Nikon D50

From cooksillustrated.com, but the jerks took the recipe offline because they think they “improved” it so it’s my job to make sure it lives on!
Serves 12

It’s very important that you don’t soak the ladyfingers for too long! Instead of fully submerging the cookies for 2-3 seconds – which will over soak them and give you gross, runny tiramisu, instead dip the ladyfinger in, roll it over, and remove it, for a total soaking time of 2-3 seconds. This critical step will make or break your tiramisu!
This recipe can easily be halved and put in an 8×8-inch pan. However, do not halve the espresso and brandy mixture because the liquid level will be too low to adequately soak the ladyfingers.
1 1/2 cups espresso or strong brewed coffee
6 tablespoons brandy
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar (about 5 1/4 ounces)
Pinch of table salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound mascarpone cheese
About 45 savoiardi crisp ladyfingers (the number will depend on size and shape of the cookies. I use two 2-sleeve packages of the Bonomi ladyfingers or 4 sleeves from the 17.6-ounce 5-sleeve package)
2 ounces Scharffen Berger 70% bittersweet chocolate, grated fine
Combine the espresso and 2 tablespoons of the brandy in a shallow dish or pie plate.
Place the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the egg yolks until it is thick and creamy and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. This can also be done by hand with a whisk – increased beating time to about 8 minutes. Stir in the cream.
Place the bowl over (not in) a pan of simmering water. Reduce the heat to low and stir constantly until the mixture registers 160 degrees on a instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the heat, transfer the mixture to another large bowl, and cool to room temperature.
Using an electric mixer, add the mascarpone and the remaining 1/4 cup brandy to the egg mixture and beat at medium speed. The mixture will look thin and curdled. Raise the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until smooth and very thick, about 3 minutes.
One at a time, dip the savoiardi cookies into the coffee mixture, turning just once to lightly moisten. Cover the bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with moistened cookies. With a rubber spatula, spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the cookies. Using a fine mesh colander or a slotted spoon, sprinkle with half of the grated chocolate. Repeat with the remaining ladyfingers, mascarpone, and chocolate.
Cover tightly and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and the cookies are tender and soft, at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours. To serve, scoop the tiramisu into individual bowls.

  3 Responses to “Rescuing Tiramisu”

  1. tiramisu is chad’s absolute favorite, but like you, he’s *always* disappointed when he orders it in restaurants! i’m bookmarking this for the next time he visits me!

  2. Ooooh, I hope he likes it! If you’re not feeling too sure on the proper ladyfinger dipping technique, but sure to test it out ahead of time on a few cookies. Let them sit for a couple of hours and you’ll be able to tell really easily which ones are over-saturated. Good luck!

  3. I showed your tiramisu picture to a few of my friends while I was in Korea and pretty much had to fight them back from attempting to ride home in my bag 😉 Don’t be surprised if you suddenly get a random following of Army/Navy guys who are drooling over your food!

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