Wednesday, April 7, 2010


For those of you who read the post on Passover Tiramisu, I mentioned that I was going to try using whipped cream cheese.  I also got the bright idea that a quick version might be had using packaged Passover mandel bread.  The whipped cream cheese did work, and I have added that to the Passover Tiramisu post.  The mandel bread variation, however was quite awful!  Oh well, it was a try.

For those of you who have never had Tiramisu, it  is a layered dessert, combining soaked cake with a cheesy, custardy filling. It’s usually made in a large pan and then cut into serving pieces, but it can also be served in shot glasses, custard cups or champagne flutes. It can vary in texture and flavor, at the whim of the chef. Some like the filling light, and some prefer a more dense, cheesy filling. It’s usually flavored with coffee, Marsala or brandy, and chocolate, but here too, there is a lot of room for individuality. My Tiramisu is a light version and I flavor it mostly with coffee, with just hints of Marsala and chocolate. Because there is so much room for personal preference in this recipe, I’ve notated where ingredients can be altered.

Just a word about mascarpone - it can vary dramatically depending on the brand and price point.  I recently bought some at Trader Joe's for about $3.00/8 ounces, and some at my local supermarket for about $8.00.  The less expensive was much yellower and had a slightly gritty mouthfeel.  It also curdled when I beat it.  I have since stopped beating the mascarpone and stir it instead.  The more expensive mascarpone had a much nicer flavor and a very smooth and creamy texture.

Serves 6

1 small package savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers – you’ll need 16-24 ladyfingers)
Homemade savoiardi, recipe follows

8 ounces mascarpone
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sweet Marsala or brandy, optional

3/4 cup whipping cream (or 6 eggs whites, stiffly beaten with powdered sugar)
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Soaking Syrup
1-1/2 cup brewed coffee -- hot
1/4 cup sugar (or less, to taste)
1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine, Godiva, Kahlua or Rum

2 ounces finely grated nondairy semisweet chocolate, cocoa, or a combination of the two (or more to taste)

For the filling:
Place the eggs (in the shell) into a bowl of hot water. Let stand for 5-10 minutes (you are heating the eggs just to get more volume out of them). Remove the mascarpone from the refrigerator and spoon it into a large mixing bowl. Set it aside to warm up.

Crack the eggs, save or discard the whites and transfer the yolks to a large mixer bowl. Beat for a minute to blend, and then beat in the sugar. Continue to beat until the eggs are pale and thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in the alcohol, if using it.

Stir the mascarpone to loosen it slightly. Stir 1 cup of the egg mixture into the mascarpone. Fold in the remainder of the egg mixture.

Place the whipping cream in a small bowl. Stir in the powdered sugar. Beat on high speed until the mixture forms firm peaks. Fold the whipping cream into the egg mixture.

For the syrup:
Combine the hot coffee, sugar and Marsala in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

To assemble the tiramisu, dip one ladyfinger at a time into the syrup, turning it in the syrup for about 10 seconds, until it softens but isn’t soft throughout. Place each, flat side up, in an 8 or 9-inch square pan, until the whole bottom is covered.

Spoon on half of the filling. Dip the remaining ladyfingers, as above, placing them on top of the filling. Spoon on the remaining filling. Cover the pan with foil. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, sprinkle the top with grated chocolate, cocoa or a combination (adding in some ground coffee might be nice, too). The Tiramisu will be firm enough to cut into pieces, although the first piece will be hard to remove. Use a small square spatula to get the pieces out of the pan.

Individual tiramisu can be made in shot glasses, custard cups or champagne glasses. Make several layers as directed above, but add grated chocolate on top of each layer of filling. It will show through the glass and delineate the layers.

Savoiardi (Ladyfingers)
3/4 cup (75 grams) sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1/4 cup AND 1/3 cup sugar -- divided
3 large eggs -- separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven (if you have a convection oven set the temperature to 375 degrees F.). If you have trouble visualizing size, draw the size of the ladyfinger on the curled side of a piece of parchment. 3-1/2-inches long by 1-1/4 inches wide is a good size (to simplify, make the width the same width as your ruler so you don’t actually have to measure.  You can also eyeball the size, if you are good at that).

Turn the parchment over, so that when you start piping, you will not be piping onto the side you have drawn on. Set the parchment on greased baking sheets (the grease keeps the parchment anchored so it doesn't go flying when you move the sheet).

In a small bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Set aside. Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed, adding ½ cup of sugar gradually. When all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high, and beat until the egg yolks are thick, fluffy and pale in color, about 5 minutes.

Beat in the vanilla, if using. Sift the flour mixture into the egg yolks, but do not mix together.
Transfer the eggs whites to a large, clean, grease-free mixing bowl. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites, and then, using clean, grease-free beaters, beat the eggs whites until very foamy throughout. Gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, and beat the whites just until they form stiff peaks. Do not overbeat or they will be hard to blend into the batter. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter. Fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon the batter into a pastry bag with a ¾-inch round tip. Using the template you have drawn on the parchment paper, pipe ladyfingers leaving ½-inch between each ladyfinger.

Alternatively, you can spoon the batter onto the cookie sheets using a regular oblong soup spoon. These will be fatter than the ones that are piped, but that will be fine. It is okay if they join together as they bake. Place the cookie sheet(s) in the oven, and bake the fingers for 4 minutes. Switch the cookie sheets so the bottom one is now on the top, and bake another 4-6 minutes until the ladyfingers are golden brown (you won't need to switch sheets if using a convection oven).

Remove the sheets from the oven, and slide the parchment paper onto cooling racks. Remove the ladyfingers from the parchment paper before they cool completely. Let the ladyfingers stand, uncovered, for a few hours to dry out. If using the ladyfingers within a day or two, place the ladyfingers on a cookie sheet, flat side up, and bake them at 400 degrees F. until the flat side looks toasted and firm, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. For longer storage, freeze the untoasted ladyfingers for up to 3 months. Defrost before using them, and then toast them as above.