Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I love you, dessert.

On my 20th birthday, one of my oldest male friend proposed marriage to me – quite seriously.

We were sitting on my parent's porch, enjoying the sunshine after a particularly indulgent Italian feast in honour of my birthday, and he just popped the question! I looked at him, somewhat startled, and then my eyes rested on the now scrapped clean dish sitting next to him on the table – it was the dish that once contained tiramisu – my tiramisu – and it all made sense. After all, while the old saying might be “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, I think “the best way to a man’s heart is through his taste buds” might be more accurate!

Lunch that day was a seriously Italian affair that I had spent 2 days cooking up. Bruschetta, homemade pasta, cherry tomato sugo – which required the painstaking de-seeding of about 2kg of cherry tomatoes, homemade pesto, cheese plates, salads and the crowning glory – two enormous tiramisu! Tiramisu good enough to make you fall in love!

To be completely honest, unlike some of my other Italian fare, I didn’t pick up my tiramisu recipe from anywhere authentic, but rather from a beautiful Italian cookbook my sister gave me.. Nevertheless, it's a recipe that proved seriously successful time and again, and now that I’ve moved out of my parent’s home and that cookbook sadly remained behind (I really should remember to re-claim it next time I’m there) its simple perfection has stayed with me and I no longer even need the recipe to whip one up.

So, for a while, I made my tiramisu at every opportunity, every birthday, picnic, family dinner or general event that called for dessert, I beat some eggs, brewed some coffee and dunked a couple of savoiardi. And then I don’t know what happened but tiramisu kind of disappeared from my repertoire, that is, it had disappeared, until last weekend, when another old friend who was obviously missing the good old days of layered Italian desserts, requested a tiramisu for her end of exams/birthday dinner party.

Even without the cookbook – the tiramisu came back to me like an old friend, once again I beat some eggs, brewed some coffee and dunked a couple more biscuits.

When dinner time came around, my tiramisu was delicious as ever, slightly sweet, a little bitter, lightly boozed and very creamy. In fact, I think it was probably delicious enough that those left over biscuits in my pantry will making another appearance as tiramisu in the not too distant future!


Makes 1 enormous tiramisu, 2 smaller ones or about 15 individual tiramisu if you want to do them in pretty glasses or ramekins.

8 eggs separated (the eggs in tiramisu are raw, so get the freshest possible free range eggs you can – like those gorgeous yolks you can see in the picture above)
150g caster sugar
750g mascarpone
3 cups strong brewed coffee (plunger or espresso coffee diluted)
3tbs brandy, sweet Marsala or booze of choice
100g dark chocolate, finely grated
2 packs Savoiardi (lady/sponge finger biscuits) – about 40 biscuits

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until it becomes thick and pale.

Beat the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl with a pinch of salt until it forms soft peaks.

Whip the marscapone (about 1/3 at a time) into the egg yolk mixture.

Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk/marscapone mixture (you probably need to do this in about 4 batches) Be as gentle as possible at this stage, try and keep as much of the air in the mixture as possible.

Mix the brandy into the coffee – it should taste like very strong coffee and quite strongly of brandy, the flavour of the alcohol will mellow as the tiramisu sets in the fridge.

One at a time, dunk the biscuits into the coffee mixture. The trick is to get them nice and sodden without them falling apart. I like to do 4 seconds on each side, although it probably depends on the size and brand of your biscuits.

Layer the bottom of a clean baking dish with the soaked biscuits.

Spoon over about half of the marscapone mixture.

Repeat in layers until all biscuits and marscapone are used up (the last layer should be
marscapone not biscuit) I usually only do two layers of each.

Pop it into the fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferably 8 or even overnight.

Sprinkle the grated chocolate over the top just before serving.

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