Friday, December 9, 2011

Some of you may know that I bake treats for the office each month to celebrate the office birthdays for that coming month.  This month, December, is actually MY birthday month!  I had to go all out, of course, and when I asked my fellow December birthday-ers what they might want to request, the idea for tiramisu was immediately put on the table.  What was scary: the person who suggested tiramisu actually has a ranking of tiramisu in restaurants all over LA and I’d never made it before.  I was hoping for at least a 6 or 7, especially after the typically comical “Emily goes to the grocery store and comes home with all the wrong stuff” routine and the “Emily doesn’t pay attention while cooking and has to figure out a way to salvage her dessert” routine (seriously, sometimes I feel like me going to the grocery store and cooking would make a hilarious black and white silent film).

While at the big grocery store a few blocks from my house, I got the ingredients I needed for the tart, but they did not have ANY of the key ingredients I needed for tiramisu (marscapone and lady finger cookies).  Cut to me racing to Trader Joe’s, hoping they hadn’t closed yet.  Though they’re farther away, let me tell you, I really just need to quit shopping anywhere else.  Not only did they have marscapone cheese, but lady fingers are actually featured in their current “Fearless Flyer” so there were boxes of them EVERYWHERE.  That said, I stood in the Trader Joes in front of the lady fingers for a good 20 minutes debating:  there are two types of lady fingers, “soft” and “hard” and the Cooks Illustrated recipe I read specifically specified in multiple places in the recipes to use the “hard” lady fingers.  TJ’s only had “soft”.  Oh well!  I figured you can’t have tiramisu without lady fingers even if they do get mushy.

So I went home with what I could find and found a trick to make those soft lady fingers a little more sturdy (bake in the oven for a little while at a low temp), but in my hurry later I forgot to add HALF of the rum to the recipe.  I must have also been in la-la land when I was layering the dessert, because it’s supposed to go lady fingers - marscapone - cocoa powder - repeat.  I somehow missed the “repeat” step and went straight back to marscapone after the cocoa powder.  Sigh.  So I scraped the marscapone layer off, pulling lots of cocoa powder with it (I re-mixed the marscapone to hide the cocoa powder streaks, although it was a slightly brownish color now instead of a creamy pale yellow) and started that layer over again.

Well, you know how the birthday tart turned out, since I posted about it on Monday-everyone loved it-but the clear winner to me was the tiramisu.  Turns out those soft lady fingers were just the ticket, despite what Cooks Illustrated said.  Everyone kept mentioning that they were the perfect texture.  And, I never would have guessed it, but leaving the extra rum out was also a good thing!  Instead of overwhelming rummy taste, there was just a nice hint of it-enough so that you could taste it, but not enough that my boss might have wondered if I was trying to get everyone drunk.

And that friend with the ranking system?  It got an 11 out of 10.

Makes a 9 x 13 glass dish
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Note: You may have a little extra left over, since I had enough to make the full pan plus the medium-sized dessert you see pictured above.  You don’t have to go all fancy with the extra-just layer it in a bowl and stick it in your fridge for a special treat for yourself later.

  • 2 1/2 cups strong black coffee, room temperature (I just used Folgers instant coffee since I don’t drink coffee at home)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 5 tablespoons dark rum
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (cold)
  • approximately 50 soft ladyfingers (one Trader Joe’s box has 25 cookies in it)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
  1. Heat your oven to 250 degrees.  Arrange your lady fingers on a cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes, flip all of the cookies, and bake for another 5 minutes.  They’ll toughen up just enough here so they’re not mush in the dessert later and instead will be light, fluffy and sponge cake-y.
  2. While those are baking, mix the coffee, espresso, and rum in a bowl; set aside for later.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until combined, add sugar and beat until light yellow and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  (This is where I forgot the extra rum.  You can add 4 tablespoons of rum here and beat until combined if you want, but I think the it was perfect without it.)
  4. Add the marscapone to the sugar-egg mixture and beat about 45 seconds until there are no lumps left; set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream on medium speed until frothy (1 - 1 1/2 minutes) and then kick it up to high speed for another 1 - 1 1/2 minutes) until the cream is whipped and holds stiff peaks.
  6. Gently fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the marscapone mixture, then fold in the rest of the whipped cream until no white streaks remain.
  7. Alright, now you should have all the components ready: 1) reinforced lady fingers 2) coffee-rum mixture 3) sweetened marscapone mixture and 4) cocoa powder.  Line them all up so you don’t have to go running around for them later.  You’ll also need a spatula (I used an offset spatula normally for frosting cakes, but any spatula will do), a sieve for sifting the cocoa powder, and a 9 x 13 glass pan.
  8. Part of the trick here is how you handle the dipping of the lady fingers in the coffee-rum.  If you just dunk them, even a super fast dunk, they will turn to mush, because all the air is quickly forced out and replaced entirely with liquid.  What you need to do is drop the lady finger into the bowl so that it floats on the surface, quickly flip it over so both sides get coated, and then take it out and put it in the glass pan.  This should take less than a second per lady finger.  I know that sounds crazy, but you’ll understand as soon as you give it a try and realize it’s not THAT fast, you just have to be nimble (Just to experiment, I tried dunking a lady finger - mush.  I also tried letting it sit for just a second longer - mush.)
  9. Line the lady fingers up in the pan-mine made two perfect rows-as you dunk them.  Cover them with a layer of 1/2 the marscapone mixture.  Dust with 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.  Repeat: another layer of lady fingers, then marscapone, then cocoa powder.
  10. Cover tightly with saran wrap and then find a nice spot in your fridge for it to rest for 24 hours (if you’re short on time, 6 hours should be plenty).  I’m sure you can eat it right then even, but every person who has ever written about making tiramisu says to let it “cure” overnight in the fridge so that all the flavors meld.
  11. ENJOY!  For the fancy presentation you see in the photo, I used a lightly greased (baking sprayed) metal pastry ring and used it as a makeshift cookie cutter on the two layers of soaked lady fingers, set them aside, then layered everything inside the pastry ring as above, using a spoon to sort of smooth everything out.  I then put it in the freezer overnight and then used a cake tester wire to loosen around the edges.  It came out of the ring surprisingly easy (I was expecting a giant battle) and was defrosted in 15 minutes for eating!  It’s definitely a lot more work and, frankly, this tiramisu is so good you and your guests aren’t going to care one whit about the presentation.  Just serve it out of the glass pan and enjoy it!

1 comment :

Leave a Comment: