When I was but a spring chicken who had just graduated from university, I went on a backpacking trip to Italy with one of my friends. It was hot, we were young and Italy was a marvelous cacaphony of ancient ruins, art & culture and food. From Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum to Irving Stone's biographical novel of Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy, to murder mysteries set in Italy by Donna Leon, Magdalene Nabb and Michael Dibdin, I was immersed in fiction about Italy.
One of my favourite Italian desserts is tiramisu. And the best recipe I've come across is the one given to my sister at university. She had a Japanese friend whose family lived in Milan, and her mother gave us this recipe. Friends may leave but the tiramisu stays. I've been making this tiramisu for over 15 years and it's way better than the majority of tiramisu you are served in restaurants. I kid you not.
I'm not the most meticulous cook around and I don't have a scales or all the paraphernalia needed for proper cooking and baking (shocking, I know) but tiramisu is REALLY EASY to make and gets the best responses. You'll make lots of friends with this dessert.
2 organic eggs
2 tubs of mascarpone (or 500g)
5 tablespoons sugar for the mascarpone mixture
1/2 teaspoon sugar for the egg whites
2 capfuls vanilla extract
2 cups espresso
4 tablespoons Kahlua
Half a pack or approx. 12 pieces ladyfinger biscuits
Unlike cakes, you can play around with the recipe to suit your taste. I've actually cut down the sugar because the sponge fingers are really sweet. It's also very important to use fresh, organic eggs as they are a raw ingredient in this recipe.
1. Start by making the espresso so that it has time to cool.
2. Separate the egg yolks and white. Add the five tablespoons of sugar and vanilla extract to the yolks and mix vigorously with a whisk.
3. It should lose its yellow yolky colour and become creamy and smooth like butter.
4. Add the mascarpone cheese.
And mix until smooooooth.
Don't forget to lick the mixture off before washing the whisk. SO good.
7. Beat the egg whites until they form peaks and add half a teaspoon of sugar so they keep their stiffness.
8. Add the beaten egg white to the mascarpone mixture. I normally add half of the beaten egg white (so basically that means one egg white, not two) as I like the mascarpone to be quite thick. The more egg white you add, the fluffier and lighter the tiramisu.
9. Fold the mixture gently and evenly. The mascarpone mixture should feel lighter already.
10. Now for the espresso. Add to a bowl and mix in some alcohol. Most recipes call for rum, but I like it sweet so I add Kahlua instead. Normally four tablespoons or more, but add to taste.
If you like your cake alcoholic, add more. If you don't want it so alcoholic, add some sugar.
Time for the ladyfingers.
11. Dip the finger biscuits into the coffee mixture. Don't leave the biscuits in for too long or they'll dissolve!
12. Layer the finger biscuits. The number of biscuits you need will depend on the size and shape of your dish. Usually 12 finger biscuits for two layers, with six per layer.
13. Layer the mascarpone mixture. Repeat.
14. Cover and keep in the fridge for about four hours or overnight.
15. Make sure you sprinkle the cocoa powder just before serving or it'll get soggy. And ENJOY.
I only make this on special occasions because I'm lazy (even though this is the easiest recipe EVER) but it's good to make this an occasional dessert just so you build up your friends' cravings a little. You'll have them begging.
Unfortunately I don't have a picture of me eating the tiramisu because we wolfed it down before I could whip out the camera. Sigh. But my friends swore this was the best tiramisu they've had.