In Italy, the word Tiramisu translates, word for word as ‘pull me up’ but the word Tiramisu as the dessert translates to ‘cheer me up’ and what delicious dessert made with sponge fingers, mascarpone, coffee and Marsala wouldn’t!
I got this Tiramisu recipe from a Chef I used to work for and at the time didn’t realise how heavy handed he was with the Marsala until I made it recently and whooaaa….we certainly shouldn’t have been operating any machinery or such after eating the first one I put together! He did learn to make it in Italy so maybe when the Italians make it they like you to be a whole ‘nother level ‘cheered up’! but it was way too ‘boozy’ for our taste buds! Luckily our exchange student from Italy didn’t mind being my Tiramisu taste-tester whilst I perfected the alcohol content and am now happy to say you can pass a breathalyser test if stopped on the way home after eating it at our place!
For those of you unfamiliar with Tiramisu, like all recipes, there are many, many versions! This more traditional version is made by first making a sabayon (which is a very delicious dessert in itself!) using egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala and then folding through whipped cream and egg whites, giving it a ‘mousselike’ airiness (it’s actually very similar to how traditional chocolate mousse is made but with mascarpone replacing the chocolate).
The mascarpone/Marsala mouse is then layered between coffee dipped sponge fingers and finished off with a generous dusting of unsweetened cocoa or dark, grated chocolate…do I have your attention yet?
Marsala is a fortified wine produced in the region surrounding the Italian city of Marsala, in Sicily, with the sweet version commonly used in cakes, desserts and sweet sauces and the drier version, used in savoury dishes. Of course, you do not need to use alcohol in this recipe, some people just enjoy a simple, coffee flavoured Tiramisu (see my notes if you’d like to make an alcohol free version).
Tiramisu needs to rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours, even up to a day before it’s eaten so it’s a great dessert to make the day before you need it, freeing up some precious time for yourself on the day of your dinner party or special occasion…not that you need a special occasion to make Tiramisu mind you!
2 tablespoons / 10 g good quality, instant coffee
4 medium-sized eggs (size 6’s)
½ cup / 110 g castor sugar (superfine)
¼ cup / 60 ml Marsala or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or paste or the seeds scraped from a 6 cm vanilla bean
¾ cup / 200 g mascarpone
1 cup / 250 ml full cream
2 x 200 g packets of Biscotti Sponge Fingers (I used 27 singles and there were some leftover)
2 tablespoons / 15 g good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder or 50 g good- quality, dark chocolate
Serves 9 -12
- If you can’t find any Marsala or are wondering if it’s even worth buying if you only need a ¼ cup, you can just leave the alcohol out or substitute it with brandy, port wine, sweet sherry, Madeira or my favourite, coffee cream liqueurs like Tia Maria or Kahlua. But if you really want to make a classic Tiramisu, Marsala is the one!
- Here in NZ, I use either ‘D Angelo, Cake Savoiadi Lady Fingers’ or ‘Vittoria Biscotti Sponge Fingers’ both being available from Countdown or speciality stores. Even though one brand is called ‘sponge fingers’, both brands are rather crispy biscuits, I have never seen any in New Zealand but be careful not to get a soft, ‘spongy’ style ‘sponge finger’ as they will be getting dipped in coffee and your Tiramisu will end up a ‘spongy’ mess.
- I used castor sugar (which is superfine) in this recipe when whipping the egg whites but if you don’t have it, granulated white sugar will be fine. 🙂
STEP BY STEP
For this dessert, you will need a 12 cup capacity, square or rectangle dish.
- If your dish is smaller, it won’t be large enough (lol) and if it’s bigger that’s fine but the Tiramisu will be a little flatter than mine but of course that won’t ruin the flavour just the way it looks…and we all know, looks aren’t everything! 🙂
Getting started, turn on the jug and then in a shallow/wide dish dissolve the instant coffee in 1 ¼ cups of the boiling water and set it aside to cool down.
- You will be dipping the long ‘sponge fingers’ into it, longways, so choose a dish accordingly.
Next, find a saucepan and a heatproof bowl that sits nice and snug into the top of the saucepan.
Fill the saucepan with enough cold water so that when the bowl is sitting on top, the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.
Then remove the bowl and bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down to where it’s just simmering (softly boiling).
Go on to separate the eggs (place the whites in a separate medium-sized bowl) and then add the yolks to the heatproof bowl as well as ¼ cup of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the marsala or if you’re not using alcohol, replace the marsala with the vanilla and 2 tablespoons of cold water and then…
…whisk it all together until it’s nicely combined.
Place the bowl back on top of the water.
- Check that the water is still just at a simmer because if the water is too hot it will cause the egg mixture not to just to thicken but to scramble and go lumpy!
Slowly whisk the sabayon…
…for around 4 minutes or until it has thickened, tripled in volume and looks like softly whipped cream.
- If you’ve made a sabayon before you know if you keep a keen eye on it you don’t have to constantly whisk it (I don’t) but if it’s new to you I recommend whisking it slowly and constantly, being careful it doesn’t stick to the sides.
Once done, take it off the heat and whisk in the mascarpone…
…until it’s smooth, then leave it aside.
In another bowl, using electric beaters on a medium speed, whip the cream for around 2 minutes or until it is stiff-peaked (when you pull the beaters out, the peaks in the cream will stay standing and not flop over).
Then using the whisk fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture…
…until it’s smooth.
Next, add the remaining ¼ cup sugar to the egg whites and again using your electric beaters on a medium/high speed, beat for around 3 minutes or until they are stiff-peaked.
Add it to the mascarpone mix and…
…using the whisk, fold it through until it’s lump-free (being careful not to whisk too quickly, so as not to knock the air out of the whites).
Time to put it all together!
Lay the ‘sponge fingers’ flat on the bottom the dish and it’s okay to break a few in half to fill in any award gaps (there will be another layer of biscuits, so don’t give the rest to the kids just yet)!
Next, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of Marsala to the coffee.
Then quickly dip each ‘sponge finger’ into the coffee and Marsala mix, but only for 1 or 2 seconds (or they will be super soggy) and then shake off any excess liquid before returning the biscuit to its place on the bottom of the dish.
- I just want to emphasize, just a quick dip and shake off the excess or the biscuits will become too mushy…eeek!
Continue with each one until you have done the whole first layer.
Go on to pour in half of the mascarpone mixture and spread it over evenly.
Then add a second layer of coffee-dipped sponge fingers.
Spoon on and gently spread out the remaining half of the mascarpone mixture.
Dust the cocoa powder all over the top or if you chose chocolate, grate it all over.
Place your gorgeous tiramisu in the fridge and leave it to set for at least 4 hours (or even overnight).
To serve, you can either cut the tiramisu into 9 medium-sized or 12 small squares or you can be fancy, schmancy and use two very large spoons to make quenelles.
Keepin’ it fresh – Cover in clingwrap (to keep that ‘fridgy’ smell out) and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.