Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Best Tiramisù

I often find Tiramisù to be too overwhelming, too heavy too sweet, too alcoholic. My version has just the right balance of flavors to leave you satisfied, not overfull at the end of a meal. The combination of the great creaminess of mascarpone and the salty creaminess of cream cheese give this dish a pleasant roundness of flavor. I also much prefer a small amount of sharp liquor like rum or grappa for this dish rather than a large amount of sweet marsala or Kahlua. Most of the sweetness in this dessert comes from the ladyfinger cookies themselves. Here are the ingredients:

3 very fresh eggs, separated
8 ozs mascarpone cheese
8 ozs cream cheese
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp granulated sugar
¾ cup espresso, cold
2 tbsp rum or grappa
18 ladyfinger cookies
pure cocoa powder to sprinkle on top

Whip the egg whites until they reach the hard peak stage (when you pull out the beaters, the egg whites make a peak that stays straight up and doesn’t fall over). In a separate bowl, mix the mascarpone, cream cheese, egg yolks and powdered sugar to form a smooth cream. Add the whipped egg whites and fold them in until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Spread 1/3 of the mixture on the bottom of a 9x13 shallow baking dish. (At least that’s what I use. This will NOT be cooked so you can put the Tiramisù in any kind of container, even plastic) Dip the ladyfingers one by one in the coffee mixture then nestle them into the cream on their sides making sure to leave very little room between cookies. Also, be careful to dip the ladyfingers very quickly, do not let them sit in the coffee mixture or the dish will end up soggy. You want only the outside of the cookie to be saturated at first, the interior will slowly soften in the refrigerator as the dish sets. Continue until you have used up all 18 ladyfingers or have filled the bottom of the dish completely. On my 9x13 baking dish, I fit exactly 18 cookies set on their sides. Toward the end of the process, many must be broken before dipping to fit into the spaces available. Once you have filled the dish with one layer of ladyfingers, add the rest of the cream mixture and let it nestle in between the cookies. Even out the tope with a spatula, cover and refrigerate (ideally) overnight or at least 4 hours. Before serving sprinkle the cocoa through a mesh strainer onto the top of the Tiramisù (some of the brown coffee may have stained the white cream and the cocoa provides great camouflage, not only great flavor).


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