My dad only recently developed his sweet tooth, so back when I was experimenting with recipes in college, I knew he would rarely accept an offer of dessert. I definitely remember one such lucky occasion, however, when I dug up a recipe for tiramisu. It’s one of his favorite desserts and arguably my favorite, at least from Italian cuisine, over cannoli, spumoni, even gelato! Though it took a bit of coercing for him to take that first bite, I can still vividly recall his eyes lighting up as he polished off his serving wordlessly. This recipe has been in my repertoire ever since.
Three things. First, you’ll want to make sure you have some strong arm muscles for beating those egg whites to a stiff peak (thanks to the souffle, I’ve had plenty of practice). It’s the aerated whites that really makes this cream filling fluffy and light and not-too-sweet. Possibly among the best tiramisu, or so I’ve been told ;) Second, at six tablespoons of Marsala, this particular recipe is a bit more boozy than others. Have fun with it. (If you do need to cut back, play around with the coffee-Marsala ratio.) Lastly, this tiramisu is topped with grated chocolate just before serving, which truly makes a difference — it tastes way better than the bitter cocoa powder that some restaurants use instead.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup strong black coffee, freshly brewed
6 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine
1 package of ladyfingers (16-24 pieces)
3 eggs, separated
8 ounce package of mascarpone
Dash of nutmeg
Dark or semisweet chocolate for garnish (about 1-2 ounces, grated)
I got this recipe many years ago from a cookbook that I just cannot seem to track down (it doesn’t help that I’ve made some adjustments from the original proportions). If anyone recognizes the source, please let me know and I will gladly credit it.
Step 1: Dissolve one-half of the sugar (1/8 cup) into the coffee. Stir in the Marsala; you should end up with about 1 cup of liquid total.
Step 2: Arrange a single layer of ladyfingers in the bottom of an 8-inch round trifle dish (or a 1.75 quart Pyrex round). Drizzle about one third of the coffee mixture. Set aside.
Step 3: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the yolks and the remaining sugar. Fold in the mascarpone.
Step 4: When the yolk-mascarpone mixture is creamy and fully integrated, sprinkle in the nutmeg. Stir.
Step 5: In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Step 6: Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites — first, lighten the mascarpone mixture by stirring in a bit of the fluffy whites, then cut down and scoop over with a rubber spatula, turning the bowl as you go, “folding” the mixture onto itself so as to minimize deflating the whites.
Step 7: Spoon about one-third of the mixture over the soaked ladyfingers and spread smooth.
Step 8: Continue with a layer of ladyfingers, drizzling with one-third of the coffee mixture and topping with one-third of the fluffy mascarpone cream. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with mascarpone on the very top layer.
Step 9: Let chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. This will help set the cream.
Step 10: Just before serving, shave or grate the chocolate over the top of the tiramisu using a microplane. Buon appetito!
Yields: 6-8 servings