There are a few desserts that kind of..... intimidate me. Probably because I only see them in restaurants, and nobody seems to really make them at home. You know, those desserts! Give me all the cookie, brownie and pie recipes you want, but there is something about a dessert like the Italian classic tiramisu that I would never normally think of making.
That is until last week when we were going to a friend's house for a homemade Italian supper. When I asked what dessert I could bring, she casually mentioned tiramisu. I confidently said, " that sounds great!". (Although, I've never made that before!) Behold, a challenge was in front of me and I like those! I was to make my first tiramisu for new friends!
Let me tell you guys that there are a few steps, but it's really so simple to make. This is coming from a girl who has only eaten tiramisu a couple of time and didn't know what in the world it really consists of! I was intimidated for no reason, and in fact it was really fun to make.
I knew the recipe I wanted to try. I saw the Gabrielle and Debi from Extra Virgin (The Cooking Channel) make this on an episode a while back and thought it looked amazing! He is Italian, and so who better to learn from? This recipe came out supremely delicious!!
The only major thing I changed from the recipe is that I never have liked the alcohol taste in tiramisu (call me crazy), so I opted to keep it out and replace it with the smooth, warm flavor of vanilla. Oh, what a good decision!! I used my vanilla bean paste instead of giving my kidney for a vanilla bean pod. If you haven't used vanilla bean paste, I urge you to look for it in the nearest specialty food store or order it online. Mine comes from The Fresh Market for 7.99, but I think I've seen it at Home Goods, too. This stuff is like vanilla extract meets vanilla beans and is really amazing! It's a paste and has vanilla beans in it (duh, Leslie) so not only is the flavor more concentrated than extract, but you have the pretty specks of beans, too!
The addition of vanilla resulted in a lusciously delicious mascarpone cream for the filling. (Mascarpone cheese is basically Italian cream cheese, and I get mine at Trader Joes. See picture.)
The filling for the tiramisu is really light and fluffy. It consists of whipping egg whites with sugar and folding that in a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, mascarpone cheese, a dash of strong coffee and vanilla bean paste. It's quite hard to not eat this with a spoon while you're assembling!
This cream is then layered with coffee soaked cookies and a dusting of cocoa powder. Finish it off with lots of dark chocolate shavings and you have a gorgeous homemade tiramisu! It's really that simple. There is no baking or cooking involved to make such an elegant dessert!
Everyone loved the dessert (whew!), and we had a really wonderful night with some new friends just sitting around the table, eating, telling stories, laughing and drinking coffee! There's nothing like good food to bring people together and make an evening really worth remembering!
Vanilla Bean Tiramisu
Makes about 10 Servings
3 c. brewed Coffee
2 (8 oz.) containers Mascarpone Cheese
5 *fresh* Eggs, separated
14 oz. Savoiardi Cookies, known as "Lady Fingers"
4 oz. Sugar, plus 2-3 Tbsp. for the coffee
1 1/2 Tbsp. Vanilla Bean Paste (or 2 shots of rum or Marsala)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 c. Dark Chocolate, shaved to garnish (I used 60%)
Make the strong coffee and pour in a shallow bowl, add about 2-3 Tbsp. sugar and allow to cool.
Mix the egg yolks with 2 ounces of sugar, until you obtain a very pale yellow, creamy mixture.
Work the mascarpone cream in a bowl using a wooden spoon to rid of lumps and then add this to the sugar-egg mixture. Add the vanilla bean paste and I added about 1 Tbsp. of the cold coffee, too. Continue to mix very well. I used a whisk and then a wooden spoon for this.
In a large separate bowl, mix the egg white, salt, and remaining 2 oz. sugar until the eggs get firm and fluffy.
I acted like I was making meringue, so I used the stand mixture and gradually added the sugar a little at a time once it got to soft peaks. Once the sugar was added, I cranked up the speed to high until I got pretty stiff peaks.
Gently fold the fluffed egg whites into the creamy mascarpone mixture. Keep in mind, you want to keep this a fluffy mixture, so I didn't mix this in until smooth. There was probably still a little egg white that wasn't completely incorporated. Once you get it on the tiramisu, you won't taste it. It will just remain light and airy this way!
Have your best cocoa powder handy with a small sieve for part of the layering process.
Here is my work station. As you can see I have my bowl of coffee, my dish where I'm layering it all in, and the fluffy marscapone mixture on the other side. My cocoa powder is handy and so are my lady finger cookies (though not seen here).
Begin by taking the cookies one at a time and dipping them halfway in the coffee mixture. Place the cookie dipped side up in the dish so the coffee will gradually seep through the cookie without making it completely mushy.
Do this until the bottom of the dish is lined with cookies.
Next, heap a big dollop of the cream and spread out evenly over the cookies.
Next, using your small sieve, dust cocoa powder over the cream. (No picture here.)
Repeat the steps ....
In my dish I actually assembled 3 layers, layering completely to the top of the dish, because it will settle a bit. I ended up having some cookies and a little cream left over. (Mmm, cookies dipped in cream for a snack!)
This is my favorite part...
Shaving the chocolate bar right over the finished tiramisu at the very end. I like lots of chocolate!
Store this is the fridge for at least 3 hours. Cut into squares and enjoy! Eat within 2 days for the best taste, but that won't be a problem!
**Be aware there are raw egg in here, so please don't it allow to sit out of the fridge for very long! This probably wouldn't be a good idea at a picnic.**
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