In 1993, according to the Economist, tiramisu was an ‘unheard of confection – even in an America rich with Italians.’
Comically, they even pointed out the scene where Tom Hanks’ character in Sleepless in Seattle famously asks his friend, “What is tiramisu?” before he considers venturing back into the world of dating, as they have lunch together.
The coffee-flavoured Italian dessert loosely translated means ‘pick me up’, and is made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, flavoured with cocoa. Sounds simple right?
What’s not simple is the origin of how this dessert came about. Most accounts of the origin of tiramisu date its invention to the 1960s in the region of Veneto, Italy, at the restaurant “Le Beccherie” in Treviso. Specifically, the dish is claimed to have first been created by a confectioner named Roberto Linguanotto, owner of “Le Beccherie”. Some debate remains, however because some legends say Ada Campeol, the owner of Le Beccherie restaurant in Veneto in northern Italy, came up with the dessert. Others credit Carminantonio Iannaccone, an Italian chef who ran a bakery in Baltimore’s Little Italy and brought the recipe with him to America. The governor of Veneto was outraged when, in 2016, two food writers suggested that tiramisu instead originated in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a region that borders Austria and Slovenia.
So, we don’t really know how, when or why it came about but who cares? I grew up with my mother baking for us and tiramisu was one of her specialties too (& and we aren’t of Italian descent in any way)
Here’s a recipe we love by the Food Network for you – a little something that delights the sense of taste with its lavish quantities of caffeine, sugar and cream!
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
Four 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups espresso or strong coffee, at room temperature
1/2 cup brandy or cognac (you can do without the alcohol as we do)
30 to 32 crisp Italian ladyfingers (savoiardi)
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
Bittersweet chocolate, for shaving
- Level: Easy
- Prep: 30 min
- Cook: 10 min
- Yield: 8 servings
- Line an 8-inch-square baking dish with plastic wrap, leaving a 3-inch overhang on all sides. Fill a large bowl with ice water.
- Make the custard: Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) until the sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the custard is light and foamy, about 10 minutes (a thermometer inserted into the mixture should register 170 degrees F).
- Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set in the bowl of ice water; whisk until the custard is cool, about 1 minute. Put the mascarpone in a large bowl. Fold the custard into the mascarpone with a rubber spatula until almost combined, then whisk until just smooth (do not overmix or the custard will be grainy).
- Combine the espresso and brandy in a shallow bowl. One at a time, dip the ladyfingers in the espresso mixture until soaked but not soggy; arrange 2 rows of about 5 biscuits each in the baking dish. Spread one-third of the mascarpone custard over the ladyfingers. Repeat with a second layer of espresso-dipped ladyfingers, arranging them in the opposite direction. Top with another one-third of the custard. Repeat with the remaining ladyfingers, alternating directions. Spread the remaining custard on top and dust with the cocoa powder. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Invert a plate on top of the tiramisu, then flip the tiramisu with the plate. Remove the baking dish and plastic wrap. Invert a serving plate on top of the tiramisu and flip again so it is cocoa-side up. Remove the remaining plastic wrap. Shave curls of chocolate on top with a vegetable peeler.
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