Daring Bakers: Tiramisu

I know this is a touch late, but I have to get it in.  This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was to make tiramisu from scratch – I mean all the way from scratch.  From the mascarpone cheese, to the ladyfingers to the vanilla cream.  It was delicious.  I was a bit apprehensive when I saw that we would have to make the mascarpone cheese from scratch as I have never made cheese before, but it seemed pretty simple.  I went out and got cheesecloth and a new whisk.

S. was sick in the beginning of the week so I had to stay home with her.  This actually gave me the time to start the tiramisu a bit early.  This recipe is really a two or three day project.  You have to make the cheese and let it sit overnight.  You also have to make the pastry cream and the zabaglione and both have to sit overnight and cool completely.  So I decided to start early – make the cheese on Monday, make the creams on Tuesday, make the ladyfingers on Wednesday and put it all together on Thursday or Friday.  At the same time I was also preparting for Purim and the party that we were having on Saturday – more about that later.

The cheese was really cool to make.  All you had to do was heat heavy cream until it started to curdle and then add a tiny bit of lemon juice and let it thicken.  This is what it looked like before I added the lemon juice.

Then with the lemon juice it really thickened up.  I poured it into a cheesecloth lines seive and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  When it came out, it was thick and creamy and delicious.  I was so proud of myself that I called my mom and told her what I did.  She was also impressed.  Maybe now I can try other cheeses!  Here is the finished product 24 hours later – how creamy!

By Tuesday, S. was ready to go back to daycare and so I wasn’t able to get back to work on this until after I got home from work, put S. to sleep at 8, and did 45 minutes of kickboxing (if I’m going to be blogging at least I shouldn’t look like I am!).  Then I got to work of the creams (I also made tartlet shells – more in another post).  The zabaglione was a bit daunting as it didn’t seem like there was a thickening agent and I wasn’t sure how it was going to get to a custard-liek texture.  But as I was stirring (and stirring and stirring and stirring) it started to thicken up.  The recipe calls for port or Marsala wine but I used coffee because I didn’t have port or Marsala.  When that was done, I started on the pastry cream – it was delicious with a nice vanilla flavor.  I was still in the middle of all this when M. came home from doing his radio show (www.rock4rookies.com) it was already 12:00 am!  I knew that I was not going to get to do the ladyfingers that night because I had to get up for work in the morning.  So I just wrapped up the creams let them sit in the refrigerator until Wednesday when I would continue.

To make ladyfingers, you have to make a meringue and add flour carefully so that you get a light and crispy cookie.  A really cool idea that was included as part of the recipe was to sift confectioner’s sugar over the cookies once they were on the pan and let the sugar absorb most of the moisture in the cookie.  This helped them get crispy.  Because I was making the tiramisu in a round pan, I made round ladyfingers and not the traditional log shaped ones.

Thursday night was when it all came together.  We had had a thunderstorm that night – of course just as I left work- and during the ten minute walk to the bus stop I got drenched, my suede shoes (bad idea) were ruined and I was literally dripping wet.  When I finally got home, I immediately took off my clothes and jumped in the shower – getting splashed by cars on the road and walking with grit in my shoes is just nasty.  Finally, I felt clean and fresh again and was ready to go.  First I had to play a bit with S. until she went to sleep so that we could spend quality time together and then we could get to work.  I beat up heavy cream by hand with a whisk (I don’t put dairy in my Kitchen-Aid so that I can use it for dishes that will be cooked in my meat oven as well as the dairy oven).  So as M. was watching old episodes of MacGyver (his latest obsession) I was beating cream until it held stiff peaks.  Let’s just say that it was a real workout for those arm muscles.  When it was done I was ready to put my tiramisu together.

First, I lined the pan with saran wrap so that I would be able to remove the cake easily.  Then, I folded all the creams together carefully.  I dipped only one side of the ladyfingers into a coffee/sugar mixture (I didn’t want them to get too soggy) and made one layer on the bottom of the pan.  I added 1/3 of the cream and made another layer of ladyfingers.  Poured more cream and made the last layer of ladyfingers and spread over it the rest of the cream.  I covered the surface of the cake with the rest of the saran wrap and put the whole thing in the refrigerator to set.

I was done!! It was so exciting and I couldn’t wait until I could try some of it.

When I pulled it out on Friday, I uncovered the cake.  It was not as firm as I would have liked it to be, I probably should have frozen it if I wanted it firm as some pwople suggested.  I sprinkled some cocoa powder on top and then bit in – delicious!!  All the effort was worth it and I hope to make it again soon!

Here is the recipe copied from the Daring Bakers’ site:


(Recipe source: Carminantonio’s Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar,

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

It has a lot of components but it is worth the effort!


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