Tiramisu.

Let me just say I love tiramisu. It isn’t a dessert I have often (and make even more infrequently) but when you find a good version it’s divine. I think the last time I made ladyfingers might have been shortly after leaving pastry school so it’s been a while but by themselves those delicate cookies are wonderful. They just usually aren’t my first choice for easy cookie baking.

My initial thoughts when finding out that February’s challenge was tiramisu from scratch, as in your own ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese was to play with the flavors a bit. I still have a tub of passionfruit puree in the freezer I need to make good use of. However by the time it came to bake this month I was craving the traditional coffee and cocoa version.

I started off with the zabaglione but used the fresh brewed coffee variation since I was apparently out of both marsala and port. A few drops of lemon oil worked as a great replacement for fresh lemon zest (yet another thing I was lacking). I swear I did actually plan on having everything but the baking day came a lot faster than I expected this month. The recipe says the sauce will thicken to a custard which is a deceiving description. Zabaglione is more like a thick cooked foamy sauce and I consider a custard a much smoother and certainly not an airy mixture. It was easy to make though and added a wonderful flavor to the finished filling.

Next up was the “pastry cream” which was not pastry cream. Yet another easy to make sauce but it’s a creme anglaise not a pastry cream. I got a call one night from Jenny asking if mine did the same thing hers did. We both had expected a thick custard, an almost pudding like texture which is what pastry cream should be. This was a delicious yet runny custard sauce. It is also a runny custard sauce I forgot to take a picture of.

The only part of my dessert that didn’t use the challenge recipe was the mascarpone cheese. I had just taken a feta cheese class and had a recipe for mascarpone that the instructor provided so I wanted to try hers out. My yield was much bigger so now I have extras for a cheesecake later on but I did add more cheese to the filling than called for. I felt that 1/3 of a cup of mascarpone in 3-4 cups of filling was just too low of a proportion so I think I added almost a cup.

The ladyfingers I made exactly according to the recipe given in the challenge for a couple reasons. For one thing I figured the proportions would be right for the amount of filling I had but also this recipe was assembled opposite from what I learned in school. I was taught to whip the egg yolks with the sugar till thick, fold in the beaten egg whites and flour.Ā  The challenge recipe whipped the whites with the sugar, folded the barely beaten yolks in and then the flour. I was curious to know if what I think is a more foolproof technique would achieve the same results.

Aren’t they pretty? I did make one small change with how I baked these. The recipe says to dust with powdered sugar and pick up the parchment before baking to shake off the excess. I couldn’t be bothered to do that and the 2T of powdered sugar I ‘wasted’ was worth not having to pick up a filmsy piece of paper with soft wet cookies on it. I personally think the risk of damaging your cookies isn’t worth that small amount of sugar.

As for the difference in technique, I think the easier method of beating the whites with the sugar to form a very stable meringue is perfectly fine. Folding in regular beaten egg whites into the thick beaten yolks and sugar can be tricky if the textures aren’t ‘just right’ so this more stable method makes it much easier to achieve that light airy cookie texture.

What I loved about the challenge was the different skills required, the 2 sauces, the cheese and the ladyfingers all used different baking skills without any of them being too hard. Tiramisu is an impressive dessert that requires a little time and a light hand. What I didn’t like about this challenge was the specific recipes, the filling was delicious but far too runny, a true pastry cream might have held up better but even with more cheese to firm up the filling mine oozed everywhere even after an overnight chill. The amount of ladyfingers made was barely enough to make one dessert, now granted I used up more because I lined my square pan vertically first but I was 1 ladyfinger short of having full layers in my tiramisu because I ate one as a tester. I cut it that close and since the cookies were good I would have like the recipe to have made more.

It was delicious though, rich and creamy without being overwhelmingly sweet. The tang of the lemon oil and flavor of the coffee played really well in the filling and with some tweaks I can see myself making it again.

Advertisements