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Classic Tiramisu

  It was only a matter of time before the real deal made it to my blog.  I harped on about tiramisu last year when I made these delightful little sandwiches, I've spent hours wrestling mascarpone to make a cupcake version, I've struggled with chocolate to make the perfect curl, piped ladyfingers, tried some crazy layering things, and eaten this dessert every time I'm at a good Italian restaurant.

  Then I found this recipe on Use Real Butter, and it reminded me that I've never actually made forreal tiramisu.  I've never gone out hunting for the perfectly crisp ladyfinger, good coffee, or really tried my hand at the whipped mascarpone filling.  What the heck?  That definitely needed to be fixed.

  And so, today I am all about Tiramisu.  No deep ramblings, no homesickness, just straight up food.  And did it ever feel good to dive right in, dragging out my Aunt's old Kitchenaid and everything.

  Let's get to it.  After running through this with a hella good playlist going on a solitary Friday evening, I made this my weekend lunch and while it was delicious, my brain was instantly calculating where I could've done a little better.  Because that's just how my head works when I eat food.  And since I've had the best Tiramisu in the history of ever at Vin Santo (seriously, get over there if you're ever in Middleton, WI.  Everything is delicious.), all other forms have quite a taste to live up to.

  But this guy is classic, and while I'll certainly be tweaking and trying new recipes down the road, this is totally worthy of documenting.

  I ran around Scottsdale yesterday to hunt down some good ladyfingers.  I'd picked up some essentials at Safeway and stopped by their bakery.  I checked out their soft, squishy, plastic-wrapped ladyfingers and just decided that it wasn't going to cut it.  I literally entered "Italian" into my GPS and found a grocery store/deli just down the freeway.  Worth it, my friends.  These are crisp, sweet, and delightful little cookies that were entirely worth the 20-minute impromptu drive (with mascarpone and heavy whipping cream in my very hot car...).  DeFalco's, in case you're in the area.  I'm going back sometime because whatever they were serving smelled hella good.  Italy is just following me around lately, and I'm really quite alright with that.

  The egg yolk/Kahlua mixture was a cinch, but you should really whisk it constantly and not let your water boil.  And if you have a bigger bowl, use that.  I had to take the perfect picture for you guys so I think my eggs got a little cooked, but no harm done!  Whisk yours constantly for about 6 minutes and it should get light and fluffy and leave a ribbon when you lift your whisk (i.e. not just dribble).

  Ah yes, the soaking of the ladyfingers.  I think I overdid it, even though tiramisu is supposed to be a bit on the spongy side I wanted to try and retain some of the crispness of the cookies.  But these cookies soak up espresso like nobody's business.  All that's required is the briefest of dips, and I think next time instead of submerging the whole cookie I'll only do the bottoms.  You are absolutely welcome to break your cookies as needed to fit whatever pan you use, that's the beauty of this dessert.  I'm also told that if you use the softer, spongier cookies, layer them first as desired and then pour just enough espresso over them to get them to soak it up, because they are so much softer that they'd likely fall apart upon submerging in the actual liquid.  That's why I like a crisper ladyfinger, easier to handle.

  And, oof, the filling is rich, man.  So good though.  And if you plan on piping the top layer, only use about 1/4 of your whipped mixture to layer the middle because piping takes a lot more than you'd think.  As in, I ran out when I was aaaalmost finished piping and ended up making some whipped cream to finish it off.  Dust heavily with cocoa powder and no one will ever know, tiramisu is very forgiving.

  Also, the recipe below is for a three-layer, in an 8x8-inch pan.  I used this casserole dish thing and found that it just wasn't going to fit three layers of ladyfingers, but adapt with whatever pan you're using and just do as you will, because again, forgiving.  And leftover lady fingers to snack on is in no way, shape, or form a bad thing.

  The curls are optional, but I think they add just the right amount of elegance.  I used SprinkleBakes method, she has a video on it here.  But let me tell you, Arizona kitchens are not conducive to keeping chocolate at just the right temp.  I kept having to stick it in the freezer for a couple minutes at a time, letting it sit briefly to warm, then work like mad to get as many curls as I could before it got too soft again.  The things I do...

  Taking pictures for you also took up valuable chocolate cooling time, so you're welcome.  I'm dedicated, yo.

  I don't know if it was the 15 minutes of photo taking or what, but I think this slices a bit cleaner when it's just out of the fridge, so excuse my shmeary mess.  Less-soggy ladyfingers would probably also help.  However, if it's super clean-cut, it's just not that authentic.  I was going for rustic, obviously.

  Sweet beauty.

  All in all, this dessert is worth every effort, which in effect isn't much at all.  It's a not-too-sweet, no-bake dessert that couldn't be prettier if it tried.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and if you're put off by the coffee, don't be.  I don't like coffee and I gobble this stuff down like nothin'.  It's not that heavily apparent, just a nice complement.  And I do believe it's worth waiting overnight for, I'm all about flavor melding and tiramisu is big on that, there's a lot going on in there.

  Weekend project?  Do it.

Classic Tiramisu
Yield: one 8x8 inch pan, or whatever equivalent dish(es) you decide to use

Ingredients for the egg mixture:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
  • pinch salt

Ingredients for the whipped mascarpone:
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Ingredients for the ladyfingers:
  • Lady fingers/savoiardi (About 10.5 ounces altogether for an 8×8-inch pan)
  • 2 cups hot brewed espresso or very strong coffee
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or grated bittersweet chocolate

Place the egg yolks, sugar, Kahlua, and salt in the top of a double boiler or a large bowl set over a simmering water bath.  Whisk the contents constantly for 6 minutes until it becomes thick and leaves a ribbon on the surface when you lift the whisk out of the bowl (do not boil the water).  For egg safety, the temperature should reach 160°F.  Remove from the water bath and set the bowl on ice to cool.  Stir it occasionally.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the mascarpone cheese and the cream together.  Then beat with the whisk attachment on high speed until stiff peaks form. When the egg mixture is completely cooled, fold the whipped mascarpone into the egg mixture a third at a time until smooth and uniform.

To assemble, briefly dip the bottoms of the ladyfingers one at a time into the espresso and arrange in a single layer on the bottom of your pan. Spread a third of the mascarpone filling over the lady fingers (if you choose to pipe the final layer, use a scant amount to fill between the layers because piping takes a lot!).  Dust the top with cocoa powder or grated chocolate.  Repeat for the second layer.  For the third layer, dip the lady fingers into the espresso and arrange them in a single layer on the tiramisu.  You can either spread the remaining mascarpone filling or pipe it decoratively over the lady fingers.  Dust with cocoa or grated chocolate.  

Refrigerate for 24 hours to let the flavors meld and for the dessert to firm up.  Serves 8-10.

Sources: adapted from Use Real Butter