There are times you gotta go 100% classic. To me, one of those time is with the classic Italian dessert tiramisu.
I know, you're thinking, I've had a ton of tiramisu and want a change on the classic. But here's the thing: are you sure you've had classic tiramisu? Many versions have ricotta or heavy cream added or call for making syrups to dip the ladyfinger cookies. The problem is a lot of those are good but not great.
And then there's just straight-up bad tiramisu -- often the culprits are it's too sweet, too "eggy" tasting, or the whole things a soggy mess. I think what's happened is that, over the years, people have wanted to make it easier or faster or cheaper and the result is a direct sacrifice in quality.
So, what is a really good tiramisu? It's a recipe that is all about the mascarpone and coffee flavors. It's a dessert where the ladyfingers are soaked enough to be soft but they aren't falling apart. And the best tiramisu recipes have an uber airy mascarpone cream!
After years of making it, I figured it high time to share my classic tiramisu recipe. The key is that you buy the best qualiity ingredients you can find and that you cook the egg yolks just a touch so the whole mixture is less abotu the egg flavor and puts the spotlight on the mascarpone. Now when I said I like to go classic, I meant in terms of technique and ingredients, but not necessarily in presentation. There's nothing wrong with laying tiramisu in a glass baking dish but I love the unexpected look of it here. Basically, I took the technique for making a charlotte (as in stackign the ladyfingers on the inside of round dish in a circle, and that one extra step gives ia totally modern look to this otherwise super classic Italian dessert!
or the inside bits from a vanilla bean (optional)
or kahlua (optional)
for garnish (optional)
Prepare a 6-inch or 8-inch springform pan by lining the bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper. Set aside. Meanwhile, carefully separate the eggs and set the whites in the refrigerator until ready to use. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is well combined and thicker, about 3 minutes.
Transer the egg yolk mixture to a heatproof (glass or metallic) bowl and set it over a small pan of simmering water. Constantly whisk the mixture until is reaches 160°F then immediately remove from the heat and return to the stand mixer bowl. Add the mascarpone cream to the egg yolks then, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically, beat the mixture on medium speed until it's thoroughly combined. If using, add the vanilla then stir to incorporate. Remove mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool.
A traditional tiramisu doesn't include cream. By cooking the eggs slightly you not only get rid of an "eggy" flavor that some tiramisu recipes have but also you make a sort of custard base that allows you to get a nice thick mascarpone cream without adding in heavy cream.
Thoroughly clean the stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment, dry the mixing bowl, then return it to the stand mixer and add the egg whites. Beat on medium speed until frothy then add a pinch of salt. Keep beating the mixture until the egg whites are stiff peaks (the egg whites won't move when you turn the mixing bowl upside down). Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture and stir well to combine. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
Make sure the mixing bowl is super clean before you whip the egg whites or they may not increase in volume. After cleaning with soapy water go ahead and rinse everything with distilled white vinegar to be extra sure it's clean. Just dry it thoroughly so you don't have a major vinegar flavor going on in the recipe.
Brew 1 cup of very strong coffee or espresso and add in dark rum or kahlua, if using. Place coffee mixture in a shallow dish then begin to assemble the tiramisu. To assemble, arrange some dry (undipped) ladyfingers one next to the other into an upright border around the inside edge of the springform pan. You should be able to fit enough so they are snug and hold each other in place by the time you're finished.
Using espresso is preferable to brewed coffee as it imparts a deeper flavor. You can use decaf if you don't want the caffeine kick!
To assemble the rest of the tiramisu, dip the top of a ladyfinger in the coffee mixture the arrange in dipped-side up in the bottom of the pan. Continue until you have a tight layer of ladyfingers on the bottom of the pan (you will need to trim some to fit into the random holes). Add about 1-inch of the mascarpone cream mixture (about 1 1/3 cups) then smooth into an even layer with a rubber spatula. Sift a spoonful of cocoa powder even over the layer. Repeat two more times to make three layers in total (you should use up all the mascaprone cream by the end). Do not put on the last layer of cocoa until ready to serve.
You can also make this as a normal (layered) tiramisu in a square glass pan. To do so simply skip the step where you stack some of the ladyfingers on the edge and just get to the layering part.
Lightly cover the tiramisu cake with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until set, at least 6 hours and preferably 12 hours. To serve, remove the spring form pan ring then garnish the top with a last layer of cocoa powder and, if desired, some chocolate curls.
To make chocoalte curls, use a vegetable peeler on the side of a chocolate bar!
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