For Jessica's birthday last week the plan was for Heather, Lauren, Carrie, Jen and myself to meet at this old Italian restaurant that's been around since 1948 and then, being such a good friend, I volunteered to have everyone back to my place after dinner, for dessert and the opening of presents. In keeping with the restaurant's old school menu, I decided that my dessert ought to be something classically Italian as well. Looking through Sara Foster's cookbook, Fresh Every Day, I found this recipe. I always love desserts that are individually sized, with the exception of cupcakes, isn't that strange? I'm sorry, but I just don't get what all the fuss is over cupcakes. And yet, I like muffins. Figure THAT out. But other than liking the idea of using wine glasses, the recipe seemed, I don't know. A little basic. I thought I might be able to find something a little more unique.
Okay, so there seems to be lots of variations on tiramisu. You can do chocolate tiramisu, white chocolate tiramisu, or tiramisu with berries which substitutes pound cake for the ladyfingers (but then isn't that just a triffle?). I found an interesting recipe on a British website that uses chai tea instead of espresso and the whipped cream is flavored with cardamom. I saw one that had pulverized biscotti folded into the whipped cream, for some reason. More authentic recipes, instead of using whipped cream, apparently use whipped egg whites that have been folded into a mixture of mascarpone and egg yolk that has been cooked with sugar over a double broiler. Well that was getting just a bit too complicated. I'm working again and I only had limited time to clean my apartment and make the dessert. In the end I decided to just follow the recipe in the book.
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Marsala
1 1/2 cups espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup brandy or Frangelico
2 ounces of dark chocolate (I used Sharffen Berger)
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting tiramisu
Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and whip a little bit longer until the sugar is thoroughly integrated. Scoop out about a cup or so of the whipped cream and set aside to use later to top the finished tiramisu.
In a separate bowl, whisk the mascarpone and Marsala together until smooth and creamy. Gently fold a third of the whipped cream into the mascarpone and Marsala mixture to lighten. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream in to combine.
Using a serrated knife, cut each ladyfinger in half. I also sliced off the little, rounded ends so the ladyfingers fit more easily into the wine glasses.
Stir the espresso or coffee and the brandy together in a small bowl. Dip each ladyfinger half in the coffee-brandy mixture, making sure they aren't in submerged for more than 5 seconds, otherwise they may dislove into mush. Place two laydfinger halves into the bottom of the wine glass. Spoon over some of the mascarpone-cream to cover and then using a microplane, grate over some of the dark chocolate. Top with two more layers of coffee soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone-cream and grated chocolate. Cover each glass with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
To serve, remove the plastic wrap, top with a dallop of the reserved whipped cream and then dust lightly with the cocoa powder passed through a fine sieve.
After dinner and after Jessica opened her gifts (She got a set of pink mixing bowls, a UCLA apron, a skirt made of men's ties just like the one Kelly Clarkson wore in the movie From Justin to Kelly, and a pair of jeans signed by the incomparably vacant Courtney Peldon), I pulled the tiramisus from the fridge and Heather helped me serve.
Although I had concerns that the whipped cream would either deflate into a milky pool or that my refrigerator would freeze them into icy blocks, the tiramisus were, in fact perfect. How do I know this? Moments after each guest was given their individual desserts, the room got very quiet, except for the clicks of spoons against glass.
Perhaps one day I try making tiramisu the more traditional way using eggs or give one of the variations a try, but I have to say, this version is pretty great. The ladyfingers, soft from the espresso and brandy, are a great contrast to the marsala flavored mascarpone-cream mixture and the whole thing has just a slight, sublte chocolatey underflavor. It's so light and airy, but still has a decadence. And since it's best if you make it the night before, it's ideal for entertaining.
Although the recipe claims that you can make 6 servings, I was only able to get 5 and one of those was slightly smaller than the others. So with the quantities listed above I would really only count on getting 4 servings.