Tiramisu and I go way back. We go back to a time when none but Italians had ever heard of the “pick me up” dessert; to a time when it wasn’t on the dessert menu of every restaurant in the country; and, finally, to a time when no one thought twice about consuming food containing raw eggs. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to start my search for the perfect tiramisu recipe, it had become common knowledge that food containing raw eggs could expose you to salmonella which could cause serious illness. That caused me to put my search on hold.
Inexplicably to me now, after a period of time, my search for the perfect tiramisu recipe changed into a search for the perfect tiramisu served at a restaurant. For some strange reason, I had no fear of raw eggs or salmonella as long as a restaurant served it. I guess I thought they’d go out of business if a lot of customers got sick. More time passed, and finally I was brave enough to try making tiramisu myself. The recipe I tried was an OK recipe but not worth risking salmonella.
During this time, I did, however, find my gold standard at two restaurants. The first was at a restaurant called Pasquale’s in San Jose, California. I had accompanied my husband on a business trip, and we had dinner at Pasquale’s. I don’t remember what we had to eat for dinner—but, to this day, I remember how good the tiramisu was. It was so good that I went back twice on my own during the day while Roger was attending his conference. Since San Jose is a long car ride from Chicago, the memory of that tiramisu was all I had until I found a small local coffee house owned by an Italian family who made a fabulous tiramisu. I learned to ask for a spoon because they served it with a plastic fork which had ridges that trapped some of the deliciousness among the tines. I found it embarrassing for a grown woman to be licking a fork in public! My affair with that tiramisu ended after about a year when the coffee house went out of business.
It was about this time that pasteurized eggs became readily available. I was back in business! Now, the hunt for the perfect recipe could begin anew. I won’t bore you with the OK-not-great recipes I tried. In November, 2007, Cook’s Illustrated, came through once more. With just a very minor tweaking of the coffee mixture and alcohol level, I now have my gold standard tiramisu. And so do you.
I have noted my changes in red. ~F
- 2 1/2 cups strong black coffee, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tbl. instant espresso powder
- 9 tbl. dark rum (I used 3 tbl. Kahlua in the coffee mixture plus 2 tbl. dark rum in the mascarpone mixture.)
- 2 tbl. sugar (This is an addition to the coffee mixture. I have a sweet tooth—if you don’t, leave out)
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp. table salt
- 1 1/2 pounds mascarpone cheese
- 3/4 cup heavy cream (cold)
- 14 ounces ladyfingers (42 to 60, depending on size)
- 3 1/2 tbl. unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
- 1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, grated (optional)
Stir coffee, espresso, and 5 tablespoons rum (I used 3 tablespoons Kahlua plus 2 tablespoons sugar) in wide bowl or baking dish until espresso dissolves; set aside.
In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat yolks at low speed until just combined. Add 2/3 cup of sugar and the salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once or twice. Add remaining 4 tablespoons rum (I used 2 tablespoons dark rum so that the rum wouldn’t overpower the other flavors—just a personal preference) and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape bowl. Add mascarpone and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl once or twice. Transfer mixture to large bowl and set aside.
In now-empty mixer bowl (no need to clean bowl), beat cream at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer. Using rubber spatula, fold one-third of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set mascarpone mixture aside.
Working one at a time, drop half of ladyfingers into coffee mixture, roll, remove, and transfer to 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. (Do not submerge ladyfingers in coffee mixture; entire process should take no longer than 2 to 3 seconds for each ladyfinger.) Arrange soaked ladyfingers in single layer in baking dish, breaking or trimming ladyfingers as needed to fit neatly into dish.
Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers; use rubber spatula to spread mixture to sides and into corners of dish and smooth surface. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in fine-mesh strainer and dust cocoa over mascarpone.
Repeat dipping and arrangement of ladyfingers; spread remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and dust with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa. (I just eyeballed the final dusting with cocoa because I didn’t want a solid layer of cocoa.) Wipe edges of dish with dry paper towel. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, if using; cut into pieces and serve chilled.
Source: Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (Note: It is a premium site, so you cannot link to the recipe without a subscription.)