I’m sure most people have tried tiramisu before, or have at least heard of it. It’s that delicious, creamy “cake” you have for dessert at Italian restaurants that tastes of coffee and rum (and cream). I’ve also seen tiramisu cheesecake, cupcakes, ice cream, etc- it’s a pretty popular dish. I’ve always wanted to make tiramisu but one thing has kept me from it: ladyfingers.
Ladyfingers (called savoiardi in Italian or biscuits à la cuillère or [my favorite] boudoirs in French) are fluffy little génoise cakes that I don’t really think look anything like a lady’s fingers. Génoise cakes get their name from the birthplace of Christopher Columbus: Genoa, Italy. They’re cakes that aren’t leavened- the fluffiness is due to air in the batter from mixing.
All the recipes I’ve seen for ladyfingers don’t look that difficult, but they require pastry bags, and I don’t have any. I think another reason I haven’t made them is because I can be kind of lazy. The easy solution is to buy the ladyfingers. Julia Child, however, would not approve:
“…store-bought ladyfingers are usually so dreadful in taste and texture that they cannot be used in good cooking…” (from the section on ladyfingers in Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
That said, I have just never felt like making them myself. Instead, I have gone against Julia’s wishes and looked for them at the market a number of times, but they’re nowhere to be found. Why? Because they’re seasonal.
Seasonal? Seriously? Seasonal. I have no idea why they would be seasonal, but oh well. And from what I’ve heard, they’re a holiday-season item, so I wasn’t expecting to find any until late this year. So I was surprised when my mom recently said, “I have a present for you!” and handed me a package of ladyfingers.
Well, if that wasn’t a sign to make tiramisu, I don’t know what is. So I looked up a number of recipes and settled on one I found at allrecipes.com: Tiramisu II.
Tiramisu is pretty simple. There are layers of coffee-and-rum-soaked ladyfingers, an egg-milk-and-sugar mixture, and whipped cream with a sprinkle of cocoa on top. I tend to enjoy making things on the stove, so making the egg-milk-and-sugar mixture went pretty well. Soaking the ladyfingers was fun, but I definitely should have made stronger coffee. And doubled the amount of coffee and rum, because really, it wasn’t enough to soak the ladyfingers.
Every once in a while I will mess things up a bit while I’m cooking/baking. A lot of the time those screw ups happen when I’m making simple things. For example: I made brunch for my family on Father’s Day. The egg scramble I made turned out fine, but I burnt the toast (I wasn’t paying attention and toasted it too long). Seriously! The toast! It was not my proudest moment.
I had a similar problem with the whipped cream the first time around. I wasn’t really paying attention while my handy-dandy hand mixer did all the work, and over-whipped the cream. So I ended up with a lot of butter. I couldn’t really use it for the tiramisu, but I was lucky enough to have just enough whipping cream left to make the whipped cream I needed.
This was also my first time ever using mascarpone cheese. Which is pronounced “mas-car-POH-nay,” and not “mars-cah-POH-nay” as I have so often heard. And yes, I looked it up, just like I looked up génoise cakes (and some other things I’ve talked about here). How’s this for a fun fact: some people say it should be mascherpone, named for the Mascherpa family. I want a cheese named for me/my family! But the name Morgan Gruyere doesn’t really sound that great, does it? Nor does Morgan Cheddar, or Morgan Brie. Though Morgan Muenster might be kind of fun…
Anyway. I had no idea where to find it in the market, and the guy I asked had no idea what I was talking about. Obviously I found it, but it took a bit of searching. And now I’ll always know where to find it.
Here’s something important to know about tiramisu: you have to let it set. The recipe says to let it sit in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours, but I say make it 24 hours. Yes, a full day. After reading recipe reviews I decided that was best- most people recommended 24 hours, a few people even said two days. I did try a bit after about 8 hours. It was much better when I tried it again, after 24 hours. And, I think, a bit better when I tried it some 10 hours after that. The time really made a difference.
But it was oh-so rich. So rich that after a few bites I needed to put it aside for a while and drink a lot of water. Richness aside, it was creamy and hinted of coffee and rum, just like tiramisu should be. I gave some to other people, and those that have told me what they thought of it gave it positive reviews, so that’s good!
I’d probably make this again, if I had people to feed it to. Just so long as I find ladyfingers! Or maybe next time I’ll actually bake them.