Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Quintessentially Italian and universally popular. Rightly or wrongly though, my version of this recipe is largely based on one by Delia Smith, who is the grand dame of cooking in this country. I think it outshines more “authentic” Italian recipes.

Tiramisu is one of the easiest desserts even for a novice to put tougher. It involves no cooking, just some elbow grease and artful placement of the layers of mascarpone cream to coffee dunked sponge.

To me, Tiramisu is all about ratios. The ratio between the sponge biscuits to cream, the ratio of yolks to white and the coffee to alcohol. Having tried several recipes from Locatelli’s to Ina Garten’s to Smith’s, I am now firmly in the Smith camp, and you will see why.

Sponge to cream ratio

For one, Smith gets the ratio of sponge to cream just right. Even my favourite cookery writer, Felicity Cloake’s “Perfect Tiramisu” from the Guardian has too much cream to sponge ratio. If you follow Smith’s recipe, it might seem that the quantity of the cream is too little; but her ratio allows the dessert to remain light and not cloying in the least.

Yolks to whites

Several traditional Italian recipes eschew the whites completely, focusing on a cream mix of just yolks and mascarpone. Although delicious, I find it too rich and heavy and after a night in the fridge, too dense as well. Using all the whites makes it too light, so I like Smith’s (and the Guardian’s) approach to using slightly fewer whites than yolks.

Like with other recipes calling for egg whites, be careful whilst separating them as even the slightest speck of yolk in the whites, will mean you can’t whip the whites to soft peaks.

Alcohol

Every time I eat a good tiramisu, I make it a point to ask about the alcohol used. There are several options from Smith’s rum, to Marsala (quite traditional) to brandy and Kahlua (a coffee liqueur). I generally find that adding a liqueur makes the dish too sweet, and like the clean flavour of brandy the best, although rum would be a close second. I do add in about a tablespoon with a dry Madeira or Marsala, but you can just increase the brandy or rum instead.

Sponge fingers

Italian Savoiardi biscuits are somewhat different than the French boudoir biscuits. The former are slightly bigger (so you need to use less) and lighter and drier, making for a lighter end result as pointed out by Cloake in the Guardian. The recipe below, therefore, specifies a smaller quantity of Savoiardi.

If you can’t buy any type of sponge fingers, you can make a thin sponge cake (I have done that when I lived in India and had no choice) and let it dry out in a low oven before using.

Mascarpone

You can’t make Tiramisu without good mascarpone. It doesn’t need anything else, and I don’t add any double cream etc. I like Smith’s recipe, which needs exactly 1 tub of mascarpone, which is 250g and no waste.

Coffee

The coffee used for dipping the biscuits needs to be very strong. If you have an espresso machine you can make several espressos to make up the quantity needed. Not the most economical, but the flavour will be good. I use an instant espresso coffee powder. This is much stronger than regular instant coffee and is remarkably good.

Garnish

The jury is out on whether we prefer just cocoa powder dusted on top, or chopped chocolate added on. My preference is just good cocoa powder. If you do use chocolate, as I have on this occasion, use really dark chocolate and chop it finely or grate it.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Print Recipe
Tiramisu
You can make the Tiramisu in a large flat glass dish, but I love making it in dainty individual portions. Glasses are good as you can see the layers through them. My portions are small (Smith’s recipe makes 6 portions from the same quantities). Leave the mascarpone out of the fridge for a few hours before using, so it softens easily. Overnight chilling is absolutely essential as it allows the flavours to meld together. Makes it an excellent make-ahead dinner party dessert where all you need to do is dust it with a little more cocoa (if needed) and serve it.
Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 0 min
Passive Time 12 hours
Servings
small serves
Ingredients
Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 0 min
Passive Time 12 hours
Servings
small serves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Carefully separate the yolks and whites and put 2 egg whites in a large clean mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer. (Store the remaining 1 egg white in the fridge or freeze for another purpose).
  2. Now with a hand-held beater or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, start whisking the egg whites. Once they are foamy, add about 1 tablespoon of the measured sugar and beat on high speed until soft peaks are formed.
  3. If using hand-held, put the egg yolks into another medium-sized bowl. (If using a stand mixer, transfer the whites to another bowl carefully. Use the same bowl and add the egg yolks into the now empty bowl.)
  4. Add the remaining sugar and whisk on high speed for about 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture forms a light, pale mousse. This is an important step to get a lovely light texture.
  5. Stir the room-temperature mascarpone to break up any lumps and to soften it a little. Then gradually beat in the egg yolk mixture. Between each addition, beat well until the mixture is smooth before adding more.
  6. Finally lightly fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture and then put the bowl to one side.
  7. Assembly: Pour the coffee and brandy (and Marsala if using) into a shallow dish.
  8. Next, dip one Savoiardi biscuit into the coffee at a time. Count up to 3 and then turn over. Count 1,2 and take them out. They absorb the liquid very quickly so don’t leave them in too long as they will get too soggy. Place 1 biscuit at the base of each glass (break it up if necessary).
  9. Then follow it up with a tablespoon of mascarpone mixture and a light dusting of cocoa. Use a sieve for the dusting of the cocoa, that’s the easiest.
  10. Repeat the whole process, putting 2 more layers next finishing with a mascarpone layer on top.
  11. Finish off with a generous layer of cocoa and chopped chocolate (if using).
  12. Cover the glasses with cling film then chill in the refrigerator for several hours, and preferably overnight. You can dust them again with a little cocoa before serving. Serve them well chilled.
Share this Recipe
%d bloggers like this: