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Tiramisu is one Italian dessert I love to make and to eat. In Italian it means “Pick me up.” The coffee and alcohol in it gives the eater a bit of energy afterward, or at least it counterbalances that heavy feeling from this deceptively rich and creamy dessert. The dessert is as much a symbol of Italy as the Leaninig tower of Pisa, pizza or pasta.
I made my own version of it for my cousins while I was visiting them in Palermo. It was a hit, and my cousin Salvatore, who “doesn’t eat desserts” gobbled up piece after piece and was asking for more. While we were eating the tiramisu, I mentioned that I thought French pastries were better than Italian pastries.
What was I thinking, maybe the coffee/sugar rush went straight to my head? Mouths stopped eating and spoons clinked against dessert plates as they contemplated what to do next. Never tell an Italian that you prefer ANYTHING French. By their expressions, you would think I insulted someone’s nonna or their national soccer team. The only thing that saved me from being kicked out of the house was that they wanted more tiramisu. After a lecture on all the Italian things that are so much better than the French, including a better national soccer team, they introduced me to many Italian sweets that I had never tasted before and some that I had never even heard of before. Sometimes sticking your foot in your mouth leads to good things.
In my version, I use chocolate and sugar to sweeten the imbibing syrup. I also top it with grated chocolate instead of the bitter cacao powder. I’ll share the rest of my sweet discoveries with you this week, which I’m calling Italian Sweet Week. Next up is pignolata. In the meantime, I hope you make and enjoy this pick me up of a dessert.
Makes One 13×9-inch pan
For the imbibing syrup:
4 cups strong coffee
1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, cut into small pieces; plus 1 ounce, grated
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Kahula liqueur
For the Zabaglione Cream Mixture:
9 egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
3 cups mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
24 savoiardi cookies
To make the imbibing syrup: Add the coffee, chocolate, sugar and liqueur to a saucepan and heat on low only to melt the chocolate and dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
To make the zabaglione: Heat about 3 cups water to a simmer in a deep pot. Place a round-bottomed heat resistant bowl over the simmering pot and add the yolks and sugar, whisking immediately and continuously until the mixture is pale yellow and thickened. Slowly whisk in the wine and continue whisking until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F and has tripled in volume. It should take about 10 minutes. The eggs should not cook too quickly. You should be able to grip the side of the top portion of the double-boiler without it being too hot. If the water is too hot, pull the top-portion of the double boiler off the heat to cool a bit, or it will cook the eggs too fast. Set aside to let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, mix the mascarpone to soften the texture. The secret to a light and smooth cream is to have all three of its components as equal as possible in texture and temperature before combining them. Add 1/3 of the zabaglione to the mascarpone and stir together to lighten the texture of the mascarpone. Fold 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture into the remaining zabaglione. Repeat until all the mascarpone has been added. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the zabaglione/mascarpone mixture, repeating until you have one cream mixture.
To prepare the tiramisu: Dip a savoiardi cookie into the imbibing syrup for about 2 seconds. (The cookie should not be soaked through.) Place the dipped cookie into a 13×9-inch pan and continue, creating two rows of dipped cookies. Spread half of the cream mixture onto the layer of cookies. Repeat to create another layer, dipping the cookies, creating two rows and spreading the other half of the cream mixture onto the top. Top with shaved chocolate and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Buon Appetito!
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