How do you like it

On observing my weary disposition and puffy eyes, a perky Northern-European neo-mother at my Wednesday morning mum-in suggested I had a shot of wheatgrass. I was poised to tell her I was allergic to chlorophyll and perkiness but she’d already moved on and was busy informing the Mamma of the baby that looks like a mini Billy Joel, that she should give up sugar and take up Bikram yoga. Later that same week I met my Venetian friend Francesca. After commiserating each other on our continuing sleep deprivation and being extremely uncharitable about perky Mothers, green juice and sweaty yoga, Francesca suggested I had a shot of Tiramisù. 

Tiramisù, well made, is a fiendishly good pudding. A sort of extra-boozy, fruitless, caffeinated trifle dredged with cocoa. It’s prepared – constructed really – by alternating layers of Savoiardi or sponge biscuits soaked in espresso and dark rum with a soft, pale cream made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar and more booze and finished with an extremely liberal dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder. Literally translated Tiramisù means pull-me-up or pick-me-up. It is a pick-me-up of considerable force, but one that shouldn’t impose or sit heavily. Rather it should delight and leave you wanting more more more.

After gelato - which isn’t really a pudding, more a way of life - Tiramisù is (probablyItaly’s most popular and ubiquitous dolce! You’ d be hard pressed to find a restaurant or trattoria that doesn’t have a vast cocoa dredged tray (to be served in much the same way as lasagna) or a cluster of individual Tiramisù in their fridge. It is however a relatively recent invention. Apparently – and who I am to doubt it – the original was created in the 1970′s at the restaurant Le Beccherie in Treviso. The idea caught on, and today there are as many recipes, tips and Tiramisù secrets as there are Tiramisù cooks.

I’m no native, but I’ve eaten my fair share of good, indifferent and downright bad slices, pots and glasses of Tiramisù.  Two of the good ones were in fact eaten in my neighbourhood: Testaccio. One, a properly boozy, well dusted, neat, squat bowlful, at Perilli. The other, an altogether more chaotic, tumbling affair served al bicchiere at the osteria built into a hill of broken pots: Flaviovalevodetto. Purists may need to look away, my recipe is a muddle of both these fine pick-me-ups along with a healthy splash of advice from Francesca, Russell Norman, a sweet guy called Josh I met on a tour and a woman I bumped into on the 30 bus.

Begin as you do your day, by making coffee: a strong, dark espresso. You need 150 ml for the Tiramisù, so make 200 ml and inhale a double. While the coffee is cooling, make your cream by gently whisking together the egg yolks with some of the sugar and a good glug of Marsala wine before adding the mascarpone and the mounted egg whites. Set the cream aside. Now stir the rest of the sugar and the rum to the warm coffee. From here on it’s all about assembly. I work one glass at a time.

Now I’m going to be long-winded – which is nothing new I know – because it matters. For each glass you will use two biscuits. Submerge a biscuit in the coffee mixture until it is sodden but not collapsing. Gently break the biscuit in two and tuck half in the base of the glass. Spoon over a tablespoon of your cream before placing the other half of the biscuit gently on top and covering it with another spoonful of cream. Using a fine sieve dust the surface with cocoa powder. Take another biscuit, dunk it in the cream and eat it. Take another biscuit and soak it, again break it in half and then place both halves side by side on top of the coaca dusted cream. Cover the surface with more cream. Repeat this process with the other 5 glasses. Store the glasses in the fridge for at least 8 hours, at least, so they are absolutely set. Before serving dust the surface of each pot very liberally with more cocoa powder. Eat.

I’m not sure why, but Tiramisù tastes better when eaten from a glass! Ideally a stout tumbler. The modest depth and sloping sides provide a perfect vessel for the six graduating layers (sponge, cream, sponge, cream, sponge, cream.) Actually nine layers if you include the cocoa, which can be sprinkled on top of each of the three layers of cream. A glass tumbler is also the perfect way to both display your imperfect layers and contain the inevitable chaos as you plunge your teaspoon down to the bottom of the glass in order to get a perfect spoonful. The perfect spoonful being: a soft clot of coffee and rum soaked sponge, a nice blob of pale, quivering cream, a good dusting of cocoa and just a little of the coffee and rum pond at the bottom of the glass.  Are you still with me? No! Maybe you need a shot of Tiramisù?

Notes. The espresso should be strong and freshly brewed. The Rum and Marsala needn’t be particularly fine, but obviously not rough-as-hell. That said, better quality booze makes for a finer pick-me-up. If you can’t find Marsala then you can replace it with a tablespoon of Rum. Mascarpone is a soft, rich cream cheese made by curdling thick cream with citric acid. It is lactic loveliness itself. If you have never used it before, I suggest you start now, with this recipe.

I am indebted to Russell Norman for his Tiramisù making technique in his super-stupendous book Polpo! By dipping each biscuit individually in the coffee and rum mixture you ensure each one is well soaked but not too sodden. His instructions for how to break and layer the biscuits  - again purists may need to look away – are great so I have included them almost word-for-word. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m feeling a little jaded! I think I might just need a little something to pick-me-up. Wheatgrass, I mean really!

Tiramisù

Inspired by Tiramisù at Perilli and Flaviovalevodetto in Testaccio. Adapted from Polpo with advice from Francesca, Josh and a nice woman at the bus stop.

Makes 6 glasses (Ideally 150 ml Duralex tumblers)

  • 150 ml strong, warm espresso coffee
  • 2 tbsp dark rum or brandy
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 12 Savoiardi biscuits /sponge fingers
  • 3 eggs
  • 250 ml mascarpone
  • 80ml Marsala
  • excellent cocoa powder for dusting liberally

Mix the warm espresso coffee with the rum and 50 g of sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Separate the eggs – yolks in one bowl, whites in another.  Add the Marsala and the remaining 80 g of sugar to the egg yolks and whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy before adding the mascarpone and stirring it in carefully. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently but firmly fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture with a metal spoon.

For each glass you will use two biscuits. Submerge a biscuit in the coffee mixture until it is sodden but not collapsing. Gently break the biscuit in two and tuck half in the base of the glass. Spoon over a tablespoon of your cream before placing the other half of the biscuit gently on top and covering it with another spoonful of cream. Using a fine sieve dust the surface with cocoa powder. Take another biscuit, soak it, again break it in half and then place both halves side by side on top of the coaca dusted cream. Cover the surface with more cream.

Repeat this process with the other 5 glasses. Store the glasses in the fridge for at least 8 hours, so they are absolutely set. Before serving dust the surface of each pot very liberally with more cocoa powder. Eat.

50 Comments

Filed under cream, Eating In Testaccio, food, In praise of, Puddings, rachel eats Italy, Rachel's Diary, recipes

50 responses to “How do you like it

  1. This looks delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever made tiramisu with Marsala in the mascarpone mixture but I will try it next time. I use a recipe I got from a Japanese friend’s mum who used to live in Milan and it always tastes so good!

  2. Aly

    my Italian chef taught us how to add whipped heavy cream to the creamy mass of mascarpone… also why do most recipes for tiramisu call for store bought Savoiardi buscuits? We made our own very satisfying cookies and they’re pretty easy to do. If you come across a recipe can you share?

  3. I like to use a mix of espresso and baileys to soak the sponge fingers in …definatley a pick me up :)

  4. the cookbook looks fantastic. are the measures metric? do you know?

    Other than that – i am a huge fan of your blog!! thank you so much for all the delight you bring to my kitchen.

    • rachel

      It is so such a nice book and I am cooking like a crazy lady from it. Yes it is all metric! Thanks and it’s great to have you here.

  5. Oh Rachel, how I love you! Tiramisu it is then. And, wheat grass? Really?

    • rachel

      I know, I mean really. Go on Kath, make the tiramisu, The girls are a little small still, so two for husband four for you.
      Walking is about to happen – there is rather too much falling and banging going on for my liking.

  6. Tiramisu is a favorite of mine, and I had no idea it means pick-me-up!

  7. Amy

    Oh I love tiramisu! Sadly I almost never have it (and I’ve never made it). I think it’s trendy here in America to have a sturdy piece of tiramisu cut out from a dish like a big slab of cake. Do they do that in Italy at all? What do I know, but it seems like I’d like it a little more sloppy and imperfect so it has to be eaten out of a dish. I love your individual tumbler size. Anyway, lovely post as always, and thanks for sharing!

    • rachel

      Tiramisù is mostly made in a large dish or tray at home. Although in trattoria they usually have little dishes or bowls. I have eaten some good (and very bad) slices but yes I prefer a soft slightly sloppy glassful. A brilliantly simple, super-suberb pudding, I hope you try!

  8. I like this idea of using glasses versus a huge pan. I want one right now.

  9. hi… so here you are… remember me? and i come back to you and there it is. my fave. it’s just so you to do this… (sigh)

    • rachel

      Of course i do, You are after one of of my cooking/blogging hero’s. I miss ccok eat fret. Having said that I keep up with your antics on Facebook. Go on make this for the cocktail guru!

  10. makingromaroma

    Hooray! I made my first tiramisu not too long ago, and while it was quite good (hard to go wrong with booze, biscuits and cream), I found myself wondering how you might make it. I’m continually amused that an English woman has become my go-to resource for Italian food.

    It seems every mom’s group has at least one of those types. She’s probably stretch-mark free with chiseled yoga arms, too. I can empathize.

    • rachel

      Brava, not a stetch mark in sight. Very smug. Bland too. Amazing arms though but amazing arms are overrated.
      I am flattered and happy to be a point of reference. By the way I don’t think I said how great your stuffed tomatoes looked, having someone make and post about a recipe is so very lovely

  11. Oh my yes, this recipe is just what I needed. The glasses are a brilliant idea, so much better than the lasagna tray you mentioned. But a supply of these in my fridge could be dangerous…

  12. So I’m looking at my espresso and willing it to transform into your tiramisu…That’s the kind of pick-up I like. And your photos are so lovely.

    • rachel

      So I’m looking at my espresso while I read your message far too early this morning (as my boy pulls everything out of every cupboard) and wishing it would transfrom into a triple. It is the best kind of pick-me-up after gin and tonic.

  13. It needs to be in a glass—as you suggest. Lovely, indeed. And, the best part of your long-windedness…” Take another biscuit, dunk it in the cream and eat it.”

  14. Rachel, far far better than wheatgrass. Have an extra glass of tiramisu for me.

  15. That’s the way I like my Tiramisu too. In a glass. It’ actually more of an excuse to eat more than I would normally eat from a tray.
    I have no idea what wheatgrass is, but I would stay the heck away from it. Especially when there’s Tiramisu in this world.

    • rachel

      Magda I think we would get on very well indeed. I just sorry you don’t live down the raod, we could go for a tiramisù this afternoon!

  16. laura

    Oh, Rachel … what would we do without you? An added value of this post was reading Claudia’s comment. As I don’t “do” FB, I had no idea she was still posting somewhere and I have missed her Cook Eat Fret so much. Am off today to go across the pond but will try to check in as often as I can … YOU are my tiramisù!

    • rachel

      Most of the really important people in my life don’t do Facebook. I wish I didn’t! Which is a lame thing to say as I do. At least it means I can keep up with racy ladies like Claudia and her dashing cocktail geru chap. We need to bombard her and make her write CEF again.
      As readers go, you are a tip top tiramisù too.

  17. I’ll take an extra dunked biscuit, my own precious tiramisu in a glass, and then a leisurely stroll over wheatgrass and bikram hot yoga any day!
    (I also gave up on solid sleep, sigh, a long time ago…)

  18. Yes, please, most definitely!

  19. I do love Flavio’s version, especially bcs I agree wholeheartedly with the piece of wisdom he once gave – cocoa on top always stick to the roof of my mouth & my teeth and leaves a nasty bitter taste. I much prefer it when it is incorporated to the lower levels of the glass, so there is some on each spoon, but not on top.

    • rachel

      Tiramisù wisdom, I will make a note of in the post. ! That said I quite like the bitter, dusty cocoa hitting and clinging weirdly the roof of my mouth especially if it is good cocoa. But then as child I was intrigued by the impossible lightness of it and ate it by the spoonful.

  20. Pingback: In our absence… « The Garum Factory

  21. You just inspired me to make a Tiramisu …. What lovely photos and beautiful writing … as always. And I agree with you, stay away from wheatgrass … yuck!

  22. “[A]llergic to chlorophyll and perkiness”—bravo!

  23. this is happening very, very soon. ;)

  24. Strangely enough the best tiramisu I have ever eaten can be found in a restaurant in Athens, owed by an Italian guy off course!

    • rachel

      Even stranger is that I’ve had some excellent Tiramisù in London. I also ate the worse Tiramisù I have ever had the misfortune to encounter in London. Talking of Athens I have been dreaming of galaktoboureko lately……

  25. I love tiramisu and I love the idea of single servings in a glass. Not only will it prevent me from eating the entire batch, but it seems perfect for a cold night on a couch curled up with a book. I bought the tiniest little silver spoons at the flea market last week and they are just asking to scoop up marasala-soaked biscuit and marscarpone cheese dusted with cocoa powder. Thank you for sharing! Wonderful post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s