Pick Me Up, Indeed!

The phrase 'tira mi su' means 'pick me up' in Italian. And since the dessert, tiramisu, has espresso or coffee and plenty of sugar, the phrase is an appropriate title for this very popular dessert. Unlike my mother and my husband, I have never been swept away by tiramisu. I have found it to be a little too boozy or coffee-flavored for me. And while I enjoy booze and caffeine as much as the next gal, they have never turned me on to this dessert.

After a successful creme brulee soiree, which you can read about here, my friend suggested we continue the pastry lessons and prepare tiramisu. A night of fun with the girls appealed to me even though the dessert did not. Also, I never pass up an opportunity to learn how to win Nate's heart through his stomach (again!).

Tiramisu is a simple dessert cake with these main components: ladyfingers, coffee, liquor, and a custard made with eggs, mascaporne and sugar. The liquor is traditionally marsala or amaretto wine or you might have tasted it with rum before. My friend, Brenda, who is our pastry chef instructor makes it with brandy.

Brenda's recipe is posted below and if you decide to try it out, here are a few tips that she gave us while making tiramisu. During the white whipping stage, she encouraged us to not overwhip as they must be a medium peak in order to create the correct texture of the custard. Additionally, when you combine the egg yolk and the white mixtures, she warned us frequently to be sure to be very gentle with the custard so that the custard remains light and soft.

The last secret is to dip your ladyfingers very quickly into the coffee mixture - I needed extra coaching on this step. If you dip the ladyfingers for too long it will give your tiramisu a soggy texture. The picture here illustrates this step and the creamy custard is in the background.

Brenda ensured me that this recipe would change my mind about tiramisu so instead of saving my tiramisu for Nate for the weekend, I served myself a small serving the next day. It was fantastic -- soft, light, and creamy. The coffee and the brandy were complements rather than the overpowering flavors I had experienced in the past. I found myself quickly finishing my portion and helping myself to a second portion. By the time Nate returned on Friday, 2/3 of the dessert was gone.

I am definitely 'picked up' by this tiramisu and since I ate most of Nate's dessert it is a good thing I know how to make more!

recipe courtesy of Brenda Uraski

10 eggs, separated
1 ½ cups sugar, separated
2 cups marscapone cheese
1 cup cream cheese

~6 cups strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature.
brandy (or preferred liquor) to taste - we used a whole small flask
1-2 packages hard lady fingers
1.5 cups grated fresh chocolate

Starting with room temperature eggs and cheeses is best.

Begin by mixing the desired amount of brandy into the coffee and letting it sit.

With the yolks and whites separated, begin by beating the yolks in high speed. When they begin to get thicker, add 1 cup of the sugar slowly to incorporate. Continue to beat until they are to the ribbon stage......thick and pale white. Add the cheeses at this point and beat until very smooth. Set aside.

Next, with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites on high. When they begin to get frothy and fuller, add the remaining ½ cup sugar and beat until almost stiff peaks (when you hold the whisk upside down, it should almost hold a point). At this point fold the whites into the yolk/cream mixture....very gently! Try to use as many gentle folds as possible, so as not to deflate all the air that has just been beat into the whites!

To construct the cake, dunk the lady fingers for just about a second into the cooled coffee mixture and line them up in your pan, nestled snugly against each other. Top the ladyfinger layer with the desired amount of cream. If you have more cream and ladyfingers, you can create a second layer. Top with the grated chocolate, cover and let chill overnight. Enjoy!!!

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