Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Tiramisu - the ultimate dessert for entertaining?

My parents-in-law are over to visit for a few days and they always feed us well so we wanted to make something a bit special for dinner. My wife made a lovely Jamie Oliver recipe, roasted butterflied leg of lamb with chickpeas, yoghurt and tray-roasted veg (courtesy of my sister-in-law), and I was on dessert duty. This is unusual for me, as my wife is the baker in the household, but I fancied having another bash at the tiramisu recipe I had (successfully) made a few years previously from The Food of Italy: A Journey for Food Lovers.

Tiramisu is pretty easy to make and, useful when entertaining, can be made almost entirely ahead of time - indeed, it actually benefits from a bit of time in the fridge for the flavours to soak and develop. It also doesn't involve any cooking and, being entirely made of yummy ingredients, it's probably quite hard to actually make it taste bad. The Tiramisu I made was slightly modified from the book:
5 eggs (separated)
170g caster sugar
300g mascarpone
250ml cold strong coffee
3 tbsp Amaretto
Enough sponge fingers for two layers (approx. 36)
40-80g dark chocolate
The recipe says "serves 4" but I would say this serves 6-8! It's quite simple. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with the sugar until it's smooth and then beat in the mascarpone, again until smooth. In another (very clean) bowl, beat the egg whites until they make soft peaks. (The transformation of egg whites during beating has to be one of cooking's wonders - made no less wonderful because we understand the science behind it.) Then fold the egg whites into the yolk/sugar mix.

Then it's time to assemble. Get a square dish (approx. 25cm x 25cm) to make the Tiramisu in and another shallow dish for dunking the sponge fingers, into which mix the coffee and Amaretto. The original recipe uses brandy or sweet Marsala wine and I've had a delicious alcohol-free version (made by an Italian), so there is some flexibility here.

To assemble, take sponge fingers, dunk them in the coffee to soak some up and cover the bottom of the dish in a single layer. You want to plan to soak up about half of the liquid. I was a bit stingy with the first layer. It worked out fine in the end but you can always make more coffe, so it might be worth being bold with your soakage if in doubt. (Just don't soak up enough to risk the integrity of your sponge fingers.) If your dish an awkward size/shape, I would encourage a (literal) dry run, as once you have placed a coffee-soaked sponge finger, you won't be able to move it. Cover the layer of sponge fingers with half of the egg/mascarpone mix. Repeat with another layer of coffee-soaked sponge fingers. If you have too much coffee/booze mix left, you can gently spoon some more over the fingers to let them soak up some more. (I did this as I had quite a bit left. It's impressive how much they can soak up!) Spread the rest of the egg/mascarpone mix on top and smooth.

At this point, you can cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight (or eat it straight away). When it's time to serve, grate the dark chocolate over the top for a generous covering. The recipe said 80g but this seemed rather excessive for the size of dish that I had. I only used about 40g in the end, which gave a good covering and so I stopped grating due to a combination of laziness and impatience! When dished up, it did look a bit stingy, so I would probably recommend about 60g for next time.


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