Can anyone tell me when Tiramisu became passe, a joke of 80’s dinner parties, resigned to the supermarket dessert aisle or chain Italian restaurants? Maybe if that’s the version you’re used to your distaste could be understood but for me tiramisu has never left my group of all time favourite desserts. Coffee and chocolate, a winning combo. Add some booze and a rich mascarpone custard and you’re on to a guaranteed winning dessert. Thats no to say I don’t have my own personal qualms regarding tiramisu, mainly those pesky whisked egg whites. Traditionally when you make the mascarpone custard you fold through whisked egg whites, to lighten the rich custard, to make a mousse like texture. There is nothing wrong per se with this but for me it also lightens the flavour and thats definitely not a good thing.
As the saying goes, when in Rome…eat gelato? Pizza? Pasta? tiramisu! I couldn’t go all the way and not try it at least once, right? On a recent trip I was determined to find a brilliant version, the best, my ultimate, but the truth is I was so hooked on my daily dose of gelato I often had no room for dessert at the end of the day. Whilst waiting a ridiculous one and half hours for dinner at Da Enzo in Travestere (the food is amazing but try and avoid the wait and book) I built up an appetite that was calling out for dessert. They only serve two dishes, both using the same mascarpone custard as their base. Served in tiny shot glasses, they might look a little insignificant but they are so rich, so creamy, there is no way you could eat more than one. The wild strawberry version was the simplest, just the mascarpone custard topped with wild strawberries, little intense nuggets of sweetness. Desserts don’t really get simpler than this but I would happily eat this any time I was in the restaurant. The second version, the tiramisu, must jump to the top of my top five tiramisu list. True, there’s nothing else on the list at the moment but this is a contender for all time favourite none the less. The reason it’s so good is the lack of whipped egg whites, the mascarpone custard is just that, a custard. The yolk based custard is dense and creamy and super concentrated in flavour, to my mind it’s just a better way of making tiramisu. I should also point out that hiding in the tiramisu was also a few little spoonfuls of nutella, yes you heard me right, nutella. Now don’t get me wrong I like Nutella as much as the next guy, and you know I ordered this tiramisu the second time we went to the restaurant, but when I make this at home I leave it out. In an attempt to convince myself that leaving it out makes the dessert a little healthier, I sadly forgo the nutella. Making my version with the added nutella could be a risky move, starting an obsession I’d struggle to break, plus their version certainly didn’t need any help being more rich. No my version is a little more classic but does takes inspiration from the restaurant and the resulting dish is a true delight. Yes its a bit 80’s, yes every dinner party once served it, but you know what? Thats rightly so, it’s a delicious dessert and it deserves to be back on the dining room table. Next time you come to my house for dinner, I might even make it for you.
Before the recipe a quick note on the ingredients. The alcohol traditionally called for is Marsala which is something I don’t regularly have on hand. I went with rum because, a) I have it in the house regularly and b) I think it makes a better pairing with everything else in the dessert. For the sponge fingers I went with the traditional, savoiardi biscuits, but these can be a little tricky to come by if you don’t have a good Italian deli near by. You can also you the French sponge fingers, boudoir, which most UK supermarkets sell but be a little more careful when dipping them in the coffee as they tend to end up a little soggier.
200ml espresso (or very strong coffee)
2-4 tbsp rum
3 large egg yolks
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
85g savoiardi biscuits
Cocoa powder for dusting
To make the tiramisu mix together the espresso and rum in a shallow bowl then set aside whilst you make the custard. Place the yolks, sugar and vanilla into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and using an electric mixer whisk until the yolks are pale and fluffy, not unlike the finished texture of homemade mayonnaise. Remove from the heat and whisk for a couple minutes until cooled. Add in the mascarpone and whisk to combine.
To assemble break the biscuits into smaller pieces and dip briefly into the coffee mixture. Layer the biscuits into small glasses and gently pack them into a flat layer. Top each one with a couple spoonfuls of the custard and dust with a little cocoa powder.
Repeat the process a second time but finishing with a more liberal dusting of cocoa to create a thin layer. Pop the desserts in the fridge for about 2 hours before serving. The benefit of not whipping the egg whites is the dessert is ready to serve a lot sooner.
Serve straight from the fridge