Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge for February: Tiramisu

Like so many other members of the Daring Bakers, I was both pleased and a little nervous at the prospect of making tiramisu completely from scratch for the February challenge. This particular version of tiramisu contains no fewer than four separate recipes--homemade mascarpone cheese, zabaglione, pastry cream, and ladyfingers! Not to mention sweetened whipped cream as well. It took some time to prepare the main components, let most of them chill, and then to assemble the final dish. The best aspect of the challenge, for me, involved successfully making some nice ladyfingers. The mascarpone cheese process was pretty interesting, too.

What did I really think of my tiramisu once it was done? Well, while the final product was intriguing and tasty, I must admit I had some reservations about it. The fluffy filling contains citrus zest, for one thing, and that particular flavor profile was slightly too evident, I thought. Were I to make a tiramisu again, I think I'd omit the citrus zest, and refrain from mixing the mascarpone cheese, zabaglione, pastry cream, and whipped cream all together. It seemed to me there was just a little too much going on in this creamy mixture and some of the qualities of the individual components got lost in the shuffle. (I wonder if anyone else who did this challenge may have felt that way too? Maybe it was just me . . . )

I veered from the recipe below by using coffee and a little Kahlua in the zabaglione sauce, instead of port wine or Marsala, and I also used coffee mixed with a bit of Kahlua to soak the ladyfingers.

All in all, though, I must say I thought this challenge was well worth my time, and I learned some useful lessons while preparing it. Many thanks to Deeba and Aparna for conceiving this challenge and sharing it with us!

(While the photos below are mine, the blurb and recipes come directly from the Daring Bakers website.)
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"The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession."


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water. In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency. Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth. Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling. Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.) Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface. It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours. Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper. Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy. Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips. Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness. Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar. Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft. Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack. Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu. Working quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered. Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight. To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Snooky doodle said...

what an interesting post. wish to try making this from scratch :)

Mary said...

It looks great! I think yours is the only one I've seen with the ladyfingers on the top, and what a great choice. The ladyfingers are lovely, and more so with the cocoa dusted on top.

Poires au Chocolat said...

Looks great!

I know what you mean about the cream having so many elements - it does seem a shame to just mix them all up. I did wonder about doing a kind of deconstructed layers idea - perhaps even just not folding the cream in and having two different layers in each bit.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very well done! That Tiramisu looks lovely and the ladyfingers are perfect!



Jane said...

Hi Snooky,
Good luck should you decide to make your own tiramisu. Thanks very much! Jane

Hi Mary,
Looks like a lot of the Daring Bakers came up with really creative and beautiful presentations for theirs. I wasn't feeling sure enough of the process, I guess, to do anything too out of the box since I'd never made it before. Thanks for your very nice comments!
Jane :)

Hi Poires,
I like your idea of the deconstructed layers. Doing it that way sounds pretty interesting to me. I'm sorry to say my completed dessert was not too popular with my family, unfortunately. Oh well, I did enjoy all the tasks, though, and like I said in the post, I think it was a good learning experience.
Many thanks for your comment,
Jane :)

Hello Rosa--
You are always sweet and encouraging!

jenniew3478 said...

I love everything you make
I pay close to anything cake or chocolate.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos Jane! I love you addition of Kahlua to the espresso. I didn't get much coffee flavor in my finished dish, so maybe I'll try to tip next time.

Deeba PAB said...

This is beautifully done. Love the perfect fingers, and how well you brought it all together! YAY!!

Kate at Serendipity said...

Jane, BRAVA for making all this from scratch! I love your photos, too. Those ladyfingers are amazing.

I think you're right about there being too much going on in there. When I learned to make tiramisu in Italy, it didn't have the pastry cream or the zabaglione. It didn't have cream in it. It was just marscapone mixed with the egg yolks and sugar, then mixed with the whipped egg whites. Lots lighter, lots of room for other flavors.

I love seeing all the different presentations of this dish. How on earth did you manage to cut that without it all squishing all over the place???

vibi said...

Wow! Even done in a freeform style, you've managed to master perfect shape and cuts! WOW! No place for maybes or almosts... I was sure not to be as skillful as you, so I took the easy way out.

This is truly worthy of great italian masters! Brava!

Anonymous said...

This looks fantastic! And all from scratch -- bravo. Thanks for stopping by squirrel bread. We're in south Texas right now, Corpus Christi. The weather is topping out in the upper 60s/low 70s these days, so the flowers are very happy and so are we! Can't wait to drop in here more often.



ice tea: sugar high said...

Love how neat your tiramisu is. Great job

Vegan Von Vittle said...

Your tiramisu looks great! I love how you put the ladyfingers on top!

• friX • said...

This tiramisu looks perfect!

fairy_mi said...

Your tiramisu version is beautiful-
so soft and creamy… Beautifully done!
Great job

(also a DB)