Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Tiramisu

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.

Ta da!  My tiramisu charlotte

Our challenges for this month were to make:
A. Tiramisu (includes zabaglione and vanilla pastry cream)
B. Mascarpone Cheese
C. Ladyfinger/Savoiardi Biscuits
When I first copied the challenge into a Word document, I was overwhelmed by the ten pages it consumed. But where's the fun in life if you don't take the bull by the horns? When all was said and done, this really wasn't that bad of a challenge. It was, dare I say it? Almost too easy. I should probably count my blessings though, given it was my first challenge! My biggest struggle was breaking everything down into a time line that fit around my schedule. Here's what I would recommend:
Day 1: Make mascarpone cheese and ladyfingers.
Day 2: Make zabaglione and vanilla custard.
Day 3 (or later in Day 2 if you start early enough): Assemble tiramisu.

Making the ladyfingers was a breeze and the mascarpone wasn't too bad either. I have to be honest though; I ended up having to use ultra-pasteurized whipping cream because after searching five grocery stores and specialty stores here in Austin, I couldn't find non-ultra pasteurized WC anywhere. I know Texas has some funny laws regarding milk products and pasteurization, so I don't know if I just didn't look hard enough or it's not widely available/legal. And another thing: I have no idea how to determine the fat content on whipping cream because they don't effing publish it on the side of the carton. Grrr!

The day before the party, I had to hit the grocery store after work and make dinner before I could start the zabaglione and custard, so once they were completed, I put them in the freezer for about 45 minutes to speed things up since bedtime was rapidly approaching and I didn't have the luxury of waiting out the mandatory four hours.

I got a little creative in my presentation and decided to make my tiramisu into a charlotte instead of the traditional presentation. I lined a bowl with plastic wrap and then lined the ladyfingers inside the bowl, using a pastry brush to soak them with coffee. Then I started layering it on the inside until I reached the top. I had created about 30 ladyfingers and one 6" round ladyfinger to place on top. Then I weighted it down with a small plate while it chilled in the fridge.


I gotta tell ya, this was hands down the BEST tiramisu I have ever tasted...and I have had the pleasure of tasting quite a few in my lifetime.

For the zabaglione, vanilla custard, whipping cream, and tiramisu construction: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007
For the mascarpone cheese: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese
For the ladyfingers: Cordon Bleu At Home

To make the Mascarpone cheese
500 ml whipping (36%) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.

Kelly's notes: I had a problem with the majority of the cream mixture seeping through the cheesecloth into the bowl. This was probably because I used the ultra-pasteurized whipping cream. Several participants also had trouble getting the mixture up to 190F, but I used a metal bowl over the double boiler and had no trouble at all.


To make the Ladyfingers/Savoiardi Biscuits
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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.  Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Kelly's Notes: I highly recommend doing two things: 1) use a big ziploc bag for the piping and 2) use a big bowl to mix this all in. Egg whites are deceiving little buggers!

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 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
  1. 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.
  2. Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
Kelly's Notes: I did not have lemons, but miniature clementine oranges were sitting in the fruit bowl, so I used them instead.  I highly recommend orange instead of lemon–it was an incredible tasting!

For the whipped cream
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
  1. 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.
My mis en place, ready to go for tiramisu construction! Clockwise from left: warmed coffee and sugar mixture, whipping cream, lady fingers in bowl with plastic wrap, ladyfingers for layering and mascarpone, zabaglione, and vanilla pastry cream.

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
  1. Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
  2. Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
And there you have it!  I know it's a lot of information to take in, but seriously, you won't be disappointed if you give this bad boy a try.  And before you even ask, I really don't think there is a way to reduce the fat and calories in this (I don't even want to think about how many are in it!), so plan on making and eating this for a very special occasion.

Happy Baking!

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