Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

Tiramisu: February Daring Bakers Challenge

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.

This was a very exciting challenge for me. Exciting  because I’ve always wanted to make my own tiramisu, but challenging because I never expected to have to make all of the individual components from scratch too. I mean, even the mascarpone cheese! And the added bonus of zabaglione. Seriously?! But amazingly, I did it! And I have to say, from a completely biased position, it was one of the most delicious recipes I’ve ever produced. I’m still working on my presentation skills, and trying to get the things I make to look perfect, but on flavor alone I was pretty damn proud of myself.

The Daring Bakers’ challenge is a really exciting activity, because though I have a super busy schedule, I’ve got a whole month to get this thing done, and it’s always something that I wouldn’t make without some serious motivation. With Daring Bakers, I have no choice not to make it, so I do, and it’s incredibly rewarding. Even though this is only my third month, it was by far the most rewarding process and result. I took about 100 pictures, and had my family trying tastes at every stage — it was so much fun! It took days — literally — to make, but it was so completely worth the effort. I made the lady fingers (which I found out aren’t actually that tasty on their own) on Thursday, the mascarpone, pastry cream, and zabaglione on Friday, and assembled everything Saturday morning so it could sit for the day before being served Saturday night. I was daring and I decided I was going to invert the entire thing when I finished, which was honestly a bit daunting, but ultimately came out looking so cool!

The first step was the lady fingers, and I had to make those in my dorm. As most people know, dorms aren’t exactly set up to be culinary meccas, and my room is no different. You can barely fit one person and a cutting board in the kitchen, never mind one person and her entire arsenal of baking utensils and ingredients. But somehow I managed to clear enough space to whip together these cookies, and I got to use my new cake-decorating pastry bag (and fun flower tip) and my pink handheld mixer. The ladyfingers were a lot easier to make than I’d thought, and they seemed pretty fool proof. The later batches melted a little bit, so they weren’t as pretty and fluffy as the first couple of batches, but I used my silpat which always makes such a huge difference. After all of the batter/dough (which is it?) was baked off, the results were encouraging. Step one was complete!

The next step was a bit more daunting — to make all three of the creamy components for the cream base. Before this challenge, I’d have never thought to make my own cheese — I’ve looked at recipes for homemade ricotta and mascarpone before, but never really considered it. Those seem like the types of ingredients that you hit up the market for — otherwise, what’s it there for?! But a challenge is a challenge, so I set out to make it, and after some very unsuccessful cream-heating, the mascarpone came together perfectly, and after putting a soupy mess to strain overnight in a cheesecloth, I woke the next morning to a beautiful, creamy cheese, and do you know the best part? It tasted exactly like mascarpone cheese! It was magical, and I completely mean that.

Next came the zabaglione, which came together in a flash. One second I was swirling some egg yolks, marsala, and sugar over a double boiler, and the next second I had a luscious and very intensely flavored custard sitting in front of me. It was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted — the flavor was very rich and powerful, but so incredible. How neat! I love discovering new dessert elements.

Last for that night was the pastry cream, which I was least worried about, because I’ve made pastry cream many times in the past. This cream was a bit different, but it still came together nicely, and had a smooth lemon-vanilla flavor. Upon it’s completion, I took a final few photographs, then wrapped up my creamy components and set them outside in the bitter cold to “chill” (yes, pun intended) for the night. Everything had come out well, and with the exception of my worries about how the mascarpone would set, I was content enough to sleep like a rock. Being in the bed that I’ve slept in for who knows how many years sure delivers a good night’s sleep — there’s nothing like home. Before I tucked in, I set out ingredients for The World’s Best Coffee Cake. That would be priority #1 for the morning, followed by Operation: Tiramisu.

I was back at it bright and early, and had the cake in the oven before my Mom even got out of bed! The timing was impeccable. After the cake was completed (and quite happily consumed), I made the espresso syrup for the tiramisu, checked the creams (all looked great!), and picked a pan for it all to go into. The rest from here is pretty much history — I followed the recipe, and ended up with a big casserole dish full of espresso-soaked cookies and the creamiest, most delicious, most decadent (my Dad’s favorite word) filling. You can be sure I liked those bowls until there was nothing left.

After dinner I flipped the tiramisu over, holding my breath the whole time. But there was no need — it unmolded perfectly, and it was such a beautiful sight. It was the icing on the cake (or the cocoa powder on the tiramisu, if we’re being technical here) to see it come out so perfectly. I just had to parade it through the dining room before photographing — usually I don’t like to show off, but this time I was o proud of myself. After that, it got a generous dusting of cocoa, and it’s 5 minutes of photographing fame. Good thing I got those first pictures too, because the second I “sliced” into it, the entire masterpiece became a giant pile of cookies and cream. Not that I’m complaining. It easily served 10 people, but with no leftovers! That fact was quite disappointing, but hearing the praise and seeing all of the happy faces was enough reward to make up for the lack of leftovers.

I’ve always loved tiramisu, but this has brought the idea of tiramisu to a whole new level. It’s a commitment, but it was so worth it. And I feel like I genuinely accomplished something.

Think you’ve got what it takes?

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



  • Ingredients:
  • 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:
  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.
  5. For the pastry cream:
  6. 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.
  7. Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  8. 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.)
  9. 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.
  10. For the whipped cream:
  11. 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.
  12. To assemble the tiramisu:
  13. Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
  14. Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
  15. 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.
  16. Now to start assembling the tiramisu...
  17. Workings 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese
(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.

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.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

Ladyfingers/ Savoiardi Biscuits
(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 until required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes