Thursday, February 11, 2010

Classic Tiramisu Recipe: An Italian dessert in Paris

Tiramisu for Two...An Italian Dessert in Paris

Happy Valentines's Day!  

In honor of this romantic holiday, I decided to post a recipe for grown-ups!  One of my husband's favorite desserts is tiramisu.  You know, the classic Italian dessert layered with espresso dipped ladyfingers and creamy mascarpone cheese.  Last summer when we went to Paris, we had dinner at Le Grand Colbert and for dessert enjoyed the most delicious tiramisu.  You can see mine in the picture above.  You might remember the restaurant from the Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson movie, Something's Gotta Give.  If you've seen the movie, you know that the main characters meet up in Paris for her birthday and enjoy dinner in this quintessential French brasserie.  The restaurant has been listed as a historical monument and is set in the heart of the 2nd district in Paris which borders the Palais Royal gardens.  It really is beautiful with the mosaic tiles and big brass lamps.
Inside Le Grand Colbert

Being American, and fond of the movie, we had to eat at Le Grand Colbert.  Riding the Metro at night was interesting, but the walk back through the City of Lights was amazing until we broke down and got a cab a few blocks from the Hotel.  I don't know how French women do it...heels are not conducive to walking on cobblestone streets.
Outside Le Grand Colbert

The dinner was very good, but the dessert was amazing.  This brings me to an interesting of our best desserts in Paris was actually Italian in origin.  In Italian, tiramisu literally means "to draw back" which is exactly how I feel, drawn back to Paris and the wonderful layered treat we enjoyed there.  The tiramisu was so delicious that I have been trying to recreate it since we've been home.  There are so many versions out there, but I think the best tasting is in fact the simple, classic version I have given below.  I tried to buy all the authentic ingredients and thanks to HEB Central Market, I pretty much did!  Most authentic recipes call for some type of alcohol to be mixed with the espresso.  I like a dark rum, although one recipe suggested 1/2 dark rum and 1/2 cognac, which I am sure is fabulous, I just used rum to save on money.  You could leave out the alcohol, but I don't think it would taste as good.  One option, especially if the whole family is going to enjoy the dessert, is to reduce the amount of rum by 1/3, so there will be a hint of flavor without a significant amount of alcohol.  You can layer the whole dessert in a glass cake pan or in a trifle dish, but I think individual servings are nice.  Just like we enjoyed in Paris.  So, Bon Appetite Italian style...
My Tiramisu!

Tiramisu Recipe
1 cup espresso, at room temperature
3 tablespoons dark rum
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar, divided in half
2 cups (250g) mascarpone
1 package of Bonomi ladyfingers
2-3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
unsweetened cocoa powder, for serving

Mix together the room temperature espresso and rum.  I used ground espresso in my French press.  You can brew your espresso in the coffee pot, just use a good espresso like Lily without a lot of water.  It needs to be strong.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they begin to get stiff. Beat in half of the sugar until stiff. Scrape the egg whites into a small bowl.

Using the same bowl you beat the egg whites, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until stiff and light-colored, about three minutes. Mix in the mascarpone by hand with a spatula or whisk, until lump-free.   Fold in half of the beaten egg whites, then the remaining half, just until fully incorporated.

First, submerge each ladyfinger in the espresso mixture for 5-10 seconds, until completely, utterly soaked. Dried ladyfingers will take longer to saturate than softer ones and I prefer their flavor.   You can break one ladyfinger in half to be sure. Layer the ladyfingers so that the bottom of your dish is covered.  Next, layer a heaping spoon full of the mascarpone cream over the soaked ladyfingers into each cup.  Grate a generous amount of chocolate over each.  Continue to layer with ladyfingers, mascarpone cream and grated chocolate until dish is full to top.  Dust with cocoa powder and refrigerate at least four hours, but preferably overnight (if you can wait that long).

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