How does one end a simple impromptu Italian dinner that started with a tomato, mozzarella and black sea salt salad, followed by a porcini and chanterelle risotto, served with a pork chop milanese and greens…? With a homemade tiramisu, of course! Luckily, this specialty of Mrs. MM was made the day before in anticipation of weekend munching in general and it just so happened to fit in with the theme of the Italian dinner. Everyone in MM’s household loves this dessert and we make it at least 3-4 times a year. I agree with Lori of DessertComesFirst that there are so many darned awful versions of tiramisu, but I do love the version that Mrs. MM makes, and so does The Kid. As long as you stay true to the basic tenets of the dessert, and you use top quality ingredients, you almost always end up with something worthy of ending a carefully cooked meal or just a couple of tablespoons for an afternoon “pick me up…”
The key to a superb tiramisu? Superb Italian ladyfingers (We have used Boholano broas to good results, but if you can get Italian ladyfingers instead, do it), copious amounts of real mascarpone, good strong coffee or espresso, organic eggs and coffee liqueur. It needs time in the fridge to set properly. Mrs. MM has been making this for years and she got her recipe from a Biba Caggiano cookbook many years ago, though she can’t recall which one. You will need, 8 large (9 local) organic egg yolks, 1/2 cup granulated white sugar, 1.5 pounds of mascarpone cheese, 4 large eggwhites, beaten in a bowl until STIFF peaks form, 2 cups of strong Italian espresso coffee, cold, 1/4 cup of brandy or coffee liqueur (Mrs. MM uses Kahlua), 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and grated semisweet chocolate for garnishing.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale yellow color with an electric mixer. Fold in the mascarpone until mixed thoroughly. Fold in the STIFF eggwhites gently until well fixed, but don’t overdo it or you will take all the air out of the eggs… In another bowl, combine coffee/espresso and brandy/liqueur. Dip the lady fingers briefly into the coffee mixture and line them up at the bottom of a 10×12 or 14 x 3 inch dish. Do NOT leave in liquid for long; you want the ladyfingers moistened but not soggy, I would say 2 second dip is more than adequate for a normal Italian ladyfinger, a fraction of a second shorter for local broas. Spread half the mascarpone mixture evenly over the ladyfingers. Sprinkle half the cocoa powder with a fine strainer. Dip the remaining ladyfingers in coffee and make another layer. Add the remaining mascarpone and even it out. Sprinkle with remaining half of cocoa powder. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at leat 8 hours. Just before serving, shave some chocolate and sprinkle over the cake… Delicious. It should have a hint of “cake” from the moistened ladyfingers, but too much. It should have the richness of the mascarpone that it not overly sweet and made richer still by organic eggs, and it should have enough chocolate flavor, coffee, and liqueur to truly pick you up!!!