Tiramisù is one of those Italian desserts that is regularly found on restaurant dessert menus, yet rarely reaches its potential when tasted. I usually won’t order it for that reason, but every now and again if I’m at an Italian restaurant and I’ve had a serving of spectacular homemade pasta, then I know I can order it safely. Because if the restaurant has passed my ‘Pasta Test’ its likely their tiramisù will deliver too.
Translated from Italian, Tiramisù literally means pick-me-up (Tira-mi-sù) in reference to the coffee and alcohol found inside. It is a layered dessert made with Italian biscuits dipped in alcohol infused coffee and a mascarpone, sugar and egg mixture that is light, fluffy and silky (well it is when made correctly).
The origin of the dessert is somewhat uncertain. There are many myths about where it came from and the most popular is that it was prepared for Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici on a visit to Siena. But then just as quickly, other regions claim their version is the true version. This sort of uncertainty is common with Italian dishes as every town in each region of Italy has their own special dish or way of preparing a dish that they claim is all theirs. It is part of the fun of travelling around Italy – sampling the foods that each town claims as their specialty. Certainly my fathers home town, Quintodecimo in Ascoli Piceno, is known for their stuffed olives called Olive all’Ascolana.
Tiramisù is the perfect dish for new year dinner parties scheduled with friends you didn’t get a chance to see before Christmas. While it can be hard to find spectacular versions of the dish at many restaurants, it is actually a very easy dessert to make and serve in your own home to impress guests. My Christmas Day Tiramisù garnered the most spectacular feedback from our guests many of whom stated they were not dessert lovers before trying the Tiramisù. That’s the beauty of the dish, it isn’t overly sweet thanks to the Mascarpone cheese. The best piece of advice I can give, and perhaps the most surprising, is that you can make it well in advance and freeze it until required. I still incredulously smile when it defrosts perfectly tasting like the day it was made.
As this is the last day of the year, I wanted to take this time to wish you all a wonderful New Year celebration and to thank everyone who has visited Chew Town or cooked its recipes in 2013. Your wonderful emails and spectacular feedback and support really does make it all worthwhile – I especially love receiving photos of your completed Chew Town dishes!
Next year Chew Town will be starting a new series called ‘Ciao Town’ which I suspect will become a project that shall take the rest of my life to complete. Ciao Town will start as a quarterly post featuring a different town or city of Italy following recent and future trips to my family’s homeland. In January I look forward to transporting you all to Quintodecimo, a very small town in the Marche region which just happens to be the place my father was born. It is a spectacular country town with rich soil, wonderful people and the sort of fresh produce you can only dream of.
4 eggs separated
4 tablespoons caster sugar
250g mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups cold black coffee (from stovetop cafetiera or coffee machine)*
60ml Frangelico liqueur
18 – 24 savoiardi biscuits or pavesini biscuits**
Good quality cooking chocolate
Combine coffee and Frangelico in a shallow dish and set aside
Beat egg yolks and caster sugar together until pale yellow and thickened. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the mascarpone to the egg whites and stir through until just blended. Add egg yolk mixture and fold through with a wooden spoon until just combined. Set aside.
Decide if you are making one large serving to be portioned and served on individual plates or 4 individual servings in glassware. Either way, you will need to layer the Tiramisù as follows.
Dip savoiardi biscuits individually in the coffee mixture quickly on each side then place in the base of the dish (do not leave the biscuits any longer or they will disintegrate). Repeat until the base of the dish (or glass) is covered. Top with 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture and then top with grated chocolate. Repeat layers two more times ending with cream and grated chocolate.
Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.
My mother always makes this in advance and freezes until required. Just remove from the freezer at least two hours prior to serving.
* This really does need to be made from coffee from an espresso machine or stovetop cafetiera.
** Pavesini biscuits are smaller than Savoiardi so you will need more if you use these or may need more layers. I found Savoiardi biscuits in the biscuit aisle of our local Woolworths.