Tiramisu, so much has been said about this favourite Italian dessert, that I don’t think any introduction is needed whatsoever. Layers of coffee-dipped savoiardi biscuits, creamy filling and chocolate come together seamlessly for a seductive dessert which is meant to arouse you as it gratifies every sweet-filled, lusty craving you have!
Unless you’ve been buried under a huge pile of rocks all these years, you must know that the word tiramisu means pick me up or lift me up, a reference to the coffee in this much loved and much abused of desserts.
Confession time – I just don’t like the stuff! I love coffee, I love mascarpone, I love zabaglione, I like savoairdi biscuits, and to some extent, I like chocolate. But the whole ensemble just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t know why.
Having said that, I do make it very, very often: for clients, with students (my Italian classes are hugely popular) and most certainly, when I entertain. Because let’s face it, when folks think Italian desserts, they do quite often think tiramisu! My mother in law sure does! And that’s why it’s always made on Easter Sunday when they come over for lunch, as it’s her favourite dessert.
History of Tiramisu
Tiramisu is a fairly recent invention, coming into being sometime in the mid 20th century. Who invented it is a bit of a contentious issue, and you can read more about that in this article in the Washington Post.
The first known printed recipe of tiramisu was in the Spring 1981 issue of Vin Veneto magazine, by Giuseppe Maffioli, a renowned food critic and member of the prestigious Accademia della Cucina Italiana, that safeguards and promotes Italian culinary heritage. The first recipe was credited to Le Beccherie restaurant, in Treviso, widely believed to be the creator of tiramisu.
Is Tiramisu Difficult to Make?
Tiramisu isn’t a difficult dessert to put together, but amazingly, it is so often a terrible experience: soggy sponges (or cakes) combined with a sickly sweet filling is just not something I want to think about! So how do we make the perfect tiramisu? Let’s take a look, shall we?
How to Make the Perfect Tiramisu
You have to use fresh coffee, espresso is great, if not, strong fresh black coffee, made in your carafe or coffee machine. No instant, please, instant coffee has no place in desserts!
Make it strong, for a real coffee hit, as your tiramisu should have. Make it decaf, if you are afraid of not being able to go to bed after!
These are savoiardi biscuits, or ladyfingers, as they are also known. They have a dry texture, and will soak up your coffee without getting soggy. The trick is not to let them drown in the coffee. Dip them for 3 seconds, shake off excess, and place in the dish. This way, they’ll have just the right amount of moisture.
Incidentally, we make our own eggless savoiardi biscuits to make eggless tiramisu, as my girls can’t eat eggs. You’ll find the recipe for eggless savoiardi biscuits here. Recipe for totally eggless tiramisu as soon as I’ve taken some new photos!
The Creamy Filling
This is achieved with an egg and mascarpone mix. Playing with the number of egg yolks will affect the creaminess of the filling. The more the egg yolks, the creamier the filling.
Le Beccherie’s recipe only used egg yolks, resulting in a very rich and creamy filling; delicious, but perhaps a little too heavy for what is popularly an after dinner dessert. Adding whole eggs, that is the egg whites too, lightens the cream filling, and therefore the whole dessert.
The Alcohol in Tiramisu
La Beccherie didn’t use any alcohol in theirs. However, adding alcohol does take your tiramisu to another level. Marsala is traditional, rum is popular and kahlua is always a great choice.
BUT, I am a lover of Baileys, the Irish cream liqueur, and I have, for many, many years now, used only Baileys when making tiramisu, unless the clients specifically ask for, otherwise. And that’s how we’re swinging it today!
The Chocolate in Tiramisu
Must have at least 70% cocoa content, and be good quality. You want it dark to contrast with the creamy filling, both will enhance each other.
Grate the chocolate straight onto the tiramisu, if you can. Because, touching the grated chocolate will soften and melt it, unless you have very, very cold hands! If you can’t stand the mess that makes, then, transfer he grated chocolate over with a metal spoon, sprinkling it evenly over the tiramisu.
Tiramisu Must Be Made Ahead
No two ways about it. A minimum of 4 hours, but overnight is best. This is so the flavours can develop and a certain amount of osmosis can take place!
Are you a fan of tiramisu? Do you use liqueur with it?
And, if you fancy more Italian and dessert recipes, head on over to the Italian Page and the Desserts Page for recipes like:
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Baileys Tiramisu recipe, the best tiramisu ever! Layers of coffee and Baileys dipped savoiardi biscuits, creamy mascarpone and Baileys filling and chocolate come together seamlessly for a seductive dessert.
- 500g (1.1 lb) tub mascarpone
- 3 large eggs
- 60g (2″) caster sugar
- 24 Savoiardi biscuits (depends on the size of your dish)
- 125ml (1/2 cup) Bailey’s
- 125ml (1/2 cup) strong espresso, at room temperature
- 60g (2″) 70% dark chocolate
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
You will need a square baking dish measuring about 23cm (9″) or something similar. Or 8-10 serving glasses.
Eggs and Mascarpone
- Beat the egg whites on high until stiff. Set aside.
- Now place the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and beat with the same electric beaters (no need to clean) on high for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is pale and almost mousse like in appearance.
- Tip the mascarpone in, and beat on low to thoroughly mix it in. Add 3 Tbsp of the Bailey’s, and fold it in.
- Now, gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone and egg yolk mixture, slowly and gradually. Set aside.
Assembling the Tiramisu
- Pour the coffee and the rest of the Bailey’s into a shallow dish.
- Dip the biscuits into the coffee mix for 3 seconds, no more, shake off excess, and arrange on the base of your chosen dish in a single layer. Or in glasses as in the image here. If using glasses, you’ll have to break the biscuits to fit, and push them down, especially for the conical the martini glasses.
- Top the damp biscuits with half the mascarpone mixture.
- Grate half the chocolate all over the mascarpone layer.
- Repeat this with another layer of the coffee dipped savoiardi biscuits, the mascarpone mix and the second half of the grated chocolate.
- Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours to set, even overnight, for the ideal party dessert.
- Just before you serve, top the grated chocolate with a fine layer of cocoa powder using a sieve.
Total time does not include the minimum chilling time of 4 hours or the coffee cooling down.
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: Italian