Wednesday, 29 April 2015
My friend Tammy makes the best tiramisu. So when she became a vegan, a few years ago, I took it hard. As much as I admired her principles, I selfishly lamented the loss of my favourite dairy-laden dessert. I could have made it myself, it's true, but it just wouldn't have been the same. Luckily for me, her stance softened (she's still a very committed vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy as responsibly as possible) and tiramisu is back in my life.
Tiramisu was big in the 80s. So much so it seems like the dessert equivalent of shoulder pads and big hair. Tammy would say it's timeless though, and she's right. There's so much to love about a dinner party dish that tastes incredible, requires only a few ingredients and can be made (and in fact must be made) ahead of time. Simple flavours that in combination pack a punch: coffee, chocolate, creamy mascarpone and booze.
The booze is optional really - the original recipe, which can be traced back to the Veneto region of Italy in the 1960s, doesn't include it. I don't normally like alcohol-flavoured things but somehow it works for me here. Maybe because it doesn't overwhelm but melds beautifully with the other ingredients. In translation, tiramisu means "pick me up", which makes it ideal for the end of a long night... or the beginning of a new day.
Be warned: this is not a quick fix sweet treat: tiramisu needs to be refrigerated for several hours or overnight so that the sponge fingers soften and the flavours have time to develop. Trust me, your patience will be rewarded. It's like eating a cloud. A sweet, caffeinated, slightly drunken cloud.
Tammy uses brandy, but any sort of alcohol that goes well with coffee (marsala, dark rum, amaretto, vin santo, dessert wine, any coffee-flavoured liqueur, the list goes on) would be fine. Or if you want to omit the alcohol entirely, that's okay too. A tip: make sure you soak the sponge fingers thoroughly. If they don't seem like they're absorbing enough liquid (and they won't, as they're rock hard), tip a little extra coffee over the layer when you're finished.
3 eggs, separated
1 cup coffee (espresso is ideal, but any strong brew will do the job)
1/4 cup brandy (optional)
12 Savoiardi sponge fingers (or more depending on the size)
dark chocolate, for grating (you won't need much)
Beat egg yolks and sugar in a mixer til pale and voluminous - a good few minutes - then gently fold in mascarpone and brandy.
Beat egg whites til stiff peaks form. Fold into the mascarpone mixture.
Pour coffee into separate bowl. Drench each sponge finger in coffee and lay flat on the base of a deep dish, repeating until the entire base is covered. If there are gaps, don't worry, you don't need to be precise. Pour over half the mascarpone mixture, and arrange more coffee-dipped sponge fingers into another layer on top. Cover with remaining mascarpone and grate over dark chocolate to taste.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight.