Saturday, January 2, 2010

cook's illustrated Tiramisu - well worth the bones

cook's illustrated tiramisu - 82My boyfriend and I have mentioned to each other how much we both love Tiramisu. It would only be fitting that I find the perfect recipe (Cook's Illustrated) and make it for the two of us. So while looking at the ingredients, I realized it needed a lot of things that I not only didn't have, but would be quite expensive to go out and buy. Let me just tell you, 1 and a half pounds of mascarpone cheese is not in the budget of a broke college student. And coming across Kahlua or dark rum would also be an issue considering I'm still underage. Needless to say, I put this recipe on the back burner and waited until I reached my parents' house (so they could pay for my ingredients, hehe) to finally make a Tiramisu.

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First I gathered my two main culprits for the ladyfingers layer- Kahlua and espresso powder (yet another ingredient we had to go out and buy). These two get added to strong coffee and get mixed in a baking dish for which the lady fingers were to be dipped in. The stench from this mixture was so overwhelming and I felt like I was getting drunk just by being near it.

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These golden yolks went into the mascarpone cheese layer... And yes, this dessert is not baked, meaning that technically you are eating raw egg yolks. I don't know how that is possible, or why this is even done in the first place, but I ain't complaining because it obviously works. By the way, the 6 egg whites that were left over were not discarded, and were saved for a future dessert recipe.

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In goes sugar and even more booze.

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Here is my 1.5 pounds of mascarpone cheese that I would not be able to afford on my own. I know I've tasted this cheese before like in dishes at restaurants, but I've never tasted it plain. I have to say, I'm not quite fond of it by itself. It has the consistency of cream cheese, but had this tangy strange taste that I'm not familiar with. So anyways, I'm glad I did not like it very much, because I knew that if I did love it, I'd probably end up broke.

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The cheese then gets mixed with the raw egg yolks mixture.

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Typical me, I have to taste everything at every step of making it. And yes, this step did not taste so well.

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What I thought was an interesting step was that I was to whip heavy cream into whipped cream, and then gently fold it into my mascarpone cheese mixture. I guess it helps in making it lighter and fluffier.

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This was another reason why I did not venture to make Tiramisu on my own- the Lady Fingers. The recipe said I needed 14 ounces of lady fingers, and each packet here was 3 ounces. So if you do the math, these damn lady fingers cost quite a few bones on their own.

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Now on to the assembly. Each lady finger gets quickly dipped in the booze mixture on both sides, and then placed into the baking dish. Cook's Illustrated goes into great detail on how to dip the lady fingers very quickly, and to not submerge them. My mother was helping me, and I explained this thoroughly to her.

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Honestly though, it was hard to dip them so lightly. Once the lady finger even touched the wet mixture, it immediately soaked up everything possible. Even a few lady fingers completely fell apart because they were so wet and soggy. We slowly began to realize that we must be slightly over-soaking them, and so we attempted to dip them as light as possible for the future layers.

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Next layer was the cheese-egg-yolk mixture. I spent a while smoothing it out completely because I wanted this dish to look completely professional and worth the amount spent on ingredients.

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And finally, the last layer before repeating is the sifted cocoa powder. Once again, I made sure everything looked even and neat.

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These three layers get repeated until they reach the top of the dish. One problem though- I had a ton of cheese and lady fingers left over. I don't understand! Why did we have to buy all this crap if it wouldn't even be used? I refuse to throw away good Tiramisu components, so I whipped up a smaller batch of the coffee-Kahlua mixture, and made a mini Tiramisu. The remaining ingredients fit perfectly into a loaf-sized baking dish. Now that I know this valuable information, I guess I could possibly make this one day at home, and just halve the ingredients.

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And yes, I think the layers look horrendous as well. I can't even tell you how nervous I was that the Tiramisu would look decapitated and retarded when it was ready to eat. And the worst part was that I would have to wait 24 hours to be able to see and taste the final product. So into the fridge it went, while I nervously waited and hoped everything would meld together and taste like an actual Tiramisu.

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Oh-em-gee... If this doesn't look professional, then I don't know what is.

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You don't even know how giddy I was while cutting the first slice. It came out perfectly, and all the layers looked flawless.

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But now on to the most important part- the taste. I have to admit, we had a taste of the Tiramisu the previous night (when I couldn't take photos) and although it was delicious, it was slightly strong in terms of the booze. I thought back to why this could be so, and I figured it was because me and my mom (not purposely) let the lady fingers soak up too much of the booze mixture (which could also explain why we had no leftovers of that, but a ton left over of the cheese and lady fingers). So we all agreed it tasted great, but a little too strong.

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So I'm sure you're wondering how it tasted today. Hehe, well after an entire 36+ hours of sitting in the fridge, everything completely melded together and all traces of booze had disappeared! Miraculously, it replicated the Tiramisu's I've had in fancy restaurants all my life. And believe it or not, it rivals the Italian Tiramisus (and I would know, I've had real Tiramisu while I was in Italy).

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This is yet again another reason why I trust Cook's Illustrated with my life.

Taken from Cook's Illustrated.

2+1/2 cups strong black coffee , room temperature (not sure what designates "strong" coffee, but I winged it)
1+1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
9 tablespoons dark rum (substituted Kahlua)
6 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1+1/2 pounds mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream (cold)
14 ounces ladyfingers (42 to 60, depending on size)
3+1/2 tablespoons cocoa , preferably Dutch-processed
1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate , grated (optional) (omitted)

1. Stir coffee, espresso, and 5 tablespoons rum in wide bowl or baking dish until espresso dissolves; set aside.
2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat yolks at low speed until just combined. Add sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once or twice. Add remaining 4 tablespoons rum and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape bowl. Add mascarpone and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl once or twice. Transfer mixture to large bowl and set aside.
3. In now-empty mixer bowl (no need to clean bowl), beat cream at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer. Using rubber spatula, fold one-third of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set mascarpone mixture aside.
4. Working one at a time, drop half of ladyfingers into coffee mixture, roll, remove, and transfer to 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. (Do not submerge ladyfingers in coffee mixture; entire process should take no longer than 2 to 3 seconds for each cookie.) Arrange soaked cookies in single layer in baking dish, breaking or trimming ladyfingers as needed to fit neatly into dish.
5. Spread half (I just eyeballed it, and obviously didn't use half because I had so much left over) of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers; use rubber spatula to spread mixture to sides and into corners of dish and smooth surface. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in fine-mesh strainer and dust cocoa over mascarpone.
6. Repeat dipping and arrangement of ladyfingers; spread remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and dust with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa. Wipe edges of dish with dry paper towel. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours (I would go with 24+ hours). Sprinkle with grated chocolate, if using; cut into pieces and serve chilled.


  1. Hello! Just wanted to comment because I have made the CI recipe several times and I think I can help with a couple of things. One - I know that they recommend rum, but that's not traditional. I didn't like it at all with rum or Kahlua and also felt it was too "alcohol"-y. I much prefer with with Marsala. Give it a try sometime! Also, once you buy the alcohol you will have plenty for making more. Same with the espresso powder. So, the biggest expense for each batch after that will be a mascarpone. As for the lady fingers, they should not be very expensive. I can't exactly tell from the picture, but the problem appears to be that you purchased the wrong kind. You need the ones that are hard and crunchy, not the soft kind. Look in the Italian section of a large grocery or stop at an Italian market. You should be able to find a single package that is the size you need. They are smaller, very uniform in shape and size, and like I said are crunchy. Look for a pack that says "Savoiardi" on it. :)

  2. Agree with the above. Also, why add cream? Try whipping the egg whites to snow and folding them in the mix. I'd recommend adding vanilla to the mix as well.

    1. How much vanilla, approx? I'd be interested in trying this!

  3. Your tiramisu looks like a child put it together. It's messy.

    While reading, I realized you actually are a child. You are an insufferable, entitled, ignorant little brat.

    I suspect your family puts up with you because they hope you'll get out of their lives, and not make them guilty in the process. Your boyfriend probably likes you because you're young, but the clock is ticking.

    What are you going to do when you are 25, wrinkly and old, stink of cigarettes and your stupid $8 perfume, and no one will put up with your crap because you're not hot anymore and not worth the trouble?

    I doubt you can survive alone, especially with that attitude.

    1. How much kahlua did you use, bro?

    2. Wow what a douche.

  4. FYI - uncooked yolks, it's the whites that act as a home for the stuff that makes us sick, generally, so that's why the yolks aren't a big deal.