Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Carious: Tiramisu Makes Me Happy

Nope, I ain't giving up on updating my blog! I've just been distracted reeeaaaaally busy lately. Yeah that's the excuse I'm gonna lay it down here. I'm not gonna confess that I haven't been taking nice photos and that I've been having a poor run with my food. ZZZ but seriously, I just don't know why I can't seem to get the food to cooperate with me. =( But anyhow, I've scraped out some photos and I'm determined to update, albeit with photos that don't look that nice.

So this entry is about tiramisu. The amazing, velvety and alcoholic spongey goodness that is tiramisu. Man, the things I'll give right now to get some good tiramisu... *dreamy eyes*

I've made this dessert 3 times now and I think I've finally gotten the hang of making a good tiramisu. There are 2 rules that I have come up with making tiramisu - the sponge must be absolutely SOAKING wet and the alcohol amount must cross a minimum threshold. Seriously, don't flout either. Go heavy, or go home.

It's Italian.

Duh. Wikipedia didn't say anything else worthy of mentioning. So... Let's move on shall we? Yes? Yes? Yes.

I recently made the tiramisu for a dear friend's housewarming. What better place to share a dessert filled with truckloads of calories love than a housewarming?

Tiramisu is traditionally made with raw egg yolks mixed in a mascarpone cheese and sugar mixture before folding beaten egg whites into the mixture. A more contemporary method is to cook the egg yolks with the alcohol into a custard or zabaliogne and thereafter, folding it into the mascarpone cheese and sugar mixture. I have made both types of tiramisu before and I honestly can't taste the difference (well I made them on 2 separate occasions and I haven't tried them side by side though). It is said that the one with the cooked custard is supposed to give the tiramisu more depth.

Depth. =\ Whatever.

The contemporary recipes could be found on Joe Pastry, Pioneer Woman, and Joy of Baking. Joy of Baking has a recipe that involves an English custard rather than the zabaglione that Joe Pastry or Pioneer Woman has presented. However, both Pioneer Woman and Joe Pastry have a beautiful step by step photographic tutorial to made the tiramisu and I urge you guys to have a look at them to familiarize with the steps of making tiramisu.

Here's the traditional recipe that I've unearthed during my spring cleaning last year, tucked in my old un-used scanner. I've modified it of course, seeing that the original recipe only called for 2 tablespoons of coffee liquer. Blasphemous I say, 2 tablespoons. Blasphemous!

500g mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup of coffee liquer. I recommend Tia Maria. Marsala wine or dark rum is fine as well. NO BAILEYS.

250ml whipping cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup of boiling water with 1 1/2 tablespoons coffee powder (estimation. just make it as strong as you like)
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of coffee liquer

At least 60 sponge fingers. I used store bought ones for this particular episode. But if you like the satisfaction of making things from scratch like I do, this recipe is pure brilliance. However for 500g of mascarpone cheese, you gotta double this recipe i.e. you need at least 8 eggs to make enough sponge fingers...

Put the mascarpone cheese, 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar into a mixing bowl and whip them into a frenzy. You can adjust the sugar level as you deem fit though.

The all important finger test. It's the mark of a professional baker.

Bring out the alcohol. I found this bottle of alcohol tucked in the corner of the rack of alcohol I got at home. I don't even know how old this bottle of alcohol is but it's good enough for me! Tia Maria is great as well. Did I say Tia Maria? Yes I did. Ahhhh...

1 tablespoon of coffee liquer..

2 tablespoon of coffee liquer..

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of liquer.

But I'm such a rebel. So in went my 3rd tablespoon of liquer.

And pushing the envelope a little bit more, I added my 4th tablespoon.

And a little dash of Jamie-Oliver-and-his-sparing-usage-of-olive-oil amount of coffee liquer...

After whipping it and letting the alcohol incorporate completely, that's how it looked.

Oops. Accidentally spilled 2 tablespoons more into the mixture.

Finally! A mixture that crossed the critical alcohol threshold. When it gives you an alcohol kick with the finger test, you know you've struck gold. Now refrigerate the mixture.

Put the vanilla, sugar and whipping cream in a bowl and whip up the cream at HIGH SPEED till you see ripples forming and remaining in the mixture. That's the soft peak stage of whipping cream. Continue whipping for like 15 seconds or so and more ripples will form and remain. That's the stiff peak stage of whipping cream. Stop at the soft peak stage.

Fold the whipped cream and the mascarpone cheese mixture until incorporated. Don't over fold until the color of the mixture is even throughout. A few streaks of whipped cream is fine because we don't want to beat the air out of the whipped cream.

Beat the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until the egg whites does not fall out of the bowl like that. The bowl MUST BE DRY and the egg whites MUST NOT CONTAIN EVEN A DROP OF YOLK. Both elements will interfere with the rising of the egg whites. Been there, done that. You don't want to drink tiramisu.....

Put the beaten egg white into the mixture.

And fold it in gently until there are no more visible egg whites.

Take out the coffee mixture and add some alcohol in there.

Just take a deep breath, close your eyes, and tip the bottle. There is nothing to be ashamed here.

Tadah! You got your components to assemble the tiramisu! Here are some ways to serve it up..

In a large bowl like a trifle. Just alternate layers of soaked sponge with mascarpone mixture.

In individual cup format. Once again, alternating soaked sponge with mascarpone mixture.

Or cake form. And surprise surprise, alternating soaked sponge with mascarpone mixture.

How much coffee to soak a layer? I hear you ask. Well for a typical sponge finger about the length of your middle finger, it takes about 1 tablespoons of the coffee and liquer mixture. For a cake layer, I would recommend at LEAST 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup of coffee and liquer mixture. The liquid has to get IN THERE and soak the daylights out of the sponge. And I mean daylight. If you pour the coffee unto the cake and it doesn't flow out and the bottom, you probably ain't got enough coffee in there. In fact, I think I might just dip the entire cake layer into a flat tray of coffee in the future just to make sure that it gets soaked.

Chill the tiramisu overnight to ensure that the cheese mixture firms up enough for proper slicing. You may freeze it a couple of hours before serving but not overnight.

Pressure points and top tips! (from trial and error) =D

1) Don't use Baileys. It's too weak. Waaaay to weak. And there is no distinct coffee taste as well as it tastes creamy so it doesn't contrast with the mascarpone cheese mixture at all.

2) Don't overbeat the egg whites. A tiramisu is better off not served with a straw. Keep checking it by tilting the bowl to see if it flows out of the bowl. Do not overbeat for good measure because the air will all escape and you will be left with a pool of egg whites that is no good at all. Also, remember that the bowl must be Sahara dry and that the egg whites shouldn't be contaminated with egg yolk or anything of that sort.

3) Please put enough alcohol in there. Ok that's just me. Keep tasting the batter and adjust the alcohol level accordingly. But for my relatives, the amount of alcohol I added was JUST enough to excite their tastebuds.

4) PLEASE SOAK THE SPONGE WITH AMPLE AMOUNTS OF COFFEE AND LIQUER. It has to be soaked. There is no despair worse than a dry tiramisu. Absolutely not.

Now go make some love calories and share it with your neighbours.

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