Italians are my kind of people. They make simple food like pizza margherita, pasta arrabiata and panna cotta and they do it with such passion. Tiramisu is by far the simplest and most well known Italian dessert. Tiramisu literally means "pick me up" and boy will it do that for you. The layers of mascarpone cream and coffee soaked biscuits are sheer delight!
Traditional tiramisu is made of just a few ingredients: savoiardi biscuits, egg yolks, sugar, coffee, mascarpone cheese and cocoa powder. The original recipe doesn't actually contain liquor or egg whites. Like with any classic dessert, you'll now find a million different recipes and variations. Modern recipes use whipped egg whites, or whipped cream to aerate the dessert. Some recipes take it further and change the flavour profile by replacing the coffee with other drinks such as matcha. Whilst matcha tiramisu sounds delightful, I'm a classic kinda gal, so coffee it is for me!
Now, if you're wondering what savoiardi biscuits are, you might know them as sponge fingers, or if you're South African like me, then you know them as boudoir biscuits. They are dense, sweet, egg based biscuits that are shaped like fingers. They are perfect for desserts like this because they soak up flavour and pretty much end up tasting like sponge cake! They are perfect for trifles too! You can find these biscuits at your local super market but you may have to hunt for them. For us kiwis Countdown stocks them and I've seen similar in Pak n Sav as well. You will also find them in some artisan shops like Farro Fresh. I got a huge pack from this place when I was in Wellington a while ago. That brand is awesome and the price is great for the quantity.
My recipe below uses cream, not egg whites. You can use your leftover egg whites if you wish, but I prefer the extra indulgence that cream gives. Also, I was saving my egg whites for a different recipe. For the coffee, I used instant coffee because that's what I had, but if you have an espresso machine then definitely use espresso! You can also swap the dusting of cocoa for grated chocolate instead. I like the extra bitterness, so cocoa is good for me.
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup Chelsea Caster Sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
250g mascarpone cheese
300ml cream, whipped
1 cup strong coffee, cooled (I used one heaped tsp of instant coffee to 1 cup of boiling water)
24 Savoiardi biscuits
2 Tbsp cocoa
Take a large saucepan and add some water to. Pop it on the stove on the lowest heat. You want to get the water to simmer. We're creating a bain marie here.
In medium bowl add your egg yolks and caster sugar and vanilla. Place this bowl on top of your saucepan that has simmering water. The bowl should not be touching the water. Whisk your egg mixture until thick, pale and creamy. Remove the bowl from heat and and set aside to cool.
In a separate medium bowl, beat the mascarpone until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream and then the egg mixture. Set aside.
Now it's time to setup your assembly line. You should have your cooled coffee in a bowl. Have your sponge fingers on hand as well as your mascarpone cream and your serving dish.
Begin by dipping each sponge finger quickly into the cooled coffee and then place into your serving dish. I do them one at a time so I the biscuits don't get soggy. Soggy biscuits = bad tiramisu. Keep going until you have lined your dish with a single layer of biscuits. Next, evenly spoon half your mascarpone cream over the biscuits. That's your first layer done. Repeat this process for a second layer. If you are using a very deep dis you might want to do more than 2 layer, so divide your mascarpone cream accordingly.
Finish the dessert with a dusting of cocoa powder then place in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours before serving. Serve this dessert straight out of the fridge.