It’s typical to make a tiramisu when one thinks about coffee. This is probably the most famousest of Italian desserts in the world. Go to your nearest Italian eatery and you’d definitely find a tiramisu in the menu. You can even find it disguised under unfamiliar ingredients such as matcha, strawberries or even beer (you heard me right). Despite its worldwide reputation and popularity, the tiramisu was only a recent invention. Created in the 1970s at Le Beccherie in a northern town of Treviso (the restaurant is closing down though), the tiramisu is an icon beside the pizza and pasta of Italy.
To me, the tiramisu is almost like eating a trifle (will Italians kill me for saying that). Its too creamy for a cake but too stodgy to be called a mousse. With a concoction of mascarpone, coffee, marsala wine and sponge ladyfinger biscuits, the dessert is a great after-dinner treat of booze and coffee. We have eaten many tiramisu, from horrendous watery sloshes in cups to frozen ice-cream like cakes, and knew immediately what we wanted our own tiramisu to be like.
Although we grew up eating creamy cups of tiramisu, we were not big fans of digging our spoons into tons of cream. Here was the challenge: to make the tiramisu an elegant dish. It got Ned really excited with the prospect of designing and creating her own dessert. But that was where it got difficult. She had to get the ingredients, quantity and cooking methods right. It was basically a trial-and-error with a sit-and-pray mindset. You should see the number of designs she came up with. They were terrifying and amazing at the same time. It was like watching The Doctor come up with plans that aren’t really plans.
All the usual ingredients had to remain to stay true to its origin but the dessert will have to be almost cake-like for a cleaner shape. More chocolate was incorporated into the pastry in the form of luxurious ganaches. Soaked in potent espresso, ladyfinger biscuits act as the base and divider between the ganache and mascarpone custard. The key difference is the form of the mascarpone. No longer sloppy, the top layer is a sturdy semifreddo-like custard. Dusted with lavish sprinkles of cocoa powder, the dish was definitely a tiramisu when you taste it, but in a new dress.
We might have committed a crime by tweaking the recipe but as with life, nothing stays still. And with all things well-loved, classics will always stay close to one’s heart but new interpretations must be welcomed with open arms. Besides, the tiramisu itself is considered a new kid on the block in the books of history. So, a little makeover won’t do this dessert any harm. If anything, we are loving the new look.
Adapted from Pierre Hermé
Makes 4 slices
For the ladyfinger Batter (Biscuit à la Cuillère)
120g egg yolks
85g superfine sugar
90g egg whites
55g plain flour
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
For the espresso
210g mineral water
35g ground espresso coffee
For the mascarpone custard
15g mineral water
50g superfine granulated sugar
65g egg whites
335g mascarpone cheese
40g egg yolks
For the White Chocolate Coffee Ganache
98g white chocolate couverture
70g liquid creme fraiche
8g instant coffee
For the Dark Chocolate Cream
30g 66% Caraibe Grand Cru dark chocolate
70g liquid creme fraiche
Prepare the ladyfinger batter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk, beat the egg yolks with 50g of the superfine sugar for 5 minutes, and then transfer to another bowl. Thoroughly clean the bowl of the stand mixer and the wire whisk. Then, in the clean bowl, whip the egg whites into stiff peaks, incorporating the remaining superfine sugar. Sift the flour and fold in into the egg yolks by hand using a spatula, lifting the batter from the counter and folding up and over. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
Prepare a convection oven to 210C.
Line two 26cm square tins with parchment paper. Divide the batter between the two tins and level the batter with a spatula. Dust the ladyfingers with confectioners’ sugar. When the oven is ready, dust the ladyfingers again with confectioners’ sugar before placing them in the oven.
Place the tins in the oven and bake for 6 minutes or until it turns light brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool, invert them onto a sheet of parchment paper, then detach the parchment paper on which they were baked.
To prepare the espresso, bring the mineral water to a boil in a saucepan, then add the ground espresso coffee. Set aside to infuse for 3 minutes, then filter.
To prepare the mascarpone custard, bring the mineral water to a boil with the sugar. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk. As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 115C, begin whipping the egg whites until soft peaks form. When the sugar reaches 121C, with the mixer running, gradually pour it in a stream into the egg whites, continuing to beat at medium speed until the meringue has cooled. Combine the mascarpone with the egg yolks and add the marsala. Stir until smooth, then incorporate the egg whites.
To prepare the white chocolate coffee ganache, break the white chocolate couverture into small pieces and place it in a large bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat and add the coffee. Pour one-third of the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl and mix well, working from the center outward, until smooth. Repeat the procedure two more times, then blend with a handheld immersion blended until smooth. Transfer the ganache to a gratin dish, press cling film over the surface of the ganache. Place it in the refrigerator to allow ganache to thicken.
To prepare the dark chocolate cream, break the chocolate into small pieces. Place it in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water to melt; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and beat 30g of the cream into the melted chocolate. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk, whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Incorporate the chocolate and cream mixture. Transfer the dark chocolate cream to a piping bag fitted with a plain pastry tip. Use immediately to decorate the cake.
To assemble, place the mascarpone custard into rectangle moulds and place into the freezer for it to firm up. Cut the ladyfinger into rectangles. Brush the espresso over the ladyfingers and allow them to absorb the espresso. Pipe the chocolate cream and white chocolate coffee ganache over the soaked ladyfingers then place another layer of ladyfinger on top. Once the mascarpone custard has firmed up, remove from the moulds and place on the ladyfinger. Dust with cocoa powder.