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The home of traditional Italian cookware

Classic Italian Tiramisù

Classic Italian Tiramisu ready to eat

 

“Tireme su” – ‘pick me up’

Tiramisù, arguably Italy’s most successful dessert export. Soft, velvety, delicately sweetened cream, offset by dark espresso soaked sponge, with a finishing hint of alcohol: a melt in the mouth, dessert lover’s masterpiece.   

Precursors, historical legends and fanciful tales claiming the dish’s invention abound.  Legend has it that, in the 19th Century, this delectable treat was created by a Madame who ran an Italian brothel to serve as a ‘pick me up’, to reinvigorate their tired clients before they returned home!

More likely, ‘sbatudin’, a 19th Century creation from Treviso comprised of egg yolk beaten with sugar, contributed a key part toward the modern recipe, as did others found in Pellegrino Artusi’s (1891) famous recipe collection “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” - a book that forms the basis of modern Italian cuisine. One such example is ‘Dolce Torino’ (Turin Cake), in which ladyfingers soaked in Rosolio (a sweet Italian liquor) are layered with a whipped mixture of butter, sugar, egg yolks and chocolate in alternating bands and finished with roasted hazelnuts or pistachios.

The first dessert with the name ‘Tiramisù’ was created around 1950 in Friuli at the Il Vetturino restaurant, by chef Mario Cosolo, using cream instead of mascarpone, sponge cake instead of ladyfingers, and marsala wine not coffee for dipping the fingers. The classic recipe we know today is attributed to Chef Norma Pielli at Hotel Roma, in the Friuli town of Tolmezzo who modified the aforementioned recipe from Artusi. 

Modern variations of the dish vary the dipping liquid (e.g. limoncello, brandy, fruit juices), the mascarpone (whipped cream, ricotta, yoghurt) and ladyfingers.  Such has been the influence and love for this dish worldwide, that today it’s possible to compete in the annual Tiramisù World Cup, held in Treviso, which accepts entries for ‘Original Recipe’ or ‘Creative Recipe’ desserts (check out the full rules here). You can also challenge for the Guinness World Record for the largest tiramisù, currently standing at 3015kg (6,646lb).

I was in Rome earlier this year, and stumbled across this incredible little cafe, "Mr. 100 Tiramisù" (@mr.100tiramisu). It is beautiful inside, with an old brick arch, dark wood beams, and some of the friendliest staff I've ever come across creating a wonderful ambience. 

mr tiramisu 100 recipes in rome

Living up to its title, it serves 100 - I kid you not - different variations of tiramisù. I didn't have the brainpower to photograph the 'Classico' tiramisù I ordered as I was too excited to eat it, but here's a shot of the extensive menu:

100 different tiramisu rescipes

 

If you have the opportunity, please check it out: the dessert was divine, and definitely a place I'll revisit next time I find myself in the city.  In the meantime, one can celebrate World Tiramisù Day every March 21st – the first day of Spring, and in the words of the founders Clara and Gigi Padovani:

 

“There’s nothing better than tiramisù to celebrate the arrival of spring and to leave the grayness of winter behind.”

 

Couldn’t agree more.  Suffice to say, it’s a dessert that has rather captured the world’s imagination, and for good reason.  As mentioned, this has led to a plethora of recipe variations from which to choose, but with this post I decided to stick to tradition. What follows is a classic recipe, and the end result is simply sublime.  Please note, this recipe does contain raw eggs, so if you’d like to avoid them skip to the bottom paragraph ‘how to pasteurise eggs’ to substitute.

Classic Tiramisù Recipe

Prep time: 40 min

Setting time: 4 hours

Serves: 6 to 8

 

Ingredients:

Ingredients needed for classic tiramisu

 

  • 250g Savoiardi Ladyfingers
  • 500g mascarpone cheese
  • 4 fresh medium eggs (or 3 large eggs)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 300ml strong coffee (espresso if possible)
  • 2 Tbsp of Marsala (omit if you’d prefer, or substitute for Tia Maria, Rum, Amaretto etc.)
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

 Equipment from our store:

Method:

  • Brew coffee and transfer to a pyrex dish or large bowl to cool.
  • Separate eggs into two mixing bowls. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
Separate eggs for tiramisu cream
  • Add the sugar to the egg yolk. Whisk until light and smooth.
Whisk egg yolks until light and smooth
  • Soften mascarpone by working it with a spoon, before adding to the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Whisk together. This will initially appear a lumpy mess, but persevere to achieve a smooth consistency.
Mix egg yolks with mascarpone to make a smooth, indulgent cream
  • Gently fold in the egg whites to the mascarpone cream, ¼ at a time. A silicone spatula is most convenient for this.
  • Spread a thin layer of the cream at the bottom of a serving dish.
  • Add Marsala or chosen alcohol to the coffee.
  • Dip a ladyfinger straight in to the coffee mixture, flip over quickly to soak both sides and then lift straight out, before placing onto the cream. The actual dipping should last no more than 1-2 seconds, otherwise you risk a soggy outcome! 
Dip savoiardi ladyfingers into coffee mixture
  • Continue until you’ve made one continuous layer.
Laying ladyfingers into mascarpone cream Completed layer of soaked ladyfingers in tiramisu
  •  Spread half of what’s left of the cream onto the ladyfingers.
  • Add a second layer of soaked ladyfingers, and top with the remaining cream.
Spread mascarpone cream onto ladyfingers
  •  Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 4 hours to set.
  • When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator and dust generously with cocoa powder (chocolate curls are an optional but welcome addition). 
  • The dish will keep up to 2 days in the fridge, but tastes best when eaten as soon as possible!
Classic Italian Tiramisu

 

Classic Italian Tiramisu, creamy, unctuous and falling off the fork

 

How to pasteurise eggs

Additional equipment required:

  • Sugar thermometer
  • Stand mixer

Yolks:

  • Separate the eggs, with the yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Place 50g sugar with 2 tbsp water into a saucepan. Stir to dissolve sugar, brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove stray sugar crystals. Heat the syrup to 121°C (250F). 
  • Just before the sugar hits this temperature, start whisking the eggs in the mixer.
  • When at the desired temperature, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg yolks whilst continuing to whisk. Continue processing for about 10 minutes until the mixture is completely cool. Your yolks are ready to use.  You can now add these to the mascarpone. 

Whites:

  • Place egg whites into mixer bowl.  You’ll need to start the mixer just before the sugar syrup is ready.
  • Mix 50g of sugar with 2 tbsp water in a saucepan, and heat to 121°C (250F). 
  • At about 118°C (245F), start the stand mixer at medium speed.  The egg whites should be frothy but not yet completely firm when the sugar pour starts.
  • When you reach the desired sugar temperature, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites whilst continuing to whisk. Continue processing for about 10 minutes until completely cool. You’ll finish with a beautifully smooth, glossy mixture that can be combined with your egg yolk-mascarpone mixture.

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