Tiramisu (Daring Bakers' Challenge)

March 1, 2010

'I'm late, I'm late for a very important date
No time to say "Hello", "Goodbye"
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late'

Sorry this is two days off the mark. The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession. Thank you Ladies. This is a dessert that I have always wanted to make myself despite my continuous disappointment in the Olive Garden's version. (Big surprise, I know.) Aparna and Deeba were excellent hosts, always available if anyone needed advice or had a question. Thank you both!

Completely off topic, today is also this blog's birthday. I can't think of a better way to mark it than with a special dessert like this. There is a method to my madness. I put making this off on purpose, really. All the problems with clogged Bounty paper towels and their overpriced thickness sticking to everything, and the skinny ladyfingers that had to be redone... all part of the plan.

Tiramisu means 'pick me up' in Italian. Since I worked frantically to get this done at the last minute, it's with great relief that I can say this lived up to it's name. The pick me up comes in the form of a richly light, creamy dessert with coffee and rum soaked cookies. The pastry cream also contains Port wine. I had a glass of it with me the whole way. No utensils were flung at the oven and I had no overwhelming desire to a stick spatula into my head. (Maybe I did at one point with the stubborn mascarpone cheese and the freakishly thick paper towel, but I'll get to that later.)

I love blogging. But really, sometimes it makes me want to take a controlled assertive blow to my computer with a sledge-hammer. I tried to write out as much of this post ahead of time before any pictures were added. Everything was saved, all I needed to do was add the final shots. But what I came back to was a chaotic, random, novel-length mess. It looked like my blog had a hissy fit, threw the codes across the screen, trampled on some letters and went off to pout in the corner. The recipe steps were spaced so far apart from each other they might as well have been on different pages. Plus the scary, large print kept popping up despite my attempts to make it smaller and less loud. Also, everything kept moving off-center which triggered my sanity to do the same. I wish I could show how deranged this post looked before I fixed it. Sorry, tried to fix. I can't get rid of the annoying large ingredient titles (it's the computer text version of people with an addiction to using 'air quotes').

All that aside, I honestly enjoyed this month's challenge. I love to bake. So when there are multiple steps involved, I feel like I'm in my element. I know the first read-through of the recipe makes it seem daunting, but it's not as complicated as it looks. Taken on it's own, each step is quite simple. And if you don't wait until the last minute, they can be done a few days ahead of the final assembly. The only area I had issues with was making the mascarpone cheese. My Cracker Jack toy candy thermometer apparently won't measure anything past 120F. Luckily the wonderful Daring Bakers had some helpful tips on how to handle the cheese cooking. The cheese firmed up beautifully in the refrigerator overnight, and by morning it had turned into a luscious, creamy, thick mascarpone. Problem #2. Who doesn't have any cheese cloth on hand? I don't. And I didn't want to ruin my mysteriously depleting supply of dish towels. So to drain the mascarpone, I wet a few layers of greedy Bounty paper towels and placed them into a sieve. I wasn't the only one who feel in love with the cheese. The stupid paper towels stuck to it, dug their tiny suction cupped absorption holes into it and refused to come off. I think I lost about 25% of the mascarpone to the thirsty little quicker picker uppers. The tiramisu recipe calls for 1/3 of a cup of cheese so it was still salvageable. But I wanted that cheese for toast or a spoon at least. It could have been worse. I really didn't expect this challenge to be so easy. It is ten times better than anything store-bought. Making your own lady fingers makes the dessert all the more rewarding (just be sure you pipe out the batter to a 3/4' thickness, not 1/4'.) Like all great desserts, you won't realize how much you have had until it's almost too late. Even though it's rich, it has a light texture because of the pastry cream and sponge-cake like cookies.

With it's layers, textures, and organized chaos, the tiramisu was a perfect way to celebrate this blog's 1st birthday! She had her temper tantrum and we're on speaking terms again. She started out slow last March, but I think we have come a long way. Thank you so much to everyone who visits and to those of you who leave all the lovely comments for just about every post!! Thanks to all my new friends from Tuesdays with Dorie and the Daring Bakers. And to any lurkers out there, please don't be shy. If you have a question, feel free to ask. If you are horrified by my spelling or disgusted with my misuse of commas, let me know. If you see that I missed a cat hair on a photo, please draw my attention to it. O_o


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar


For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the mascarpone cheese:
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

For the Ladyfingers:
Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

* printer friendly Recipe*


  1. You pulled it off in grand style. This is gorgeous. Happy Blogger Birthday! Your talent is gaining great momentum with your skills and photography.

  2. It looks fantastic and was worth the wait. :) And I learned never to use Bounty paper towels when making cheese! Glad you got it done and happy blog birthday!!

  3. Happy blog birthday! Your tiramisu looks gorgeous!

  4. Very happy birthday to your blog. The first blog birthday (even though Blogger does promote a love-hate relationship!)is always special and I'm happy we chose a befitting challenge for you.
    Your Tiramisu looks great. Thanks for baking with us.

  5. Beautiful job you did there! :O And I often repeat those opening lines when I'm late to something! :)

  6. hey this looks so goood..love the tiramisu..my favorite dessert...


  7. Very well done Valerina, everything about your Tiramisu is perfect!

  8. Happy birthday to your blog! This tiramisu looks very tantalizing...

  9. I'm so glad you stuck with it! :-) It's beautiful and delicious and a wonderfully inspiring way to celebrate. :-)

  10. Your tiramisu turned out beautiful. I agree with you that it was an easily doable challenge just w/many steps. I barely got it posted this morning at 2:00am :) Also, had a good chuckle about the cheesecloth. I didn't have any laying around either and didn't want to pay for a package of it (and then throw it away). I improvised too.

    Congrats on your blog's bday and for a great DB Challenge!

  11. For all the trials and tribulations you endured and overcame, the result was worth it! Your tiramisu looks gorgeous!

    Your ladyfingers are perfectly formed, and boy does that mascarapone filling look divine!

    Happy blog birthday! What a way to celebrate.


  12. Happy birthday to you =). Your tiramisu looks absolutely scrumptious.

  13. Your tiramisu is lovely! You did a great job!

    Happy belated blog Birthday!



  14. Happy Blogger birthday!

    Your ladyfingers look perfect! Everything looks great! Nice job!

  15. What a fantastic looking Tiramisu! Well done on the challenge and Happy Blog Birthday!!

  16. Great post and BEAUTIFUL tiramisu. It looks perfect. I am totally with you on your frustrations with blogger. Sometimes I just want to throw something at my computer when I'm using it. ARRRGHH. Happy Birthday to your blog too!

  17. Your tiramisu version is beautiful-
    so soft and creamy… Beautifully done!
    Great job

    (also a DB)

  18. Happy 1st blog aniversary! Your tiramisu looks so elegant and neat! Great job!

  19. Super impressed, must try this one too! I will save this for a special occasion like MY brithday, hahah.


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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