Tiramisu is one of the latest additions to “traditional” Italian cooking. Unknown until the late 1970s, when it was invented in the town of Treviso (a lovely, friendly city about 30 miles from my native city, Vicenza) in Northern Italy, tiramisu became a world-renowned dessert in merely a decade. Tiramisu is considered a semifreddo (which means a dessert served cold, but not frozen). This dessert has many variations, the only constant ingredient being the mascarpone cheese. Tiramisu cake can be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer, if you like, even though I prefer making it the same day that I need it. Remember to remove it from the freezer enough time in advance to serve it cold at a refrigerated temperature, but not frozen. Sprinkle it with more cocoa powder before serving. Tiramisu is made in Italy using raw eggs, but if you like you can cook the yolks bain-marie and substitute whipped cream for the egg whites.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE ZABAIONE FILLING
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1/2 cup (120 cc) Marsala wine (if unavailable, substitute with another sweet wine like Port or Madeira)
1 lb (450 g) mascarpone cheese at room temperature
1-1/2 cup (360 cc) heavy whipping cream
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BASE
10 oz (285 g) savoiardi (ladyfinger cookies) (approximately 40)
2 tablespoons bitter cocoa powder
DIRECTIONS FOR THE COFFEE DIP
Prepare a strong espresso coffee, about 1½ cups (360 cc). Dissolve 2 teaspoons of sugar in the coffee when the coffee is still hot. Let the coffee cool to room temperature.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE ZABAIONE FILLING
Beat the egg yolks in a heat proof bowl or in the bowl of a double boiler until they become fluffy. Beat in the sugar and the Marsala wine. Transfer the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until the cream thickens. The zabaglione will thicken just before it boils, when small bubbles appear. Mash the mascarpone cheese in a bowl with a rubber spatula until creamy. Add the zabaglione into the mascarpone cheese and beat to mix very well. Whip the cream. Fold the whipped cream into the zabaglione cheese cream until smooth.
DIRECTIONS TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
Lightly soak the ladyfingers in the coffee, one at a time. Place them in one layer in a container about 12 x 8 inches, approximately 2 inches deep (or a 30 x 20 cm container, approximately 4 cm deep). Evenly distribute half of the zabaione cream over the ladyfingers. Repeat the step with a second layer of ladyfingers and top with the rest of the cream. Sprinkle with the cocoa powder and refrigerate for about 3 – 4 hours. Enjoy your creamy, delicious Italian tiramisu!