Sunday, February 28, 2010

Daring Bakers: Tiramisù with homemade ladyfingers and mascarpone

When I read this month Daring Bakers Challenge I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is one of my favorite desserts: Tiramisù. I have made Tiramisù many many times. Whenever there is a party this is what I am asked to bring, even when we lived in Rome. Just making Tiramisù is of course not daring enough, so we also made our own ladyfingers and, yes, even the mascarpone.

I tried the recipe for the mascarpone before, but it wasn't successful.  This time it came out great. I think my mistake last time was that I didn't wait long enough before I put it in the fridge and also didn't layer my cheese cloth thick enough.

I never made ladyfingers before. Now I really wonder why. They taste so much better. They are also very easy to make and the ingredients are usually always in my kitchen.

The recipe for the Tiramisù is very different from what I usually do. You basically have to make three different creams, which are later combined. There are also no raw eggs in this recipe, and the zabaglione is based on Marsala. I usually fold in beaten egg whites in my cream, which is flavored with Amaretto.

I made a few minor changes to the original recipe, as I used a lot more mascarpone, less sugar and added some amaretto. I assembled my Tiramisù in a bowl, lined with cellophane, refrigerated it overnight and then put it in the freezer for about 2 hours. That made it easier to unmold it. It came out perfectly and was also easy to cut.

In the end it was a great recipe, very yummy and creamy, but I still prefer my version as it doesn't require you to make 3 different creams and I think the beaten egg whites give the zabaglione a good stability. I loved the ladyfingers, they are so easy to make and so much better than store-bought ones. I was also very happy that I mastered my mascarpone this time. With over $10 for a small box in North America I will definitely make it myself in the future.

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.

Mascarpone Cheese
(adapted from Vera’s Recipe (Baking Obsession) for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)

makes 340g of mascarpone cheese

500ml whipping cream (between 25% to 36%)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

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 stainless steal bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F (90° Celsius). 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 lime 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. 

Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger Biscuits
(adapted from Cordon Bleu At Home)

 makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small ladyfingers

3 eggs, separated
75g granulated sugar
95g cake flour
50g powder sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175° Celsius) 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 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.

(adapted from Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007)

makes 6-8 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
40g sugar
60ml Marsala
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
40g sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
225ml chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisù:
2 shots freshly brewed espresso, lukewarm
2 tablespoons amaretto
2 tablespoons sugar
150g mascarpone
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

To make 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, 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.

To make 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.

To make 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:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish or one of your choice. Mix together the warm espresso, amaretto 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.

Enjoy and Guten Appetit!

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