Tiramisu and All Things Italian

You could consider me a huge fan of Italian food in all respects. It’s not just the pastas and pizzas that excite me, but I love how there is so much culture ingrained in their cooking. Every Italian I’ve met evidently takes great pride in how their food is made.

Take the Italian trattoria La Bussola just down the road from my house, for example. It is a humble looking cafe-restaurant that is mostly unadorned except for a couple of sign boards and very unattractive furniture. The menu is unpretentious, with the standard fare of marinaras, carbonaras and the like, no different from what you’d get from its Lygon Street counterparts. But having said that, their spaghetti marinara is perhaps one of the tastiest I’ve ever had, even outshining the snobby (but once good) Tiamo.

Despite the tiny morsels of seafood (a decent combination of squid, mussels, shrimp and fish I think) in my pasta, they were fresh and there were loads of them; what they lacked in size, they sure made up for it in quantity. The tomato sauce was light and refreshing yet thick enough to hold the fort – the result was a hearty, satisfying spaghetti marinara. At $12 a pop, this is definitely the best value spaghetti marinara dish I’ve ever had.

Anyway, I digress. What I really wanted to talk about was tiramisu. I love tiramisu because it’s Italian, and because it’s got coffee, chocolate, and a good dose of alcohol in it. Oh, and of course, it’s sweet. That’s the perfect winning combination for me. I don’t just love to eat tiramisu, I also love making it. It’s one of those great desserts you can wow your guests with, but can be created with your eyes closed, in 10 minutes flat.

I came home from work feeling sick today but because I was missing K’s birthday bash (for the umpteenth time this week), I decided to make it up to her by making her all-time favourite dessert – why, tiramisu, of course. Later on in the evening, she called me to say that the tiramisu was “sooooo good” and that she’d already finished half the tray in no time. It was a lovely compliment to receive and probably the highlight of my depressing day, but then I thought, hey it was REALLY easy to make!

Anyway, I figured I’d share my own recipe with you. Not quite a recipe because I never did follow one in the first place. It was pure trial-and-error and guesstimations; after a couple of attempts, I’m pretty sure you’ll get the hang of it. The only thing I don’t understand is why recipes make it out to be so complicated because it really isn’t. So there…

The Easy Peasy Tiramisu
Serves about 4-6 people, depending on how much they like tiramisu

Mascarpone Layer

  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1/2 cup Irish cream liqueur (Baileys, Kahlua, or Tia Maria)…or more!

Whisk the mascarpone and sugar together, then gradually add in the Irish cream liqueur to loosen up the cheese mixture until you get a creamy consistency. It should be as thick or thin (whichever way you look at it) as cream.

Sponge Base

  • +/- 16 savoiardi (sponge finger biscuits)
  • 1 cup strong espresso + 1/3 cup Irish cream liqueur (combine)
  • Best quality cocoa powder for dusting (like Valrhona)

Spoon the espresso lightly over the top surface of the sponge fingers; you don’t have to moisten the bottom as the liquid will gradually sink to the bottom and soften it as well.

Putting it together
Layer half of the moistened savoiardis onto a rectangular dish (or any dish for that matter) until it is packed like sardines. Spread half the cream over the surface, then dust with cocoa powder.

Layer the rest of the savoiardis and spread the remaining cream over. At this stage, DO NOT DUST ON THE COCOA POWDER! Refrigerate it for a couple of hours or overnight for the tiramisu to set, and dust on the cocoa powder when you’re ready to serve.

Voila!

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