The Deliciously Aggravating Tiramisu

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.

Here is a taste of my tiramisu experience. I wish I didn’t require sleep and I could finish all the things I want to, but for now, I am sharing my pictures and going to bed. I will update this post later with all the *exciting* details of my journey. (I will also include the recipe, as it’s a simple copy-and-paste procedure!)

Ok. Here goes! The first step to this challenge was making one’s own mascarpone cheese. (As a side note here, for some reason I had it in my head that it was marscapone cheese, not mascarpone, and now I’m having trouble saying it correctly!) Now, everyone who had previously done this and blogged about it raved about how simple and awesome it was. Well, maybe not everyone. I guess I did read quite a few that had issues like myself. But I thought I had learned from their mistakes.

Here I am, happily heating my cream in my metal bowl, over my pan of water. I was really excited that I had a thermometer, too, so I didn’t have to guess on 190°. I was, of course, making this a little after 11 at night, once the kids were in bed, and I told Lloyd to wait up for me as this would take maybe 45 minutes, tops. I kept my heat on a delicate setting, per the instructions, and I heated for 15 minutes, then another 15 minutes, and another. Gradually I upped my heat, and I became extremely agitated at the darn bowl of cream. For a while my temperature stayed at 180° and I was seriously concerned that it was starting to curdle anyway. So I jerked the heat up and voilà! I hit the long-desired 190° and added my lemon juice.

So then I heated a little longer, and I’m assuming this is what it was supposed to look like when curdled:

I then let it cool and poured it into my cheesecloth-lined bowl. By this time I was the only one awake, so I putzed around for a bit and then went to bed myself, utterly disappointed and a little upset.

Hmm. Just realized I neglected to include my ladyfinger-making, which happened a few days before the cheese-making. So let me back-track a little. I made my ladyfingers early, since they’re ok to sit for a while before using them. First, my fluffy egg whites:

Next, I folded everything all together. The cookies really didn’t seem like they were that difficult. My batter seemed pretty airy to me. It made weird sounds while mixing, which is what I mainly remember. Don’t quite know how to describe it, other than just airy.

So I poured it all into a Ziploc bag and squeezed it out into my shapes. My thought was to create two single, round servings, and then a loaf pan batch as well. Here it is ready to be baked:

It wasn’t until I was sugaring the cookies that I wondered if I had done something wrong. There was A LOT of powdered sugar to be used. And the recipe was intended to make at least 36 ladyfingers, and while my count would be a little off due to the round ones, I still feel like I did not have as much as I was supposed to. (I did try to shake the sugar off, but the batter started sliding off more than the sugar wanted to move, so I just left all the excess on.)

And the finished product (which tasted just fine):

Honestly, I’m not sure what they are supposed to taste like; I’ve never eaten ladyfingers, but I think mine may have been a little more sponge-y than they are supposed to be. It was also odd that all the cookies on one tray had a top, crispy sugar layer that completely crumbled, while the other tray’s cookies stayed intact. I wasn’t too concerned, though, as they were going to be dipped in espresso. At this point in the process I was still positive about the challenge.

Now let’s move on to the zabaglione. I was trying to be positive when beginning. But I was also planning for things to not work out. So much so, that I didn’t even take any pictures of the process! It pretty much looked the same as the cheese, but brown because of the coffee. And it did take longer than 8 minutes to heat. And I never felt like it reached a “thick custard” stage, but I was tired and angry so I set a time limit on its cooking and called it good.

In the final stretch was the pastry cream. Here is everything right before the milk was added:

For once, something went right. The only thing I would suggest is to continue to whisk it. I used a spoon for about a minute, and it started to build up on the bottom of the pan, but when I switched back to constantly whisking, it remained nice and smooth.

And so I breathed a happy sigh of relief at the lovely pastry cream:

Well, all that was left after that was whipped cream. No problem, right? After all, I’ve made that more times than I can remember! So, while working on creating Emma’s awesome birthday cake, I thought I’d also make my whipped cream and be done with all my baking so I could enjoy my family for the weekend.

I guess this was just not my lucky challenge. I whipped. And I whipped and I whipped. And then Lloyd whipped for a while. And then, suddenly, he says hesitantly, “Umm. Is it supposed to look like this?” (Note that he had also been brewing espresso for me in 1/2 cup increments, so I was feeling committed to finishing this tiramisu that night.)

No, it is not supposed to look like that. What the @*%#! happened? Butter. Or would be had I kept going. For your reference, sometimes overbeating and cream getting too warm equals butter. It was pretty warm in the kitchen with the constant espresso brewing, and we had been whipping for like 45 minutes, but this was still something that had never happened to me before.

Fortunately, I had one more cup of cream left, and despite the fact that it was now 2 in the morning, I was determined to finish. I stuck my bowl, beaters, and cream in the freezer for a good 15 minutes, and then tried again. Unbelievably, this batch also refused to turn into whipped cream. What gives?! By 3, we quit. I dumped my beaten-up, but not whipped, cream, and passed out. I still don’t know what happened. My only hypothesis is that I was using this cream that was not ultra-pasteurized and from some nearby farm in Nebraska, so maybe that had some affect. Also, how do you tell how much fat is in the cream? The recipe kept talking about 25% or 36%, and in all the stores I went to, I saw no markings. Is this just the nutritional info?

Anyway, let’s hurry this along, eh? Here’s the chilled mascarpone. Certainly more solid than the kind I’ve used before, so that’s probably my bad, but it still smushed up just fine.

Here is my cheese, zabaglione, and pastry cream, ready to be mixed. It all seemed like such small amounts. When I cooked the zabaglione, it appeared to decrease in volume by about half.

It all mixed together all right, though:

And here is my new (3rd!) batch of whipped cream. This time it’s the nice, cheap, ultra-pasteurized cream—and it even whipped up with only a whisk! Below that is my bowl of sugared espresso (this was the only part of the recipe where there was WAY too much; maybe I should have let my ladyfingers soak up more, though).

Dipped the ladyfingers and made my first layer:

It really doesn’t look as awesome from the side as I hoped it would, but here is the loaf pan, which I only just barely had enough cookies for:

And here are the two single servings:

The espresso mixture with ladyfinger crumbs (I just thought the reflection in it was cool):

After chillin’:

Out of the mold:

And onto the plate:

I wasn’t able to let the loaf pan batch chill for very long, so it was a bit runny, but the other two had a good day to form up, and they kept their shape much better:

So that’s it! It was delicious, but I’m not sure it was worth all the stress and aggravation. It was a busy weekend to be making it, though, so that may have contributed. I would certainly like to try to make the ladyfingers again; we’ll see about the rest. I won’t be trying it any time soon—of that, I am quite certain.

Here’s the recipe:

TIRAMISU

(Recipe source: Carminantonio’s Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
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 (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

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

Method:
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 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 (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.

MASCARPONE CHEESE

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Ingredients:
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

Method:

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.

LADYFINGERS/ SAVOIARDI BISCUITS
(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

Ingredients:
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,

Method:

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.

2 thoughts on “The Deliciously Aggravating Tiramisu

  1. I’m so impressed that you kept-on-keeping-on with it you are one very determined baker well done. And I think the final result is superb. And you learnt so much on this challenge. I absolutely love the heart. Bravo on your determination. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  2. Thanks so much! I think all of us novice DBs are encouraged and inspired by your results (I’ll admit, I hadn’t thought of making round tiramisu until I saw yours). I absolutely love taking on these challenges, though, and I’m hoping one day I’ll have learned enough to experiment with flavors as well!

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