Wednesday 2 July 2008


A lot of nonsense seems to have been written about this particular dish, and its exact provenance. Some will have you believe it can be traced back to Siena and a dinner in honour of Cosimo III, whilst others claim it is in fact a Zuppa Inglese (it isn't - they are completely different things) and thus shares the history of that dessert. Most credible to my way of thinking is the idea that in fact Tiramisu, as we know it, is a fairly recent invention and dates from Treviso sometime in the seventies.

When I was cooking professionally, I invariably used Carluccio's version, which includes kahlua and omits any whisking of either egg whites or cream. The result is unctuous and dense, and is well suited to an environment where food often needs to be physically quite robust. Looking further afield, Valentina Harris, La Hazan, and Alvaro Maccioni all include beaten egg-white, which lightens the end result, and Claudia Roden is quite disappointing, with her rather uninspired two-layer-only version. In trawling through the archive, I came across a venetian recipe, which included crystallised fruit within the cream layer (doesn't do much for me - crystallised fruit of any kind, I tend to avoid). And then I found the Pradelli version, quite different from all the others, as in fact he makes a zabaglione base, into which he then incorporates the beaten cream and mascarpone and egg-white. The end result is much lighter than the others, but without losing the dense quality that is fundamental to the quality of the dish. I recommend it...

For four generous servings.

Ingredients: 4 Eggs; half a cup of Sugar; 1 liqueur glass of Marsala; 1 liqueur glass of Rum; 100 ml Cream; 250 g Mascarpone; 2 teacups of Espresso; 25 or so Sponge Fingers; good quality Chocolate powder, for final garnish.


1. In a double boiler or zimmertopf, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon behind the whisk. Over medium heat, continue stirring for four to five minutes, adding first the Marsala and then the Rum. At the end of this time, the mixture should be thoroughly homogenised and the velvety density of a custard. Remove from heat.

2. Whisk the Cream until thick, and then beat into this the Mascarpone. When thoroughly incorporated, fold in the zabaglione mixture. Beat the egg whites until stiff, and then carefully fold these also into the zabaglione-mascarpone mixture. Set aside while you make the biscuit base for the Tiramisu.

3. Take a shallow rectangular dish about 4" x 6" and line the base with Sponge Fingers which have been briefly dipped in Espresso (NB: the biscuits should be moistened only - if they are too soggy, the texture of the finished dish will be sub-optimal, and the excess coffee will leech out and be discovered as a puddle at the bottom of the dish, which is undesirable). To cover the base of the dish should use up half of the Biscuits you have available.

4. Cover the layer of moistened biscuits with half of the zabaglione-mascarpone mixture; cover this in turn with the remainder of the biscuits, moistened, and then the rest of the zabaglione-mascarpone mixture on top.

Refrigerate for at least twenty four hours before serving, and just before you serve it, sprinkle the surface with Chocolate Powder.


Anonymous said...

How I love your writing! Thank you for your observations regarding Tiramisu. I've eaten it only once and it was a terribly thin and wet creature that hasn't inspired me to try again, but the recipe you have posted has inspired me to make it the next time I have a gathering. Thank you!

Pomiane said...

Please is quite splendid when properly made (but DO remember not to over-soak the biscuits, which is what sounds as though it happened in your previous experience...) Almost better than eating it for dessert, though, is having an unobserved serving of leftovers with mid-morning coffee the next day. Sheer Heaven!

Anonymous said...

So tempting!