Friday, June 17, 2011

THE Dessert

My oven is broken. Yes I know, get it fixed... But I've already had it fixed twice in the past 18 months. So it's time to say goodbye to our faithful oven that has helped us through many dinner parties, family gatherings, experimental recipes and weeknight dinners. After 14 years I'm quite sad to see it go. Many don't really get why the loss of the oven, and the acquisition of the replacement is such a big deal. But for us, the oven is a focal point of our kitchen. Our Kitchen is the heart of our home and therefore, and essential part of life as we know it.

Lacking an oven has forced me to think of other ways to cook when I usually rely on old faithful to bake to perfection for me.

We had a family lunch this weekend and dessert is usually the requested dish for us to bring. After a little bit of popping our heads together, we thought of making Tiramisu. No baking, in fact, no cooking of any kind required, unless you count the brewing of the coffee of course.
I remembered a recipe I'd seen on the SBS programme, 'Italian Food Safari' a while ago and so I sort out the recipe. You can find that recipe that SBS published here.  Although this one has a little cooking, (some hot sugar syrup), it is really an easy enough thing considering the impressiveness of the result.

There were a few of elements in that recipe that I wasn't keen on. It involved an Italian liquor called 'Strega' which I can't stand, and Sambucca which I also dislike. So I replaced these with Brandy and the traditional Tiramisu flavor of Marsala. The recipe also called for a sprinkling of coffee grounds which I replaced with sifted dutch cocoa. Discovering that I only had half the required quantity of mascarpone available meant that I improvised with some whipped cream.

The result was, not only the best Tiramisu we've ever made, but the best we've ever eaten. Actually, we tried to think of a dessert we had enjoyed more, and couldn't think of one.
This recipe is going on high rotation for us, and tops our list of best ever desserts. If you try this, I don't think you will ever consider a merely ordinarily prepared Tiramisu again.


1st part....

4 egg yolks

60 gm caster (superfine) sugar

250 gm mascarpone

250 gm thickened cream

60 ml brandy

12 savoiardi biscuits

400ml hot espresso coffee

150ml Marsala

100gm chopped high quality dark chocolate

Dutch cocoa for dusting

2nd part....

Italian meringue
100 mls water

250gm caster sugar

4 egg whites

A pinch of cream of tartar


Whisk egg yolks and sugar by hand until thick and pale, and set aside.

Beat mascarpone and cream together with beaters until thick and until they hold a medium peak. Add brandy. If the cream seems runny after adding brandy, beat for a bit longer to thicken a bit more.
Combine with egg yolk mixture and mix well, and set aside.
(get ready for the amazing bit)...

The Italian meringue!

Add the water to a saucepan, and add the sugar, ensuring that all the sugar is immersed. Cook on a medium heat until the syrup reaches the soft ball stage*.

Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until medium peaks re achieved. Continue beating on a medium speed and add the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream. The egg whites will be hot now so continue beating slowly until they have cooled considerably. If they are only warm to the touch then this is fine.
Fold the meringue into the mascarpone mixture and set aside.
Prepare coffee and add to Marsala in a bowl. Soak savoiardi biscuits, a few at a time, squeezing the excess liquid from them as you line your dish or bowl for assembling.

Arrange one layer of biscuits, then sprinkle with a bit of chocolate. Cover with some of the creamy mixture, then another layer of soaked biscuits. Sprinkle with more chocolate.

The number of layers will depend on the dimensions of your dish. Mine was very large so I only completed two layers of biscuits. A smaller bowl or dish could take three so estimate your ingredients in thirds if this is the case.

Dust the top well with dutch cocoa.

This dessert will benefit greatly by being prepared the day before it's required. Be mindful of refrigerating it well though, as it does contain raw egg yolk.

* Soft ball stage: when your sugar syrup begins to look a bit viscous, test it by taking a teaspoon and dropping a few drops of syrup into cold water. If the syrup disperses and dissolves into the water it's not ready. When the drops form a ball which is soft and malleable in the water when touched, the soft ball stage has been reached and no further cooking is required.

Always be really careful when cooking syrups and toffees. Molten sugar heats to very high temperatures, greater than 100degrees C. You can find out more info about the stages of sugar and testing it here.

Consider trying this recipe. It is the first of it's kind I have ever attempted and i really felt a little intimidated by the Italian meringue. But once I did it I realised this really is not that hard at all. Sure it encompasses a few more details than the average Tiramisu recipe, but the result is far from average!
I love getting feedback on how my recipes have worked out for you or what you think of what I'm saying or cooking. All responses graciously received!

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