We always travel by car. I just love it! It's so adventurous and funny but I must admitt that without our GPS we'd be lost every now and then :D Anyway, the journey took about 18 hours (poor daddy!) through Austria and almost a half of Italy but I assure you that when you see the sea after so long time in your car it's the best view and feeling ever! Now I have to say something I could never ever say to my parents. I was looking forward to the food, ingredients and shopping for them so much more than swimming in the sea! Maybe, the sea wouldn't have to be there at all. On the other hand, the beach, sea, apartment and so on were so wonderful and much more beautiful than in Croatia - I just love sand beaches, no sharp tiny stones, only soft golden sand :)
And now let's get to the part I love the most - food! At first I was so surprised about the prices there! Everything was so cheap - fresh fruit, extravirgine olive oil, mascarpone, ricotta, different kinds of cookies, parmesan, ham and rice! I've never ever seen this cheap Arborio rice! We bought about 7 kilos of fresh veggies and fruit and local tomatoes were the best I've ever eaten along with melons! It was like a brand new world for me :D
I guess you're not supposed to cook when you're on vacation which would explain the lack of some kitchen equipment. I'll get back to this later on. When I was in local grocery store I couldn't resist buying mascarpone and Marsala wine...which went to buying cocoa, savoiardi and coffee. Yes, you're right. My head was thinking about making tiramisù. God, what a mistake :D Do you remember the lack of equipment? Tiramisù only requires few basic ingredientes, no baking, only a bit of beating and whisking but how on earth am I suppposed to whisk!beat without my mixer/beater or even basic whisk? The only thing I could use was either a fork, knife or spoon. I chose the fork. It took ages! Whisking egg yolks with sugar was quite easy, took about 20 minutes but the result was satisfying enough. My poor arms :D The true horror wasjust about to come! Have you ever tried beating egg whites to soft peaks using a fork? I wish I could say "No, I haven't" but that would be a lie. It took about one hour. One fork is not enough, you have to have a tall bowl where the whites can "climb" the sides and that's what I didn't have. I used a glass, two forks and and I was able to beat up only a little bit at a time. So don't try to make tiramisù when you don't have a whisk/mixer/beater.
Tiramisù comes from Italien "tirami su" meaning "pick me up". It's not strictly said where the origin of this dessert is, but most people (me included) believe that tiramisu was invented in Treviso at Le Beccherie restaurant by the god-daughter and apprentice of confectioner Roberto Linguanotto, Francesca Valori, whose maiden name was Tiramisu. It is believed that Linguanotto named the dish in honour of Francesca's culinary skill. It's a creamy dessert made from layered savoiardi (ladyfingers), soaked in coffee and Marsala wine, and cream consisting of mascarpone cheese, sugar and eggs.
I saw some recipes (not Italian) using Marsala in the cream and calling it the only traditional tiramisù. That's not true, though. When you browse through Italian recipes, they don't use the alcohol in the cream at all, only a few them to make the tradition more interesting. In fact, the older traditional tiramisù didn't contain any alcohol/liquer/wine at all in order to be suitable even for children.
The coffe should be strong, prefarably espresso. Definitely forget about making instant coffee! It doesn't have that intense taste and I guess most Italians don't consider this being coffee at all. As for the Marsala wine, Italy is the only place where I saw it. Maybe you'll be lucky to find it in some speciality shop or maybe even in your local grocery store or supermarket. In my opinion Marsala is really digusting on its own, it tastes so great in tiramisù, but otherwise it's not drinkable - the taste is so strange, strong, like sour wine with lots of alcohol and some other indescribable flavour notes. It's used as aperitif (no wonder - I'd eat tons of food just to get rid off its taste on my tongue) and comes from Sicily, Italy. In case you can't find it anywhere, buy Amaretto liquer, Italians use one of these, so it doesn't matter which one you use, but Marsala is more traditional.
Ladyfingers (savoiardi in Italian) are light sweet sponge cakes roughly shaped like a large finger. They are made from eggs, sugar, flour and sometimes also baking powder. You can make them at home but buying them is quite easier :) Those I bought in Italy are so different from those I bought here. ours are just hard, dry, crunchy without any specific flavour. The Italian ones are in fact quite soft in the middle like sponge cake and they have a very light orange or lemon flavour and taste so much better! Now I'm really sorry that I only bought two packs. I highly recommend buying the best you can :)
And finally the most important part - cream! The numero uno ingredient you need is mascarpone cheese (it's made from whipping cream curdled by - usually - citric acid). I say MASCARPONE, no cream cheese, quark cheese, anything. Only mascarpone will do the trick. It tastes like very thick extremely creamy whipping cream, has soft and thick texture like cream cheese, but the taste is completely different! In Italy it's really very cheap and they sell it in almost every grocery store (they have more different brands of it than milk or sour/whipping/sweet cream). For your imagination, one container of this cheese (250g) costs in Italy about 2 dollars (mostly 1.8 to 2). That's quite a difference, isn't it? Anyways, I know that in America it's really expansive, so don't cry, if you don't want to spend a fortune, here you can find an easy way how to make your own homemade mascarpone cheese which is just as good as the Italian one!
Another ingredient for the cream are eggs. They're used raw which for most people is quite uncomfortable, but I can assure you, there's nothing to be worried about! Here are my tricks: buy the freshest eggs you can find. Then take a tall transparent glass/bowl and fill it with water. Add as much salt as needed to make the water really salty (like sea water). Now put one egg into the glass and watch carefully: if the egg remains at the bottom (so it doesn't float in the water), you can feel free to use it - no danger in this one. If it floats, don't use it at all, it's spoiled. Also, wash the egg (in the shell of course) in hot water with your dish soap (or something like that). Some people say that the bad bacterias are on the shell, though I don't know how much true it is, do it to avoid any possibilities of getting them into your cream when cracking the shell. So now you have safe eggs and we can move on. Without the eggs, you don't have the real tiramisù, yes, you can use whipped cream, but instead of light and airy cream you have airy but even richer and fattier cream.
One last note about serving. You can use one large round or square pan, but tiramisù is quite tricky to serve in this form because it doesn't always hold its shape very well, so I prefer making it into individual glass portions - this way it always looks great and you don't have to worry how to cut it, serve and so on. It's up to you.
I think I've covered almost everything, but in case I haven't, I'm ready to answer your questions :) And know let's make a cake :D I know you can make it - hey, I handled it only with a fork!
200-400g (7-14oz.) ladyfingers
350ml (1 1/2 cups) strong brewed coffee, cooled
Marsala wine (about 1 tsp per ladyfinger)
unsweetened cocoa for dusting
500g (18oz.) mascarpone cheese
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
5 fresh large eggs
a pinch of salt
Cream: Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Separate egg yolks and whites. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until creamy, light and fluffy. Add mascarpone and incorporate it in using your hand whisk. Do not use a mixer or beater - mascarpone cheese is very sensitive to whisking and could curlde! Whisk using your hand until creamy without any lumps. In another bowl, beat eggs whites with salt until stiff peaks form. Gently fold beaten egg whites into mascarpone mixture using a rubber spatula just until incorporated.
Assembly: Pour coffee into shallow flat-bottomed bowl. Quickly dip one ladyfinger at a time in the coffee bowl only for 1-2 seconds. It should not be soggy. Place the ladyfinger into a glass (you can broke it up in order to fit your glass shape) and repeat until you have one layer. Drizzle the ladyfingers with Marsala wine (depends on your taste), cover with a layer of cream, again soaked ladyfingers, cream etc. Repeat until your glass are full, the final layer is cream. Now refrigerate for at least three hours. Just before serving, dust with enough cocoa to cover the surface. Serve and enjoy!
- All ingredients should be at room temperature or your cream could curdle! So remove mascarpone and eggs from fridge at least one hour before you start making the dessert.
- I make the coffee for tiramisu from 350ml water, 10 tsp ground coffee (the best you can afford) and I prepare it in moka, but you can prepare it your usual way, just don't use instant coffee! You may not need all of it OR you may need even more.
- The amount of servings depends on the size of your glass. I used glass with 1 cup volume (240ml) and got 6 servings. If you use smaller ones, you'll get more and vice versa. This applies also to ladyfingers - you need less for individual portions and more for one large pan.
- Since it contains raw eggs, it's the best when you eat it the same day it's prepared, but nothing happens even the second day - I'm the living proof :D And I bet it won't last more than that 'cause it's THAT good.
I know that usually it's Catalina Bakes, but let's say that this time it's Catalina Whisks...or maybe Forks (does that exist in the way I mean it? I guess not, but how could I whisk without a whisk? Yes, I fork with a fork :D), but believe you me, it's still delicious. I definitely do understand why it's (one of) the most popular dessert in the world. It combines so many delicious things we use every day (okay, except for mascarpone and this Marsala horribleness) and this is something I could eat every day. It's THE divine dessert of all. Smooth, creamy, airy and light, it's rich but you can eat tons of it because it's very light at the same time thanks to the egg whites. No matter how much I hate Marsala, it tastes superb with the savoiardi and coffee. Ooh, and cocoa on top? The last key to your seventh heaven. Italy, I love you!
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