Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Pick Me Up


Time for another Daring Bakers' challenge. This month's challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They came up with an amalgamation of recipes for a tiramisu. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post (newspaper), Cordon Bleu at Home (cookbook) and Baking Obsession (blog).

Tiramisu is typically custardy mascarpone cream layered with ladyfingers/savoiardi biscuits soaked in espresso. A little bit of booze like marsala or rum is usually present too. We were required to make the mascarpone cheese and ladyfingers from scratch. We were also required to make the zabaglione and pastry cream for the custardy cream layers.

I've never thought about making mascarpone from scratch since I can buy an 8 ounce tub for about $3 around here. The recipe looked fairly straightforward. Who knew it was just heated heavy cream and lemon juice? I used a really nice 36% butterfat organic cream. Unfortunately, even though I heated the cream for 30 minutes in a stainless steel bowl in a skillet of simmering water, my cream never got any hotter than 170F. The instructions said it would get to 190F in about 15 minutes. So I forged ahead anyway and added the lemon juice and waited for the curds to form. That never happened either. So after another 10 minutes I just poured my "cheese" into my cheesecloth lined strainer. After the overnight refrigeration I expected that some whey would have drained out. Nope, my "cheese" looked no different than it had when I first pour it into the cheesecloth and it looked nothing like creamy mascarpone.

Then I tried to remove my mascarpone from the cheesecloth. It was stuck on pretty tightly. So tight that when I forcefully scraped it off the cloth, all I got was a block of "cheese" covered in lint. I thought cheesecloth was supposed to be lint free? Maybe I got the wrong kind of cheesecloth? (I used a 100% unbleached cotton cheesecloth.) So I scraped off the linty side of the mascarpone and saved the unlinty part to use in my tiramisu. Thank goodness we only needed 1/3 cup for the tiramisu.

I love ladyfingers. When I was a little girl, sometimes my dad would take me with him while he went to Ahren's Bakery on Van Ness Avenue to pick up some pastries for the restaurant. The bakery workers were always so nice to me. While I waited for them to fill my dad's very large order, they always handed me a giant cookie from the bakery case. I felt so special. But the best part of our trips to Ahren's was the bag of soft ladyfingers that we would bring home. Sets of five ladyfingers were lined up next to each other waiting to be pulled apart. I can still recall that soft, airy interior with that wonderful crispy, sugary crust. I wonder if Ahren's was still around today and I ate one of their ladyfingers would I still love it as much as I did as a child? I'd love to say yes, but the truth is probably not. The most flavorful ingredient is nostalgia.



I loved this ladyfinger recipe. They remind me of those from my childhood. I couldn't help but sneak a few bites everyday. Well, maybe I had more than a few bites. By the time I was ready to assemble my tiramisu three days later, I only had enough ladyfingers for two layers instead of three. I plan to make these ladyfingers again and again.

In the past I've only made tiramisu recipes that had a zabaglione with mascarpone. But this recipe had the unusual addition of a pastry cream. It was also a bit strange that it only called for a teeny tiny amount of mascarpone cheese. Typically mascarpone makes up a large portion of the cream layers. The zabaglione was easy to make. The method for the pastry cream was a bit different than I am used to since the cold milk was combined with the egg then cooked. I am used to warming the milk, adding it to the eggs and then cooking it until thick. I think the cold milk method took longer to thicken than the warm milk method, but the resulting pastry cream was just fine.


We were allowed to assemble our tiramisu any way we liked. I decided to use an 8-inch round springform. If I knew ahead of time that I was going to use a round cake pan for assembly, I would have piped my ladyfinger batter into 8 -inch disks instead of individual fingers. It would've made for a nicer presentation.

Overall the tiramisu was delicious. But what's not to like about whipped cream, custard and coffee soaked ladyfingers? Even though I found the whole recipe to be a bit overly complicated and fussy for a tiramisu and I would probably never make this exact version of tiramisu ever again, I'm so happy that I have gotten such a great ladyfinger recipe out of this DB challenge. Okay, I'm off to have another slice now.


The fine print:
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.

February 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge:

Mascarpone Cheese – Vera’s Recipe (Baking Obsession) for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese.
Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger Biscuits – Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home
Tiramisu – Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007

Notes/Tips from Aparna and Deeba:
1. If you cannot find Marsala, port wine is considered a good substitute.
2. If you would rather not use alcohol in your tiramisu due to diet restrictions or because you want to serve it to children, you may replace the Marsala with an equal amount of espresso or coffee.
3. Many people, especially those who are not excessively fond of coffee, might find brewed espresso very strong. In this case, please feel free to dilute the espresso or coffee to the desired strength.
4. It is generally suggested that cream with 25% fat is best for making mascarpone, but 36% works just as well.
5. We both used lime juice. Deeba has a recipe for mascarpone posted on her blog here.
6. The mascarpone recipe below is for approximately 340gms of mascarpone. The tiramisu recipe requires only 1/3 cup/75gms so you may scale down the recipe to requirement or put the extra mascarpone cheese to other equally good use. (100gms cream will yield approximately 75gms mascarpone)
7. While using the double boiler to make the mascarpone as well as the zabaglione, always ensure that the bottom of the bowl on top doesn't touch the bottom of the lower one.
8. Ladyfinger batter is very fragile so fold in the flour and yolks very carefully into the meringue so that the whites don't lose their volume.
9. It might be a good idea to decide the size of the dish in which you intend to set the dessert, and make the fingers to a size which would fit that dish. This makes it easier when assembling the tiramisu later. Do remember that ladyfingers/ savioardi puff up a little while baking.
10. Ladyfinger biscuits may be stored up to a week in an airtight container. We both made the savoiardi fingers 4-5 days in advance, and stored them in an airtight box in a cool place (or the refrigerator).
11. We both made the zabaglione & pastry cream the previous day, and assembled the tiramisu the next morning. I (Aparna) then froze my tiramisu for 7 days before decorating and serving it.
12. Placing the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about 1/2 to 1 hour before hand makes the cream whip up very well.
13. Do not dip the ladyfinger/ savoiardi into the coffee solution for more than ONE second, or they might become very fragile & disintegrate. Extra soaking is likely to spoil the end product, making it soggy. I (Aparna) dipped my biscuits only on one side and found they soaked up more than enough coffee solution.
14. If you would like to de-mould your tiramisu from your dish (cutting can be easier and neater this way, you can line your dish with plastic wrap (leaving a little extra on the sides of the dish) and then start assembling your tiramisu. Once the tiramisu sets in the refrigerator, you can use the overhang to pull the tiramisu out of the dish.

The recipes for this challenge are presented in the following order:
A. Tiramisu (includes zabaglione & vanilla pastry cream)
B. Mascarpone Cheese
C. Ladyfinger/ Savoiardi Biscuits

Tiramisu is usually made in square dishes and cut into squares to serve. If you want to be different, please feel free to give full rein to your creativity as to how you want to present, decorate and serve your tiramisu. Make it square, round, as individual servings, or whatever! However, your version of Tiramisu must contain the mascarpone cheese and the savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits you made.

Tiramisu is made up of several components which can be made separately and ahead of time and put together the day before serving.
Making tiramisu from scratch requires about 2 to 3 days (including refrigeration) from when you start making the mascarpone to the time the tiramisu is served. So this challenge requires some prior planning.
Please read the instructions as you need to begin making the mascarpone at least a day in advance.
The zabaglione & pastry cream also need 4 hours to an overnight for chilling, as does the main dessert. The flavours mature after an overnight rest, and the dessert can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days.
Once assembled, the tiramisu can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.

• A double boiler (a stainless steel bowl that fits inside a large saucepan/ pot without touching the bottom will do)
• Two or three large mixing bowls
• Whisk
• A medium sized heavy bottomed pan
• Fine meshed strainer (to remove lumps from pastry cream, if any)
• Electric mixer, hand held
• Serving dish (or dishes) of choice (8" by 8" should be fine)
• Spatula for folding and spoons as required
• Plastic wrap/ clingfilm
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain 3/4" pastry bag tip or cut the end of pastry bag to this size (If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off)
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing ladyfinger biscuits from the baking sheets
• Instant-read thermometer (optional)
• Strainer
• Cheesecloth or cotton napkin for draining mascarpone
• Fine-mesh strainer for shaking cocoa powder on tiramisu

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


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


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.

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

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


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 mascarpone refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

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

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

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.


Rachel said...

A very neat slice of Tiramisu!

s said...

lovely!!! Great job!

limo hire said...

Thanks for recipe...i 'll try..

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very well done! Thiose ladyfingers are perfect and the Tiramisu is beautiful!



Anonymous said...

This looks yummy! Good job!

LittleRed said...

My marscapone turned out very very thick too, and I did find the over all recipe odd in having to make so many components in such small quantities, but I did enjoy the end result. Yours looks fabulous and delcious!

Heather said...

A beautiful well-shaped Tiramisu; great job! I also had trouble with the mascarpone, but it's very expensive here in NY so I think I'll try again.

chef_d said...

Yummy, your sliced tiramisu looks so pretty with all those layers!I loved the ladyfingers too!

vibi said...

WOW! Mary, what perfects layers! ...and I have to admit, you are a master at cuts! Bravo... this is very, very well done!

Dharm said...

I couldnt get my cream to heat up either but I got the cheese alright! Your tiramisu looks just splendid. I love how luscious it looks and how its just begging to be eaten. Great job as always!

Aparna said...

Looks delish. Am not sure what went wrong with the mascarpone, though.
Happy that the ladyfingers are like what you rememeber.
Thanks for baking with us.

Michelle said...

That looks amazing! When I made tiramisu at a coffee shop I worked at, I would take any leftover cream, put it in a cup, garnish it with a few chocolate curls, and sell it with the leftover ladyfingers. I called it tiramisu dippers. They sold out faster than the tiramisu did!

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" said...

Gorgeous job on your tiramisu. I love your beautiful photographs. They are so very elegant.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Allison said...

You know, I had the same problem with the marscapone. It didn't get above 170 degrees. But I forged ahead as well and it ended up turning out ok. I like your idea of shaping it in a springform looks wonderful!

MeetaK said...

mary i am loving your gorgeous cake like dessert. perfect looking slice!

Connie said...

Yum! I agree that it sounds like a "fussy" recipe for Tiramisu...but happy you found a new favorite ladyfinger recipe!
And, I loved the part where you said "the most flavorful ingredient is nostalgia"! It is often SO true!

Valerina said...

This was one of those 'can't see the forest for the trees' recipes. The actual process was tedious but it all came together easily enough at the end.

As usual, your pictures are gorgous. Your blog, with it's amazing photography, was the reason I joined the Daring Bakers. :)

Anonymous said...

Looks perfect! Exactly like the ones at my favourite italian places! :) I like how it's round, like a cake, since it's mostly layered in a glass dish. This just looks more...dessert-y.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Sounds like quite an adventure trying to make the mascarpone. Your tiramisu turned out beautifully!

umut said...

thank you for sharing

Katarina said...

Mhhhmmm...i just can't resist Tiramisu. I tried it this summer for th efirst time, and it was so sweet, cause of all that sugar in it, but reminds me cause of its meltines, of ice cream. But when i tried for the second time, in some other restaurant, it has much, much better taste, so melty and light.