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Tiramisu. What’s not to love about layers of soft sponge fingers soaked in espresso and a boozy mixture of Marsala wine, rum and brandy. Swathed in a lush, velvetly and delectable Italian custard and mascarpone filling. It’s like all the good things in life (edible, of course) came together in a single dessert. Well to be honest, I’ve had some truly unforgettable ones, others that were mediocre and a couple of unfortunate times which could only be described as disastrous. All these while, making tiramisu seemed so intimidating that I’ve never thought about making it myself.

It all started when I was thinking about what dessert to bake for a New Year’s party. Now, there’s no way I’m gonna cheat here and take the easy way out (aka store bought savoiardi or ladyfinger biscuits). Baking the ladyfingers was easy – basically a sponge cake batter piped into little ‘fingers’, dusted with a little powdered sugar and baked. I like my Tiramisu to be intense. So in went the espresso, liquors and copious amounts of them. 3 attempts later, I must say that they have gotten closer to the Tiramisu of my dreams but, not mhmm.. perfect yet. I’ve gotten quite a few compliments that night and had request to make them again. So for now, I’ll just have to keep tweaking the recipe to satisfy the perfectionist in me!

makes an 8 x 8″ dessert, serves 5-6 people

Ladyfinger Biscuits
65g organic unbleached flour, sifted
10g cornstarch, sifted
3 free-range organic eggs, separated
2 T granulated sugar
splash of pure vanilla (i used nielsen-massy)
1/8 t cream of tartar
3 T granulated sugar

Whisk the egg yolks and 2 T of sugar until it thickens and turns pale yellow. Add the vanilla. Gently fold the sifted flour and cornstarch into the yolks. In a clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until foaming. Add the sugar and continue whipping til it reaches the stiff peak stage. Fold the egg whites in batches into the yolk mixture until a smooth batter forms. Fill a piping bag and pipe strips of batter onto a baking sheet. Dust a little powdered sugar on top. Bake at 170C for 8-10 min until lightly golden and firm to the touch.

Zabaglione // Italian Custard
recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence – Tiramisu Italiano
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar
40ml sweet Marsala wine
220g mascarpone
1 cup heavy cream
1 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped (i used 70% cocoa here)

1 cup freshly brewed espresso coffee
1/4 cup rum
2 T brandy
2 T Marsala wine

Cream together egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Add the marsala and continue to whisk until mixture is thick and doubled in volume. Remove from heat. Stir in the mascarpone until completely blended. In a chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture, to lighten.

To assemble:
Prepare a 8″ square glass serving dish. Combine the coffee and liquors together in another shallow dish. HERE’S THE TRICKY BIT: place the ladyfingers into the espresso mixture and allow it to absorb all that dark dark goodness. It shouldn’t be too dry nor completely soggy. If it’s too dry, use a pastry brush to soak them once assembled in the pan. Arrange the ladyfingers in a single layer on the bottom of the dish. Pour the custard over and smooth it over to level it. Repeat with more ladyfingers and custard. Finally, I like to sprinkle finely chopped dark chocolate over the top for some textural contrast. Chill for 3 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.