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My Version of Tiramisu (made especially for my sister’s engagement!)

January 21, 2012

Tiramisu.

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Do you love it?  Or leave it?

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Historically I’ve been more of a leaver than a lover.  It’s not that I don’t like tiramisu… I DO!  It’s such a light, sophisticated dessert, with layers of custard and a dusting of cocoa.

I guess the problem is you just never know what you’re gonna get from place to place.  In some versions, the custard is rich and delicious… in others it’s not.  Sometimes you get a pleasant hint of rum… while other times you’re bashed over the head with overwhelming boozey flavor.

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So here’s my take on tiramisu: I don’t care for strong rum flavor.  It sorta ruins it for me.  Instead, this tiramisu is made with just a smidgen of vanilla-flavored vodka.  A VERY nice change of pace if you’re a fellow non-rum-enthusiast.

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I decided to make tiramisu because my sister loves it.  (She’s much more refined than me… my favorite dessert is a tie between cookie dough and Ben & Jerry’s.)  See, on Sunday, we recieved a little phone-call from my sister’s boyfriend, with some oh-so-welcome news.  He had plans to propose the following day!  WhooHoooo!  And to add to the excitement, after proposing he planned to end their day together at our house for an Italian meal!  WhooHoooo again!  It was perfect timing.  I had the day off for Martin Luther King day and was able to cook up a delightful Italian feast for the little lovebirds.

I had lots of fun creating a romantic table setting…

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…and LOTS of fun planning out the meal!  Bruschetta, Salad, Stuffed Shells with Artichokes, and of course the TIRAMISU.  I knew it would put her already perfect day over-the-top!

You should totally make it!  It’s super-easy, I promise.

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Start with 4 eggs, two tubs of mascarpone cheese (400 grams total), 3/4 C. powdered sugar, 1 T. brown sugar, 3/4 C. brewed espresso, 2 t. vanilla vodka, 2 packages of ladyfingers, cocoa powder for dusting, & a chocolate bar for shavings (optional.)

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This is vanilla-flavored vodka.  Its very simple to make… simply soak vanilla beans in vodka over a period of weeks.  🙂  Thanks for the tip Jamie! It softens them up so that they are easy to scrape when you need them.  And if left alone long enough, the liquid becomes actual vanilla!  Cool huh?  Of course you can also use the vanilla-flavored stuff from the liquor store if you didn’t happen to have a batch of this brewing like I did.

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Measure out 2 teaspoons of this stuff (more if it floats your boat), and add a tablespoon of brown sugar (this helps the vodka mimic the rum-flavor, but in a more subtle way.)

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Now mix the alcohol into the brewed espresso.  This smells YUMMY!

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Now start separating your eggs into two bowls.  Be very cautious not to allow any foreign particles into the eggwhites.  It doesn’t matter so much with the yolks, but the whites need to be free from even the smallest speck of yolk since we’ll be whipping them in a minute.

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Now just grab an electric mixer and start whipping those eggwhites!  Add just a pinch of salt halfway through.  It brightens everything up.

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Keep going until you’ve created stiff peaks like these.

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Now set the whites aside, grab your powdered sugar, and add it to the egg yolks.

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Beat with the electric mixer (no need to wash it off first, the whites wont hurt this!) until you get this lovely creamy yellow mixture.  Add just a half-teaspoon of vanilla here to help flavor the custard.

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Lovely!  Now for the mascarpone.  It’s best if this is room temperature so it will mix easily.  (But if you forgot to leave it out like me, a quick nuke in the microwave at half-power will do the trick!)

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Mix it up. Gorgeous, isn’t it?  So silky!

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 And gradually fold in the eggwhites with a rubber spatula.  I like to do this in two batches.  The first batch gets slightly deflated in the heavy custard, but it lightens the mixture up nicely so that the second batch folds in easily.

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Here’s how you fold.  It’s a very gentle mixing method.

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When you’ve folded in all of the eggwhites, you should have a light and luscious-looking custard like this.  And you’ve accomplished the most complicated part of tiramisu.  The rest is just layering and chilling.

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Now then, grab your lady fingers and pour the boozey coffie into a shallow bowl.

Dip each lady finger in the liquid very quickly.

First one side…

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Then the other.

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And wedge them into the bottom of a dish to create your first layer.  You can use a shallow, rectangular baking dish if you prefer fewer layers.  I went with a taller dish for more layers (more drama!!)

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Spoon a few generous dollops of custard onto the ladyfingers to create the second layer.

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And just keep working your way up, layer by layer.  I really like how this looks in a glass dish because you get the full effect!  (Another neat idea would be to make individual servings in small glass dishes or cups.  How elegant would that look?)

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When you get to the top, its time to smooth out the last of your custard and give it a light dusting of cocoa.  It’s the Italian way 🙂  (I might be making that up… I didn’t learn this from an Italian, I just assume its the Italian way.)

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Don’t go too crazy.  Cocoa powder in mass quantities can choke up your wind pipes.

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Tadaaaa!  Make this and you’re guaranteed to impress any guest.  (Most people only ever see this in restaurants so it’s a big deal when someone makes it at home.)

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Oh, and one more touch.  Some shavings of chocolate bar for sweetness and added elegance.  Always a good idea.

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The couple raved about this dessert.  Apparently I’m not the only person bothered by tiramisus with excessive rum.  Everyone agreed that this version was delicious!

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And Mallory and James weren’t the only excited ones!  My husband was, shall we say, a rather zealous participant in the evening’s festivities?  Let’s just say life with this one is never boring.

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Hope you enjoy!

I will add that tiramisu is not recommended for pregnant women or young children (because of the raw eggs and varying levels of alcohol it can contain)… however this one is very low in alcohol, so I wouldn’t worry about that.  (Many desserts that call for vanilla contain about the same amount.)  Just the raw eggs can be a concern for some.  Maybe I can be considered an extreme risk-taker since I’ve already admitted I love cookie dough.

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Buon Apetito!  And Mazel Tov to all the happy couples in your life. 🙂

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You may also enjoy…

Chocolate Ganache Cake                                         Pear and Dried Cherry Clafouti

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    January 23, 2012 3:52 am

    Aww, looks like a great recipe and a lovely evening!

  2. February 4, 2012 3:12 pm

    Your sister is one lucky gal! That sure is one impressive dish of tiramisu.

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