A few years ago, when we fancied making a tiramisu (it means pick me up, or pull me up), I looked at loads of recipes. I was quite shocked (I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Italian cooking) at the variations. I mean, Nigella, whom I love, had one, in How To Eat, using no coffee or chocolate and meringues instead of sponge fingers. It caused me to to slam the pages of the book shut in mock horror.
It is the coffee, and the chocolate that is supposed to act as a ‘tiramisu’. Anything else, to my mind, ti spinge giu (pushes you down).
I have hundreds of cookery books, and a world of recipes at my fingers tips, as do you, on the internet. But nothing was really saying Italian tiramisu to me. Then I thought of looking in my Italian cooking bible: The Silver Spoon.
In these days of celebrity cookbooks, stuffed full of photographs, the recipes in this book are easy to overlook: simple, very few pictures and the list of ingredients for each recipe is short. But don’t overlook them because not only is this a fantastic cookery book, the recipes are accomplished – some of them go back fifty years. As you may expect, some of the recipes are as good as they’re ever going to get.
And the tiramisu recipe is no exception. It is one of the few with a photo which I admit helped…I made it and it is the only way we make tiramisu now. It’s simple, anyone can do it (my bambine frequently do) and once made sits in the fridge for a good few days, yielding to your spoon just when you need a…pick me up.
It has no alcohol – so if you feel the need for some after dinner, serve that separately – which means children can easily eat this. Although beware of eating it too late as there’s quite a caffeine punch.
My friend Tamsin doesn’t like coffee, so she doesn’t include it in her tiramisu. Of course I have told her it’s not really a tiramisu, but more of a creamy pudding. Don’t even think of using cocoa powder (other than, maybe, on the very top but I don’t) instead of grated chocolate. The chocolate shavings make this stand out and allow for some bite in what is a wallowy pudding which offers little resistance: you could easily eat aged 98, when all your teeth have fallen out.
And use icing sugar, not caster, which can result in a runny mess.
Here is the original recipe but the adaptions I now make are in italics.
2 egg whites, 4 egg yolks (freeze the 2 extra egg whites)
because I end up with a plethora of egg white I now use all of the four eggs and it just makes for a slightly softer, fluffier tiramisu.
150 icing sugar
because the mascarpone I buy comes in 250g tubs I now use 500g of mascarpone to no ill effect
200g sponge fingers I use as many as I need to cover the base of my container and the second layer.
175ml espresso coffee
200g plain chocolate, grated I often use less and lately have started using really good hot chocolate mix instead of grated chocolate. Really good hot chocolate is just chocolate flaked..
NOTE: grating chocolate is one of my least favourite jobs but I do it for this. 200g is what the original recipe asks for, but I’ve made this dozens of times now and I never use this much anymore and in fact I use less than half of it and it’s plenty. My advice is go for 100g of it, because also, grating 200g of chocolate is a total yawn.
What to do:
I make this in a rectangular Pyrex, which also has a handy lid so I can save it for a few days. Mine is about 17cm x 25cm and it makes two layers. But of course you can make it in a different shape so you get more layers, or even make it circular or in individual portions, just break the sponge fingers up to fill the spaces.
It would, I think, easily serve eight people depending on the size of portion.
First you whisk the egg whites until stiff, set them aside for a moment whilst, in a separate bowl you beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar, then you fold/whisk the mascarpone into the egg yolks and sugar and finally, into this you gently fold in the egg whites. This is your creamy bit.
Lay the sponge fingers onto the base of your dish and brush or pour the coffee on top. Because I know mine makes two layers, I pour half the coffee on now. Then spoon on a layer of the cream and sprinkle with the grated chocolate. Repeat this, ending with a layer of mascarpone/sprinkling of chocolate. I usually end up with more chocolate than I need for this, for some reason, so if so just keep it in a jam jar for next time.
It is better the next day, but can be eaten within a few hours of making it and chilling it to allow the ingredients to meet each other, and mingle.