Tag Archives: sponge fingers

Un tiramisu che ti tirasu

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 it is:

2 egg whites, 4 egg yolks (freeze the 2 extra egg whites)

150 icing sugar

400g mascarpone

200g sponge fingers

175ml espresso coffee

200g plain chocolate, grated (grating chocolate is one of my least favourite jobs but I do it for this)

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.

 

 

 

 

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A tale of two trifles

We don’t, really, have trifles in Italy. The nearest we come is cassata but although that can, technically, mean a layering of sponge, fruit, liqueur etc, it usually means an ice cream layered dessert. That said, the second trifle here is called Italian trifle, in our house, by my partner. I’m not sure why but it is.

So, here, I present two trifles, although neither are the classic trifle in that neither house any jelly at all. They both also contain booze so not really child-suitable (I should point out that it’s unlawful to give alcohol to a child under the age of five, unless under the direction of a doctor). Although I do have some friends whose children – over the age of five, ahem – absolutely devoured the Italian trifle off their mother’s plate and she had to wrestle the spoon back off them.

The first is a Nigel Slater recipe that he called the Ten Minute Trifle. I’m afraid I don’t have a photograph of it at present. It is glorious. I have since renamed it the Pregnancy Test Trifle since I credit it with being able to detect if you’re pregnant, even before you know you are.

Let me explain. In late 2002 we decided to try for a baby. Three days after ‘trying’ for a baby for the very first time, I made this trifle, as it was New Year’s Eve. I had made it many, many times before. I tasted it. And spat it out. “I’ve put far too much alcohol in here,” I said to my partner, with upper lip ruffled up in distaste. “I must have put double the amount of sherry into it.”

He tasted it. Declared it fine. But to me, it was inedible. It was another three weeks before I did a pregnancy test which declared that I was, indeed, pregnant. Another friend had this trifle and declared it inedible – too strong – and she then discovered she was pregnant.

Despite this. If you’re not pregnant this trifle is lovely. Not too strong at all. If it does taste too strong…well.

Nigel Slater’s Ten Minute Trifle

Note: this trifle contains raw egg and alcohol.

10-20 sponge fingers. You can play quite loose with the quantities as I use enough to fill the bottom of the bowl

255ml chilled marsala or sweet sherry

2 ripe bananas, sliced

1 tin of raspberries. I use the ones in juice

2 eggs, separated

50g caster sugar

225g mascarpone

vanilla extract

flaked almonds

Put the sponge fingers, broken up in half, thirds, whatever and put into a bowl. (Note this is fairly sloppy when you ‘cut’ into it so if such things matter to you you may want to make this in individual bowls/glasses, these glasses are particularly good for this.) Pour over the marsala, raspberries (with as much or as little of the tinned-juice as you need to soak the sponge fingers, discard the rest of the juice). Now put the bananas on top.

Cream the egg yolks with the sugar, add the mascarpone and beat until light and creamy. Add a dash of vanilla extract, about a teaspoon.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold them gently into the egg yolk/mascarpone mixture. Now tip it all over the fruit/sponge fingers and cover with toasted flaked almonds.

Leave it for a couple of hours before eating.

Italian trifle

This is very rich, very delicious and more-ish. I really like trifles (I know some people hate them) because you can make them in advance, as long as you have the fridge space. They are a great, often not madly expensive way of serving dessert to lots of people and if anything, they improve with 24hrs in the fridge. I’ve said before that I am master of organisation, but once people arrive through my front door and I’ve had a drink it’s every man for himself. I am a dreadful hostess. So a dessert, pre-made, that I can present with relish and show that I did, once, care about my guests, is useful.

100g sponge fingers. Absolutely use shop bought don’t even think about making them yourself

100g lemon curd

3 tablespoons of limongello or lemon vodka

500ml of double cream

125g caster sugar

100ml lemon juice. From our normal sized lemons this equals to the juice from one and a half lemons

Topping

250ml whipping cream

Zest of half an orange

Crystallized violets (optional but lovely here)

Shelled, chopped nuts. I use pistachio or toasted hazelnuts. But you can leave this bit out completely.

I make this in a 1litre pudding basin.

Break the sponge fingers in half and spread with the curd. Put them in individual glasses if you like, but this is an impressive dessert to serve in a big dish. And unlike the Pregnancy Test Trifle above, it holds its shape when cut.

Now sprinke the alcohol over the top.

In a medium sized sauce pan pour the 500ml of double cream and add the sugar. Bring to the boil over a medium heat then turn down and simmer for 2/3 minutes. Now remove from the heat and stir through the lemon juice. Pour this over the sponge fingers. In the bowl I use, this takes me almost to the top and I always have a moment of panic but as long as you have a centimetre or so of space, you’ll be fine for putting the cream on later. Push the sponge fingers down into the mixture as best you can.

Leave it out, to cool. When cool put it in the fridge. You can easily do this bit the day before, as I do. Be warned, this is already delicious and often I have a go at this pudding before the day. That’s okay though because you will have a carapace of whipped cream to hide your shame.

Either just before you serve this or when the mixture above has set you whip up the whipped cream. Spoon it over the trifle and scatter with the violet petals/nuts/zest. Either serve or put back in the fridge for enjoyment later.

Ice cream cake

Very yummy ice cream cake

When I used to go to Italy, up to Salsomaggiore Terme, provincia di Parma, where my father is from, we used to go to Pasticceria Tosi on Sunday to buy little cakes and pastries (a very common tradition in Italy). In the fridge/freezer display there would always be ice cream cakes.

They seemed impossibly luxurious and I can still see myself looking in at them.

When I saw this recipe by Bill Granger in the August edition of Waitrose magazine, I knew I had to try it (unfortunately I can’t find a link to it on the Waitrose site). He calls it tiramisu ice cream cake. Of course, being Italian, I cannot call it this.

I adapted it quite a bit, halving the proportions, adding more sponge fingers, less chocolate and taking out the Kahlua that Granger asks for (I haven’t got any in my cupboard and I’m not going to spend £17 on a bottle of it to keep in said cupboard, but if you have some, do use it, maybe half and half marsala or all Kahlua, up to you). I know this recipe may seem imprecise, but the beauty of it is that you can add more or less of something you like/don’t like.

This is what I did:

65ml espresso/strong black coffee
30ml marsala (or use sherry)
Nearly a whole packet of sponge fingers (about 170g)
Some vanilla ice cream, I used about half of one batch of this home made stuff
About 50g of grated dark chocolate

I lined a small loaf tin (about 6″ x 4″) with some parchment paper. Then I started layering up the dessert.

Mix the coffee and marsala together in a small dish. Individually dip the sponge fingers into it. Don’t linger or they will fall apart. Lay the fingers down on the base of the dish, break some up if they don’t fit but end up with a base of soaked sponge fingers.

Now layer with vanilla ice cream, then grated chocolate. Grating chocolate is possibly one of my least favourite jobs EVER, as the chocolate ends up going everywhere and sticking to the grater. So I didn’t use loads, you can use more if you like. I probably should have used my grater attachment on my food processor, but I don’t like to use it for what I consider small jobs..

Then  just keep going. Dip the sponge fingers in the mixture, ice cream, grated chocolate. Until you run out of space. I ended up with a layer of sponge fingers as I like them, Granger says to end up with a sprinkling of chocolate.

Cover with cling film and put in the freezer. Take out for about 30 mins before you need it and keep it in the fridge. It slices beautifully and my eldest loved it (although I need to point out that it DOES HAVE ALCOHOL IN IT and it is ILLEGAL TO GIVE ALCOHOL TO A CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF FIVE). I gave my youngest a separate bit with no booze in it.

Afterwards it struck me that if you preferred you could layer these up individually in little ramekins or some lovely little glasses and freeze them individually.

If making for a large party, double the recipe above and use a big old square tin. Granger recommends 26″ square but use your common sense. No reason you couldn’t make this in a loaf tin like I did just a bigger one.