Monday, January 29, 2007

My First Tiramisu ...

Mom didn't want a cake.

She wanted tiramisu for her 65th birthday instead.

I'd never made tiramisu before, but she had, and she promised it was easy. Not like cake-mix easy, but easy enough for someone who knows their way around a KitchenAid.

So I bought the ingredients and followed the recipe on the back of the package of ladyfingers. Typically, the Serbian Oath by which I live precludes me from buying any prepared ingredients. We're a from-scratch clan, we Serbs. At least the ones in my family. But there was no chance that I was going to attempt to make ladyfingers. Mom buys the packages, too. I don't think our Serb cards are in danger of being revoked.

I assembled all the ingredients on the counter. My local store didn't have mascarpone so I opted for the substitute solution: softened cream cheese blended with sour cream and heavy cream. Which, of course, required a KitchenAid bowl for combining. My second KitchenAid bowl was in the freezer with the whip attachment, chilling in advance of whipping the nearly two cups of heavy cream. But first, I used KitchenAid bowl No. 1 to beat six egg yolks and 1 1/4 cups of sugar until they were thick and lemon-colored, and then cooked that mixture over a double boiler for 10 minutes, stirring constantly with my silicone spatula.

Ten minutes later, I had a thick, grainy bowl of sugary yolk. The sugar wasn't dissolved. Did I do something wrong? Heck if I knew. I decided to proceed. Perhaps the sugar would dissolve at a later stage. If not, I'd make another run to the store to buy more eggs. And cream. And everything else.

As the yolk mixture cooled, I make my makeshift mascarpone. Then I whipped the cream. I combined the cheese with the cooled yolk mixture then folded in the whipped cream. Like magic, it turned into the most gorgeous, silken, heart-stoppingly-delicious mixture.

I placed a layer of ladyfingers in the bottom of a Pyrex dish. The recipe calls for making this in a bowl, but I wanted to serve pieces of it, not spoonfuls of it. I brushed the ladyfingers with Kahlua. I poured half the cream mixture on top. Then more ladyfingers, more Kahlua, and the balance of the cream.

And then I whipped the remaining cream called for in the recipe to spread on top. Except that my decision to make the dessert in a low, wide dish meant I came up short on whipped cream. So I whipped what I had left - what else was I going to do with it? - and spread it over the remainder of the top. It wasn't the prettiest presentation, so I covered my imperfection with a thick dusting of cocoa.

The next day, when we ate it, it was still quite soft. I expected it to have more body. But the taste? Oh. My. God.


We had a lot left over. Mom shared some with my neighbors. I kept the plate of misshapen pieces that I extracted from the dish in an effort to dish up pretty pieces for the neighbor folk. Mom took home the balance in the dish.

It is a dangerous thing to have tiramisu in the house.

Well, it was, anyway.

I've since trashed the ladyfinger packaging, so I don't have the recipe to share. And I didn't take a photo of it because anything a Pyrex dish is nothing to look at. And when I dished it up on mom's birthday, the last thing on any of our minds was photostyling and photography. There was tiramisu waiting to be eaten, dammit!

But tiramisu recipes abound. Mom found one in her new Cooking Light cookbook (one of her birthday gifts from me) that boasts a mere 140 calories per serving! Is a serving a one-inch square? I must investigate.

And make the "healthy" version.

I'll report back when I do.

I don't hold out high hopes for "healthy" tiramisu, but tiramisu hopes spring eternal.