A cliché it may be, but the Sards are no less fond of this 1950s Italian classic than I am, and I see no reason not to be, because when done well, it can be one of the nicest things to eat. Don’t be put off by mediocre tiramisu experiences – this recipe is totally fool-proof, and I have fed it to many Sardinians, who declared it is the best they have ever tasted.
Literally translated as ‘pick-me-up,’ tiramisu is not only delicious as a dessert: it is the perfect thing for breakfast after a heavy night, the booze and coffee providing both the hair-of-the-dog and the caffeine necessary. There is no time of any day, in fact, when a little pick-me-up is not welcome. For me the key is the quantity of alcohol. Like a good trifle, it is this boozy kick that elevates the childhood nostalgia of a custardy cream and cake combo into something a little more adult and refined.
I like to make mine in a big dish or trifle bowl for serving by the generous scoopful, rather than in individual portions. A traditional tiramisu has only two layers of biscuit, but you can scale this recipe up quite easily, or use a tall but narrow vessel, as I have done here, to create more layers.
3 eggs, separated
100 g (3½ oz/½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
500 g (1 lb 1½ oz) mascarpone
200 ml (6¾ fl oz/¾ cup) strong black espresso coffee
80 ml (2¾ fl oz/1/3 cup) marsala
1½ tablespoons brandy
20–24 Savoiardi (ladyfinger) biscuits
5 tablespoons bitter cocoa powder, for dredging
Place the yolks and the sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk with an electric beater (or in a stand mixer) until they become thick, pale and mousse-like.
Mix in the mascarpone by hand, folding it in until completely incorporated.
In a small bowl, mix the coffee with the marsala and brandy.
Whisk the egg whites until smooth, creamy peaks are formed, but not too stiff so that they become dry. Fold into the mascarpone mixture, incorporating them gently so as not to lose too much air.
Dunk the Savoiardi briefly into the coffee mixture, making sure they are fully immersed, and arrange them on the base of your chosen serving bowl. The idea is not to have them either sopping or still-crisp, but somewhere in between. I dip, hold for a second, turn and hold for another second, and then remove. It pays to be diligent here, as no one wants a tiramisu swimming in liquid.
Scoop the first half of the mascarpone mixture over the biscuit layer. Spread out evenly. Repeat the soaked-Savoiardi layer and then finish with the second mascarpone layer on top of this.
Dredge well with bitter cocoa powder and place in the fridge to set for at least an hour or two. If you like, you can add more cocoa powder just before serving, but I like it when it has slightly melted into the cream.
A recipe from Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from Sardinia by Letitia Clark (Hardie Grant).
Feature Image: Unsplash
This originally appeared on House & Garden UK