Probably one of the most famous Italian desserts of all time, many people don’t realize that the tiramisù is only about fifty years old. It’s now generally accepted that the dessert was invented in Treviso at the Osterie alle Becchiere in the late 1960s early 70s.
The original name of the dessert was tiramesù which means ‘pick me up’ in Venetian dialect. But it soon became known by the standard Italian version tiramisù.
For anyone who’s been living on the moon for the last fifty years, tiramisù is made of crema al mascarpone (cream cheese mixed with sugar and eggs), biscuits soaked in coffee and alcohol, and chocolate powder. The alcohol could be rum, Marsala wine, or even Tia Maria, for that extra coffee taste. (It’s worth noting that the original recipe used only coffee and no alcohol.)
Over the years many different versions have evolved including frozen semifreddo ones. This version is mine, which sticks closely to the original recipe with two major differences. Firstly, I create a kind of crème pâtissiere with the mascarpone cheese to ensure that there are no raw eggs in the dessert; secondly, I make my own sponge layers which gives it the aspect of a cake. This builds on techniques I learnt in France when I lived there and blogged about pâtisserie.
You will need a bit of special equipment for this version but it’s a showstopper at any party or as an after dinner dessert. Buon appetito!
For the sponge:
8 egg whites
8 egg yolks
For the filling:
500g (18 ounces) mascarpone cheese
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
160g (6 ounces) sugar
20g (1 heaped tablespoon) plain flour
250g (9 ounces) whipping cream
For the assembly:
1 cup of strong italian coffee
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
2 x 26cm by 36 cm (10 inches x 14 inches) silicon swiss roll sheets
20 cm x 4.5 cm (8 inches x 1 1/2 inches) steel pâtisserie ring
4.5 cm (1 1/2 inches) deep acetate patisserie ribbon
Make the sponge:
- Using a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time with the mixer on medium speed pausing between each one to combine.
- Add the egg yolks and increase the speed to high until the yolks are completely mixed with the whites.
- Turn the mixer off and sift in the flour. Then gently incorporate it with a spatula trying to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
- Divide the mixture equally between the thing and smooth down with a large palette knife.
- Bake at 180 C fan for 12 minutes. Allow to cool and then remove from the silicon sheets.
- Using the steel ring, cut one circle from each of the sheets of sponge. Then put the straight edges of the two remaining pieces of sponge together and cut a third circle from them (this will be two semicircles put together).
Make the filling:
- Put the mascarpone and eggs in a large saucepan and beat together with a whisk until combined. This will have the consistency of cream.
- Add the sugar and whisk together.
- Add the flour and whisk together.
- Place the saucepan over a gentle heat and, whisking all the time, bring to the boil. Keep whisking until the cream thickens (about five minutes).
- Place the cream in a bowl, cover with clingfilm which should contact the surface. Leave to cool completely.
- Whisk the whipping cream to stiff peaks and then gently fold in the mascarpone cream. Place in a piping bag.
- Place one of the sponge circles (the one in two halves) on a cake board and place the steel ring around it. Line the steel ring with the acetate.
- Using a pastry brush soak the sponge in the coffee mixed with the Marsala wine.
- Pipe just under half the cream mixture on top of the sponge.
- Place the second piece of sponge circles on top and then repeat steps 2 and 3.
- Place the final sponge circle on top which should come right up to the top of the ring. Cover with the small amount of remaining cream and smooth it over with a palette knife.
- Place in the fridge for at least one hour.
- Just before serving, sieve the chocolate powder over the top of the cake so that it’s completely covered.
- Carefully remove the steel ring and the acetate and serve.