It will come as a surprise to read that, before today, I had yet to make a tiramisù. It’s a bit of an oddity because I am extremely well-versed with cakes, sweets, puddings, desserts and even truffles and tiramisù is such a basic super-classic that one would think I have made countless. In truth, I had to resist its appeal for two reasons: Rich doesn’t like coffee and the prospect of eating an entire slab of this dessert, while appealing in principle, would do my waistline no good, and, of course, tiramisù is so simple, so child’s play to make that it has always seemed slightly pointless to be wasting my time on it while I could be trying something complicated and of greater effect.
But then... how can I call this most fabulous dessert pointless? I love tiramisù, because I love coffee and because of the quaint affection for its name. It means ‘pick me up’ not as in ‘a pick me up’ but as in ‘pick me up!’ and there is something so appealing about a dessert that guarantees you an immediate mood lift that finally, today, I caved in and thought, sod it, I’ll eat it all myself.
Before I give you the recipe, let me spare a few words on the sponge fingers you should use. These are no ordinary sponge fingers, they are savoiardi, a very specific type of biscuit that is soft below and sugary and crackly on top. Now the problem with savoiardi here in England is that we can only find them at the supermarket, unlike in Italy, where patisseries make them daily. Of course, you can also buy them at the supermarket there, but you’d be a fool to do so when they are baked fresh every morning. This means that the savoiardi we must make do are stiff and, compared to the fresh variety, stale.
When I indicate below that you should dip them in tepid coffee and arrange them in your serving dish, I mean do so in double-quick time. A second too long and they will become so soggy as to lumber you with a watery tiramisù and you so don’t want that. Equally, dip them too quickly, and you’ll end up with a base that you cannot cut into with a fork, as, in fact, you should be able to do. Therefore proceed swiftly at the dipping stage, but not too swiftly.
3 large eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
250g mascarpone (which is a cream cheese sold in tubs)
2 packs of savoiardi (the sponge fingers)
500ml of coffee
cocoa for dusting
a serving dish about 30 cm x 23 cm, nicer with glass, although I made do with a baking tray, pah!
You’ll do it like so:
Begin by making the coffee. I use a medium moka, which means I put it on twice in order to yield about 500ml of coffee. Once this is ready, pour it into a shallow dish or bowl or whatever container will make the dipping of the savoiardi easy for you and leave it to cool.
Whip the three egg whites in a bowl until very stiff, then leave aside.
Now whip the three egg yolks with the sugar in another bowl (no need to wash the beaters, yay!) until they have at least tripled in volume and are huge and soft and white and just delicious-looking.
Add the mascarpone to the whipped egg yolks and give it a quick beating. Now leave the beaters aside and fold in the egg whites with a spoon, trying to maintain the volume as much as possible.
Once you’re done with that, spoon some of this cream on the bottom of your dish and then begin dipping the savoiardi one by one in the cooled coffee (yes, quickly but not too quickly!). Arrange on the bottom side by side and fill your dish. Once the first layer is done, spoon more of the cream on top, level it, then continue the dipping of the savoiardi and the layering. Once you’re done with the second layer, spoon the rest of the cream on top, level it nicely, grab a tea strainer and dust with cocoa generously.
Place the dish in the fridge for a good two hours and then enjoy with an espresso or, failing that, a good old cup of tea. Dead easy and it’s taken me longer to type this up than to make it!