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The BloggerAid Cookbook

Tiramisu (made from scratch)

For February, Daring Bakers' host Deeba of Passionate About Baking & Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen chose Tiramisu as the challenge of the month based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obession.

Et bien sûr, nothing is ever simple with Daring Bakers' (hence the name sake), this time around, we aren't taking the easy road like I did with my first Tiramisu in 2007 where everything was store bought and put together. The challenge is to make our own mascarpone cheese and our sponge fingers/ladyfinger biscuits, pastry cream and zabaglione (a cooked one) and piece it all together to make this pick me up dessert.

So what is this famous Tiramisu? As mentioned in my older post, it means "pick-me-up" (metaphorically, "make me happy") made of mascarpone cheese, sponge fingers or savoiardi & zabaglione.

When I first read what is needed to be done for this challenge, I nearly fainted on the spot. I assure you would too when you read the following list. But fear not, it's not as complicated and difficult as it looks. Once I got started, I got into the swing of things very fast and all jazzed up... all too soon, the fun ended and I felt a bit bereaved that it ended so fast.

Making pastry cream was a breeze since I have made it before for a Blueberry Tart last year. However I was unsure how a zabaglione should look like after it is done so I just relied on my ninja chef instinct.

For this challenge, I have split things into 3 posts for easy reference :

  1. Home-made Mascarpone Cheese (make this 1 day in advance)
  2. Home-made Spong Fingers, also known as Ladyfingers biscuits & savoiardi (can be made on the day itself or a few days in advance)
  3. Assembling Tiramisu (below)

As we are making all of it from scratch, it's easier and less stressful if you make the sponge fingers first and mascarpone cheese, zabaglione & pastry cream another day or vise versa. Then assemble the tiramisu the following day. The mascarpone cheese needs to be refrigerated overnight while the zabaglione & pastry cream need to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours. Are you still with me after reading the long list of things to be done? OK, whenever you are ready, I'm ready. Let's go!

Tiramisu (made from scratch)

(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007)

Serves: 6

Ingredients

For the zabaglione

  • 2 large egg yolks (I used 3 medium egg yolks)
  • 50 g sugar
  • 60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest (finely)

For the vanilla pastry cream

  • 55 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • ½ grated lemon zest (finely)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk (I used 1 medium egg)
  • 175 ml whole milk (I used partially skim milk)

For the whipped cream

  • 235ml chilled heavy cream (I used UHT 35% crème liquide)
  • 55gms sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu

  • 1 big cup brewed espresso, warmed
  • 1 tsp rum extract or (optional)
  • 110gms sugar (I left it out)
  • 75 g mascarpone cheese
  • 36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Directions

For the zabaglione

  1. Heat water in a double boiler or a bain-marie.
  2. In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or the bain-marie. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
  4. Let it cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
zabaglione

For the pastry cream

  1. Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Add in the egg yolk and pour in half of the milk slowly while whisking it. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  4. Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don't worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
  5. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
Pastry cream

For the whipped cream

  1. Place the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about ½ to 1 hour before hand helps to whip up the cream whip very well.
  2. Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.
  3. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu

  1. Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
  2. Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar (I left out this in mine) in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold.
  4. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined.
  5. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
  6. Dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy.
  7. Line the ladyfinger on the dish, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered. (I sprinkle cocoa powder on top of every layer of spong fingers)
  8. Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
  9. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer.
  10. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
  11. To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please on the surface of the tiramisu. Cut into individual portions and serve.
  12. The Tiramisu can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days. Once assembled, it can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.
Tiramisu (made from scratch)Tiramisu (made from scratch)
The Verdict

It's great! Very creamy and sinful but surprisingly it didn't taste as sweet as I expected it to be. There's not an incredible difference with the one made with your off-the-shelf ingredients, but this one is a bit more subtle and flavourful.

The next time I make Tiramisu, I wouldn't hesitate to make my own sponge fingers (ladyfingers) and mascarpone at home, but assemble it using the simpler version ie. make it with raw egg yolks and whipped egg whites. However if you or one of your guests is pregnant or has aversion about eating raw eggs, I would recommend making tiramisu using above methods with zabaglione and whipped cream.

Update: We defrozed one of the tiramisu totally the other day and found that it indeed tasted a little bit sweeter than usual. I have also just realized that I added all the mascarpone (180 g) I made in my tiramisu instead of the 75 g as required in the recipe. So if you are making this version, please reduce the quantity of sugar indicated in zabaglione and pastry cream or else your tiramisu will turn out to be very sweet.

Notes

Placing the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about ½ to 1 hour before hand helps to whip up the cream whip very well.

As there were already sugar in pastry cream and zabaglione, I omitted sugar in the coffee as I didn't want the tiramisu to be too sweet.

You can assemble the tiramisu in wine glass, cups or verrines as you wish. Leave it to creativity and imagination. Obviously a transparent container will show it's layered structure better;-)

Tiramisu (made from scratch)
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Sponge Fingers (Ladyfingers or Savoiardi Biscuits)

The other not-so-secret ingredient needed for making Tiramisu (Daring Bakers' February Challenge by Deeba of Passionate About Baking & Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen) is home made Sponge Fingers, alternatively known as Ladyfingers or Savoiardi biscuits. It's a very simple and straight forward recipe to do. Nothing to be afraid of except maybe if you are afraid you can't get your whites to stiff peaks. A little dash of salt in your whites before you whip will do the trick. One of the little problems I encountered was controlling the batter coming out of my ziploc piping bag. I'm not very skilled at piping my batter yet. LOL! The other is that my sponge fingers were baked earlier than the time indicated. So do watch your savoiardi biscuits in the oven. Other than that, making these biscuits is a breeze.

The other thing I want to draw your attention to is CAKE FLOUR is not self-rising flour. Do not confuse these two. Self rising flour (known as farine à gateaux in France) has baking powder in it whereas Cake Flour has none - contains only plain flour & some corn starch/corn flour.

Ladyfingers (Spong Fingers or Savoiardi Biscuits)

(taken from Cordon Bleu At Home)

Makes: approx 24 big ladyfingers

Ingredients
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 75 g granulated sugar
  • 95 g cake flour, sifted (or ¾ cup plain flour + 2 tbsp cornflour or corn starch)
  • 50 g icing sugar or confectioner's sugar
sponge fingers
Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 175°C (350 F - gas mark 4).
  2. Lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line it on the baking tray.
  3. Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  4. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork (so that we can easily incorporate the yolks into the whites) Fold the lightly beaten egg yolks into the meringue, using a wooden spoon.
  6. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
  7. Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
  8. Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
  9. Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
  10. Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
  11. Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
sponge fingerssponge fingerssponge fingers
The Verdict

My sponge fingers turned out beautifully. It's very soft and spongy on the inside but not crunchy on the outside like it should be. Maybe it's because I didn't sprinkle all the icing sugar on top as indicated. (I only used ¼ of the quantity stated) The ladyfingers taste kinda flat/bland but tasty all the same. It's very eggy - reminds me of Chinese New Year cookies Kueh Bolu. I like to dip mine with tea. I'll definitely add vanilla extract or other flavours when I made these fingers again.

Notes

My ladyfingers are baked way before the indicated time in the recipe. Perhaps I made them smaller or maybe my oven is hotter. Anyway do keep a watch out on your spong fingers, if it's lightly brown on top and springy to touch before the time is up, you should take it out.

sponge fingers
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Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

Making home-made cheese is something that I have always wanted to do but haven't got the guts for it - fear of failure I guess and wasting milk. So when Daring Bakers' announced that we have to make Mascarpone Cheese as part of their February challenge issued by Deeba & Aparna, I was excited but at the same time a bit apprehensive about it. I mean, making cheese sounds so professional. Can I do it? Will I succeed? Pushing my doubts aside, I said to myself: I've lots of time left before the reveal date. Well, time flies when you are having fun... and before long, the dateline for Dbs' challenge was staring at my face. Cornered, I had no choice but to face my fear. Frankly, it's just so ridiculous that I get all so stressed up about it. It's just making cheese, for goodness sake! If it didn't turn out right, it's no big deal, just try again, right?. But I guess we all have our own weird phobia of failures. LOL!

Facing my fear I did. Although I did try to duck out of it when seeing in the recipe that we needed pasterized cream and not ultra pasteurization or UHT (ultra-high temperature treatment). A search on the net gave me conflicting informations. Some sites claim that it won't give you cheese (can't remember the reasons behind it anymore) while others say that as long as you are making soft cheese like mascarpone, it can be done. Since I have only UHT cream with 30% fat in my pantry, I decided to just use it following Ninja's philosophy: if we don't experiment with it, we'll never know!

At first I tried Vera's method cooking the cream on skillet but after like an eternity, still no sign of any bubbles - a cue for me to add lemon juice (I don't have a cooking thermometer, you see... *hint*hint* to whoever wants to get me a gift). So I decided to switch to bain-marie - nope, still no bubbles. Anyway I decided to just squeeze a few drops of juice in the cream to see if anything happens...what can I lose, right? And the cream had been cooking for quite long enough. Well, NOTHING was darn happening! Arrgggh! Stir, stir, stir... can't tell whether it is milk scum or is it really thickening, but something was sure coating my spatula. LOL! I was getting pretty desperate at this point. I mean how long can I cook this cream? I decided to ditch the bain-marie method, put it on direct low heat and a few more drops of lemon juice for the road. Blink! Blink! Like magic, it was thickening. (yes, for a minute there, I doubted my own eyes) Hurray! Did a happy cheese dance 'I'm so excited. Yeah yeah yeah!'

OK, now that I had it thickened... How do I know what's the right consistency? Did a little stove dance: burner, off burner, back to burner as I wasn't sure if it was thick enough. LOL! Anyway, after a while, I decided to stop the musical stove with my mascarpone and let it cool for 20 minutes. Miracle! It had thickened. As I had to leave for grocery shopping, I put it in the fridge to cool while it was kinda warm. Came back a few hours later and found a nice thick textured mascarpone. Did a finger dip - tasted fantastic! I didn't have any water dripping from the sieve like some other bloggers did. By the way, I didn't use cheese cloth for this - don't even know where to buy it here in France so I used the alternative: hub's good old cotton handkerchief. And yes, it's a freshly cleaned one if any of you were wondering. It works like a charm.

MASCARPONE CHEESE

(taken from Vera's Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)

Makes: 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Ingredients
  • approx 500ml or 2 cups whipping pasteurized cream with 25% to 36% fat (I used UHT cream with 30% fat)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
Directions
  1. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering.
  2. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet.
  3. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 87.7°C (90°F). If you do not have a cooking thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface. It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating.
  4. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles.
  5. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. The whipping cream will only just thickens, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover the back of your wooden spoon thickly.
  6. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. If you don't have cheesecloth, use a cotton kitchen towel or a cotton hankerchief.
  8. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time).
  9. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours. (Vera's notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it'd been cooked enough, because of itscustard-like texture . Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.)
  10. Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.
Home made Mascarpone CheeseHome made Mascarpone Cheese
The Verdict

I like the tastes of home-made mascarpone better than the one bought from the store. It's creamy and silkenly delicious. I don't really know how to describe but it just taste differently good.

Notes

If the above method doesn't work for you, cook the cream on direct very low heat. But be careful not to burn it or else you will get a burnt flavoured mascarpone cheese.

If you don't have any cheesecloth at home, you can also use cotton kitchen towel, a big handkerchief or any coarse cloth. You can also use those newborn cotton nappy cloth that we often us as diapers, light blanket or wipers etc.

Home made Mascarpone Cheese
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