Every time I hear the word tiramisu I am reminded of that classic line from the film Sleepless in Seattle. The recently widowed Tom Hanks character Sam is talking to his friend Jay about his fears on returning to the dating scene. "What is tiramisu?" he asks. "You'll find out," replies Jay. Sam is horrified: "Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I'm not gonna know what it is!"
Of course, that film came out in 1993 and nowadays everyone knows what tiramisu is. However, not everyone knows how to make it, and that's where I come in with this week's Italian offering.
There are many versions of this classic Italian pudding. In fact, some are simpler than this one so if you are rushed you can cut corners. I find that the essential filling between the coffee-soaked Savoiardi biscuits is the egg yolk, mascarpone and sugar mix. Of course, it is better with the whipped egg whites and syrup (by the way, when making the syrup go easy on the water or the consistency of the whole thing will be too runny) as well as the whipped cream, but you can actually live without these.
I know fresh cream is hard to find in the UAE so don't panic if you can't get it. Take care not to soak the Savoiardi biscuits for too long as they disintegrate quickly. Use a container big enough so you can dip the whole biscuit in to soak up the coffee.
My best time-saving tip is to make the tiramisu the night before you are going to eat it. The flavours meld overnight and you end up with a much more impressive dish. That sweet, creamy, coffee-flavoured mixture is irresistible. But don't sprinkle the cocoa on until two hours before serving or it will melt into a chocolatey mess.
Making it the night before means this is one thing you can tick off your list the day before your dinner party. It is an ideal pudding to share with a lot of people. This recipe is designed to serve eight but I think it could serve more. You should keep a bit to yourself; it is even better on the third day...
MAKE IT YOURSELF
400g granulated white sugar
500g mascarpone cheese
Pinch of salt
300ml whipping cream
600g ladyfinger biscuits (Savoiardi, about 30 pieces)
500ml cold Moka coffee or Nescafé, unsweetened
150g bitter cocoa powder
1. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Set the whites in the refrigerator to chill.
2. Whip the yolks with 200g of sugar until fluffy, mix with the mascarpone cheese and set in the refrigerator to chill.
3. Place the rest of the sugar in a sauce pan, cover with water (about 100ml) and bring to the boil.
4. Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form firm peaks. Add the hot sugar syrup in small quantities while mixing and mix until room temperature is achieved. Set in the refrigerator to chill.
5. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the egg yolk mixture and the egg white mixture, stirring slowly.
6. Dip the ladyfinger biscuits in the coffee and place in a glass tray (20cm x 40cm, 5cm deep), covering the bottom of the tray. Cover with half of the egg yolk mixture. Add another layer of the rest of the biscuits dipped in the coffee, then cover with the rest of the mixture.
7. Cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
8. Remove the cling film, sprinkle with cocoa powder through a thin sieve, cut into eight squares and serve. Or, scoop into eight cups as shown, and serve.