Anthony’s grandmother’s tiramisu
One day, many years ago, my friend, Linda, asked about mascarpone. I told her to think of it as a delightful Italian sweet cream cheese. I now realize that to call it a “cream cheese” is an injustice. Mascarpone (pronounced mas-car-POH-neh) resembles cream cheese about as much as Gorgonzola resembles Limburger. Mascarpone is soft and creamy with a fresh, buttery flavor. It has a butterfat content between 60% and 75% and is the key ingredient in the classic dessert, Tiramisu.
Mascarpone is believed to have originated in the dairy rich Lombardy region of Italy. When the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis was signed in 1559, most of Italy was controlled by Spain. It is thought that the name “mascarpone” came from the Spanish phrase “mas que bueno” (better than good) at this point in time.
Here is a recipe that was passed down to me from a first generation Italian-American, Anthony, who got it from his grandmother in Italy. He told me it has been in his family for generations and that each time he visits Italy, he looks forward to Tiramisu made from this family recipe. Anthony says that the Italian word tiramisu means “cheer me up.” I believe it. This dessert will put a smile on your face.
2 4.75-ounce package soft lady finger biscuits
½ cup espresso coffee (cooled)
2 tablespoons brandy
6 eggs (separated)
6 tablespoons sugar
32 ounces fresh Mascarpone cheese
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Spread ladyfingers on a large baking sheet. Combine coffee and brandy in a small bowl. Sprinkle ladyfingers with this mixture and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and lemon colored (4 to 5 minutes). Add Mascarpone and blend on low speed until combined.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form (2 to 3 minutes). Using a rubber spatula, fold egg whites into Mascarpone mixture. Line the bottom of an 8-cup soufflé dish with half the ladyfingers. Spread half the Mascarpone mixture on the ladyfingers and sift 2 tablespoons cocoa over the surface. Repeat layers, ending with cocoa.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Note: I have learned to dip the ladyfingers into the espresso/brandy liquid instead of sprinkling the liquid over them. This works more efficiently for me. In addition, this recipe makes more mascarpone/egg spread than is needed for layering.It will keep (if covered) in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days.