Tiramisù ("pick me up" or "lift me up" in Italian) appears to have its origins in our around the city of Treveso, in the Veneto region of Italy (with its capital Venice). In the regional dialect, it is "tireme su". However, there is some disagreement as to when. Some records claim it dates back to the early 1800s, when clients of a Venitian "house of ill repute" were offered this delicacy as a ricostituente (i.e., a tonic, fortifier, or pick-me-up), after having enjoyed the social services of one or more ladies of the house. I.e., as a tasty natural aphrodisiac and erectile enhancer. Clearly, this is my preferred explanation. Prudish Italians prefer to forget this origin, and claim it was accidentally invented ca. 1969 by Alba, wife of a restaurateur Aldo Campeol, and their chef Roberto Linguanotto. However, writings by the Italian poet Giovanni Comisso also confirm that it dates back to well before 1900.
Other regions in Italy claim tiramisù originated there instead, and even centuries earlier. However, those claims appear to refer to a zuppa inglese, and the Lombardian mascarpone cheese required in tiramisù was not available in those regions, before the days of refrigerators...
Traditional tiramisù contains only a few ingredients: ladyfinger biscuits (Italian: Savoiardi, F: boudoir, D: Löffelbisquit, UK: sponge-fingers) that are dipped in coffee, layers of a whipped mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, flavored with cocoa powder. Note that in the old recipes, there is no alcohol (nor egg whites)! This is no surprise, as it would defy the original purpose of this desert.
My cousin Marie-Louise transcribed her recipe for me in 1992. Due to a typo (300 ml = 1 beer bottle of rum, instead of only 30 ml) my first attempt turned out rather soupy - as you can imagine. With the typo corrected, the recipe turned out to be great!
- Preparation time: 1 hour
- Refrigeration time: at least 4 hours
- Makes 8 servings.
- Best when made 6-12 hours before serving, ahead (unlike store-bought deserts that are labeled "tiramisu" and are loaded with preservatives), otherwise it may get a little soggy.
Latest page update: October 2021 (expanded the historic section above). Previous update: 26 February 2017
- 500 grams (18 oz) mascarpone cheese
- 300 grams (10 oz, about 50) lady finger cookies (boudoirs, sponge fingers, Löffelbisquits, lange vingers)
- 300 ml (1 + 1/4 cup) triple-strength coffee (see directions below)
- 100 grams fine crystal sugar (F: sucre en poudre)
- 200 ml heavy whipping cream (F: crème entière fluide)
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar (powder) to stabilize and firm up the whipped cream
- 60 ml (1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons) dark rum
- My all-time favorite dark rum for mixed drinks, cooking and deserts is Meyers's Original Dark Rum from Jamaica. In this recipe, I use 50/50 Meyers's and "Stroh" (80° Austrian inländer Rum).
- In a pinch, you can use grappa
- 3 large eggs (European large eggs officially weigh 63 grams, US/Canadian large eggs 12% less: 56 grams - has no effect on this recipe)
- 1 standard package (7.5 or 8 gram envelope ; 0.25 oz) of vanilla sugar (with real vanilla extract, not artificial vanilla flavoring!)
- Cocoa powder, for decorating
EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES
- Large bowl
- Hand mixer or kitchen machine
- Medium size bowl
- Small flat-bottom bowl or container (for steeping the biscuits; should be large enough to easily hold two biscuits side-by-side
- Round serving bowl, approximately 20 cm (8 inch) diameter, 10 cm (4 inch) high
PREPARATION / DIRECTIONS
- Make the triple-strength coffee
- It is basically impossible to make this with a drip-filter coffee maker! Use instant espresso coffee (2-3 times the recommended amount of instant, about 30 grams (1 oz) of instant espresso powder). The volume is about 5 double espressos.
- Add the sugar and rum to the warm/hot coffee. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool for 20-30 minutes, and transfer to a small flat-bottom bowl (or container) that can easily hold 2-3 lady finger cookies.
- Whip the heavy cream with the vanilla sugar.
- I mix in 1/2 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar powder (potassium bitartrate, "winestone").
- Briefly beat the eggs, then add the mascarpone (a spoonful at a time). Beat slowly at first, then about 1 minute at high speed, until a smooth mass is obtained.
- Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mass (or the other way around), and briefly beat at medium speed, until blended.
- Spread a layer (1-1.5cm ; 1/2 inch) of mascarpone mass on the bottom of the serving dish
- Steep one or two cookies completely in the coffee for several seconds, then put them next two each other on top of the mascarpone layer. Repeat until the entire mascarpone layer is covered.
- Do not steep the cookies too long, because they will (suddenly) fall apart. But steep long enough for the cookies to soak up the coffee. Typically around 8 seconds if the coffee is warm (less when hot).
- As they soak up the coffee, they become heavier and less buoyant. Just try one, break it, and check that there is coffee absorbed all along the outside.
- Do not try to do this with more than 2 biscuits at a time!
- Cover the cookies with another layer of mascarpone.
- Repeat adding layers of cookies and mascarpone
- Adapt the last 1-2 layers of mascarpone, such that there is enough mascarpone left to entirely cover the top layer of biscuits
- With the amounts in this recipe and the given serving bowl, you will have 3 layers of cookies, and 5 layers of mascarpone mix.
- Put in refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours
- Just before serving, lightly dust the top of the tiramisu with cocoa powder
One of my tiramisùs
SERVING & GARNISH SUGGESTIONS
- Serve cold, basically straight out of the refrigerator
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