"Pick me up"? I don't get it.

What more can be said about tiramisú?  I don’t think much.  It’s supposed to be simple, casual and delicious— something you make when unexpected guests drop by (because, naturally, you’re always going to have ladyfingers and mascarpone on hand just in case (?!)).  Oh, and if you don’t know, “tiramisú” means “pick me up”.  What it’s supposed to “pick up” is left to your own imagination...


On your quest to make a tiramisú that will “pick up” anything that’s in need of “picking up”, start by making your own ladyfingers.  Store-bought ones taste like SpongeBob and are not nearly as funny.  Ladyfingers are quite easy to make at home and most of all they soak up that delicious syrup better.  They remind me of when I was a kid dipping graham crackers in milk and squidging them in my mouth.  (Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me, squidge is exactly what they do.)  You can make your ladyfingers days, if not a good week, in advance as they only get better as they get stale.

makes a bunch
4 oz flour
3 oz cornstarch
2 oz sugar
6 egg yolks
2 oz sugar
6 egg whites
A few drops of lemon juice
2 oz sugar

Sift the flour and set aside.  Sift together the cornstarch and first sugar and set aside.  With the paddle attachment, beat egg yolks and second sugar until light and full, transfer to bowl and set aside.  Clean your mixing bowl well.  Whip the egg whites, lemon juice, and third sugar on high until foamy, then gradually add the cornstarch/sugar mixture and whip to stiff peaks (this will take longer than making just a simple meringue).  Fold in the egg yolks and then the flour.  Using a piping bag with a large plain tip, pipe two-inch long cookies on parchment-lined sheet pans.  Bake at 425º for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

The next thing to prepare is the syrup.  This is something that you have to do more to taste.  Take some simple syrup and add enough espresso to your liking and a splash of your chosen liquor (don’t worry, I add more later, you lush).  Many battles have been fought over what liquor to use.  I prefer the most traditional— Marsala.

The final component is the mascarpone cream.  Mascarpone is a versatile creamy, sweet Italian cheese.  Softly whip it up with some heavy cream, and you get a luscious, rich and thick cream that I think is far superior to plain whipped cream, which I find too froo-froo for its own good.  Don’t whip the mascarpone too much, however, or you will get a thick, stiff, grainy mess.

Mascarpone Cream
8 oz mascarpone
3 oz vanilla sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 oz Marsala (sweet or dry)

In a mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone and vanilla sugar.  With whip attachment, mix until combined while slowly adding the cream to loosen and avoid lumps (I do this by hand to avoid over-whipping the mascarpone).  Attach the whip and start whipping the cream, slowly pouring in the Marsala and mix.  Turn the speed up and whip on high speed until full but not stiff.  You want it nice and thick and smooth.

To assemble, break ladyfingers in half and dip in the syrup and smoosh (Voice of Chef [in deep French accent]:  “We do not ‘smoooosh’.  We delicately place.”) in the bottom of your serving glass, and spoon some more syrup over them for good measure (squidge).  Spoon a dollop of mascarpone cream over the ladyfingers and dust it generously with cocoa powder.  Continue in this fashion until you have filled up your serving glass.  Go for a happy medium between ladyfinger and cream, as that will keep both types of people happy.  Dust the top generously with more cocoa powder, garnish and consider yourself “picked up”.

“Oi!  Baker-man!  I said I wanted a killer tiramisú!”

Ah... well... stay tuned....