I must admit that I didn’t truly become aware of tiramisu until my friend Mira taught me how to make it while we were on vacation in Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.
The origin of tiramisu (literally ‘pick me up’) is contested. Many claim that it was created in the 1970s in the kitchen of Roberto “Loly” Linguanotto at Le Beccherie restaurant in Treviso, Italy. Others report that it was invented much earlier in the city of Siena in honor of the visit of Cosimo III. Still others claim it is a variation of the 19th century zuppa inglese (which itself may be adapted from the British trifle).
Regardless of who created it, the dessert is intensely popular because of the perfect combination of coffee, chocolate, liquer, mascarpone and biscuits.
48 Savoiardi biscuits (also known as 'lady fingers', you can substitute sponge cake)
12 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature
4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
8 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 cups strong coffee, room temperature
1/2 cup amaretto or 1/4 cup dark rum (optional)
1/8 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
chocolate shavings, chocolate covered coffee beans and/or raspberries for garnish (optional)
1. Mix coffee with amaretto or rum (if using). Set aside.
2. Mix cocoa and cinnamon and set aside.
3. Quickly dip ladyfingers in the coffee mixture. Make sure to fully absorb the mixture, but do not let the biscuits get soggy. Form a layer of lady fingers in the bottom of a 9x13 glass dish or a glass pie dish.
4. In a large bowl, mix egg yolks, mascarpone and sugar. Set aside.
5. Beat egg whites until stiff. Carefully fold into the egg yolk mixture.
6. Spread half of egg mixture over first layer of lady fingers. Top with half the cocoa mixture.
7. Put down another layer of soaked lady fingers.
8. Cover with saran wrap and chill overnight. It can also be frozen for up to 2 weeks.
9. Before serving, top with the remaining cocoa mixture and any of the garnishes.