Father’s Day has always been a bit of a big deal in my family. My dad loved sweets, and Liz and I always enjoyed making cakes for him on Father’s Day; he was our taste tester and always joked that he “needed a little bit more” of whatever it was that we’d made as he hadn’t been able to taste it well enough the first time. He passed away when I was in high school, but we always find ourselves baking something when Father’s Day rolls around. There’s just something so comforting about baking.
This year, we had the luck of going to dinner on Saturday night at one of our good family friend’s houses. We’ve been meaning to get together for quite some time, but schedules (mostly mine & Liz’s) tend to get in the way, so we never get to spend as much time with this wonderful family as we would like. In keeping with tradition, Liz and I both wanted to bring something fun for dessert for Mr. D. After our dad passed away, Mr. D truly stepped up to the plate to help out Liz and me whenever we have issues. While Liz opted to make a pineapple upside down cake, I, naturally, decided to go the more Italian route. I’ve been wanting to make Tiramisù for a while now, and, knowing that he appreciates fine Italian espresso as much as I do, I took this as the perfect opportunity to break out my Bialetti, brew some Lavazza, and whip together this treat.
I first made this recipe as a freshman in college; my friend Heather and I were both in the same Italian class and chose to present on the culture of Lazio and, as a treat for our peers, made some tiramisu. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately), we added a wee bit too much espresso and rum that time around; it still tasted pretty good, but the bottom layer in particular was too soggy and the mascarpone a bit too rummy. Having learned my lesson, I was ready to try making it again, this time taking some advice from America’s Test Kitchen.
A few recipe notes:
- I highly recommend getting Italian lady fingers, or savoiardi. The fluffy things one can buy at Safeway are lovely when eaten alone, but they don’t stand a chance when dipped into a cup of espresso. They fall apart instantly (this was mistake numero uno the first time I made this). For those of you in the DC area, there’s a great shop called The Italian Store in Arlington, Virginia that sells a ginormous pack of these for like five bucks.
- Use good ingredients; the beauty of Italian food is that it is relatively simple and is designed to let the flavors of the ingredients shine through. It shows when you don’t use good quality mascarpone and espresso.
- Refrigerate overnight. Technically, you only need to chill this for about 4 hours, but I suggest chilling it longer. The flavors combine so well, and I’ve found that the leftovers a day later often taste better than when I first served this!
- This recipe requires no less than 3 mixing bowls, at least one of which should be chilled (your largest one) and another of which must be heatproof. Be prepared.
This is not exactly a simple recipe, but each step is easy. Best of luck and happy eating!
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma.
I used less sugar when I made this, but I’ve left the measurements as they are specified by W-S. It tastes great either way, but I prefer a stronger coffee flavor!
- 6 large egg yolks
- 5 large egg whites
- Scant ¾ cup sugar
- 1 lb mascarpone, softened
- 2 cups chilled heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2½ cups brewed espresso – cooled to room temperature
- 40 to 50 savoiardi (lady fingers)
- Cocoa powder and/or chocolate shavings for dusting
- In a medium-size, heatproof mixing bowl set over (but not touching) a pot of simmering water, combine your eggs and sugar over medium-low heat. Whisk until the sugar melts and the mixture is thick and pale yellow; thick ribbons should fall from the whisk. This takes 4 to 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and fold in your mascarpone. Beat until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside in a cool spot (In my case, the top of our air conditioning units).
- In a large, chilled mixing bowl, beat your heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. Then, carefully mix in your dark rum, vanilla and two tablespoons of espresso. Set aside in a cool spot.
- In your third mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
- Gently fold your mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream, adding in a third at a time until it is uniformly combined. Then, add in your egg whites, first folding in about a cup, then adding the rest. Folding in the ingredients in increments reduces the amount of air you lose while beating and ensures a fluffy cream.
- Now comes the fun part: Use a 9×13 baking dish with high sides. Dip your savoiardi one by one into the espresso (don’t dip for more than a few seconds or they become too mushy – 2 to 3 seconds per side is more than enough). Lay them in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish. This should take about 20 to 25 savoiardi.
- Spread half of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers. Then, dip another 20 to 25 lady fingers in the espresso, laying them in a single layer on top of the cream. Top with the remaining cream.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours but, preferably, overnight.
- Dust with cocoa powder and allow to refrigerate for another hour; you can also do this right before serving. It’s entirely up to you!
Serves 12 to 15.