Tiramisu, the quintessential Sicilian dessert, and the ultimate party food. Although I’m (half) Sicilian, I didn’t grow up with this dessert at family dinner tables very much. I’m not exactly sure why, but it took for me to travel to Italy and taste the real deal in order to get hooked on it, over and over again. Needless to say, it’s my most-requested recipe and is so variable (I also have a Strawberry Tiramisu recipe in my Summer Ramadan Cooking cookbook).
The authentic or traditional recipe is made with amaretto liqueur and I’ve also seen it being served with rum on occasion. Obviously, those are not Halal ingredients, so I’ve come up with some alternatives to that. But the special ingredient is really the savoiardi, or lady finger cookies. You can find them at most Italian grocers and many international supermarkets in the ‘ethnic’ aisle, cookie aisle or Italian foods aisle. I see them everywhere in Chicagoland supermarkets. Of course at the moment the best thing to do if you’re not going out to the markets much is to order it online here.
Because, umm…I guess they’re shaped like long a long and elegant ‘lady finger’?
And after soaking them in some really strong Italian coffee, they look a bit like this:
To see how I make my Italian coffee in a traditional Mokka pot, watch this:
Recommended products mentioned in this video (affiliate links): Lavazza Italian Espresso Coffee/ Mokka pot/ Mokka replacement filters and gaskets/6-cup replacement funnel /Decaf Lavazza Espresso
You’ll prepare the cream mixture ahead of time, before even beginning to soak any of the savoiardi. You have to do that, otherwise you’ll end up with a big mess of soaked cookies and nowhere to really put them since there will be one layer of cookies and then cream has to be added to that, then another layer of cookies right on top. You can’t let the soaked cookies just sit around somewhere else.
When preparing the cream mixture, I like to use raw cane sugar like one of these, but you can also use powdered sugar, too, which is finer and requires less whisking to absorb nicely into the cream.
Next is another star ingredient and our super substitute for rum or amaretto liqueur; it’s my go-to brand/variety, but you could also use a vanilla bakery emulsion or another alcohol-free variety found at Whole Foods by Frontier.
If you don’t have vanilla extract, you can leave it out, but you may want to replace it with some other flavoring. In that case, add apple juice to the cream and whisk before pouring it on the cookies; it serves as a replacement for brandy that is sometimes called for in traditional tiramisu dishes. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to make this entire dish ahead if time and refrigerate- the coffee really needs to soak into the lady finger cookies and the cream really needs to get cold for it to gel all together nicely.
Now for the top, let’s talk chocolate. Dark chocolate, if you like. It should be cold because you’ll need to grate it for the top of the dessert. That’s also why I like to use bars, particularly the thick ones but even if you have a regular bar, it should work with a zester or peeler.
So it can come out nice like this.
Otherwise it’ll be a mess. Trust me. I know about messes. You may even want to sprinkle the cocoa/chocolate shavings mixture at the last moment, but that’s really up to you. You can do it just before refrigerating the entire dish.
P.S. If you’re looking for a dish to take to someone’s house on Eid, this is it.
Bismillah & Buon Appetito!
Classic Tiramisu, Without the Alcohol
The perfect marriage of coffee, cream and cookies, dessert doesn’t get much better than this. Substitute decaf coffee, if desired.Serves 6-8
2 cups cold or room temperature espresso coffee (you can also use a strong or bold regular coffee if that’s what you have)
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons crème frâiche
3 teaspoons alcohol-free vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar or raw cane sugar
16 Savoiardi (Italian lady finger cookies)
1 tablespoon chocolate shavings
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Make coffee and set it aside in a large bowl to cool.
Using a deep bowl and strong whisk or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the mascarpone, milk, crème frâiche, and vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar and mix well. It should be the consistency of pourable cream; add more milk, if needed (1/2 teaspoon at a time).
Line the bottom of a square glass dish layer with the mascarpone-milk mixture.
Soak each lady finger cookie one by one in the coffee for about 6-10 seconds, or until the cookie has absorbed enough coffee but it’s still firm enough to set flat in the glass pan.
Line the pan with one row of soaked cookies. Next, add the mascarpone mixture and smooth over with a spatula.
Repeat this one more time, or until all of the cream and cookies have been used.
In a separate bowl, mix the cocoa powder with the chocolate shavings. Dust the top layer of the dish with this mixture.
Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving, or overnight, giving it time to set.
Cut and serve chilled either on small plates or in small cups.
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