Tiramisù is definitely one of the most beloved desserts throughout Italy and the world. If you want to surprise your friends, this is the recipe for you. This easy, soft dessert comes from Treviso in northern Italy.
Tira-me-su, which means “cheer me up” in the Veneto language was invented by a pastry chef in the 1950s. There are records, found in cookbooks from some Jewish families with the name of “mascarpone cream.” Every family has their own recipe, so I will show you my version: an authentic one with a personal addition.
Top-ranked in my personal list of best Italian desserts, tiramisù calls for a lot of coffee. Although I am Italian, I am not really fond of coffee because I don’t like the taste. Yet, tiramisù is the dessert of my dreams. When I eat out and at the end of an important meal, I always order tiramisù. I have been looking for the best recipes for ages. I have found some pretty good ones, and I have turned the best-tasting one into this recipe. When you want to celebrate something important, choose this delicious, mouthwatering, soft dessert. You won’t regret it.
Is it safe to eat raw egg yolks in tiramisù?
A few years ago, I attended a short pastry course where I was told I should pasteurize the eggs. That course was meant to train pastry chefs who were going to work in big supermarkets, so the safety issue was very critical to the process.
I was taught the following method: you have to bring a mix of sugar and water to a boil until it reaches 250°F (121°C). Then you have to pour it into the eggs you are whipping. Finally, you beat it until completely cold 60°F (20°C) and whipped. Then add the mascarpone cheese and the whipped cream or egg whites. This way your cream will be perfectly pasteurized and safe. But you have to be really skilled to keep the temperature under strict control; otherwise, you will get something like scrambled eggs instead of a fluffy, smooth cream.
Do you have to make tiramisu well in advance?
Tiramisù takes time. It must sit and rest so all the flavors are well absorbed. This is a dessert you have to assemble little by little so it takes some time for the flavors to blend together. You can’t prepare this dessert in the morning and have it for lunch. Make your tiramisù the evening before and let it sit in the fridge overnight for a better flavor and a perfectly creamy consistency.
Eggs are the key ingredients for tiramisù
Your eggs must be extra fresh so if you don’t want to pasteurize them, only get organic ones.
Look for extra-fresh grade AA eggs. Remember that eggs can be responsible for salmonella bacteria. So if you add the sugar syrup at 250°F (121C°) while you are whipping the egg yolks, this extra step will make it safe. You do not have a food thermometer? When the water is boiling at 250°F (121°C), the sugar makes bigger and thicker bubbles.
The other ingredients you need
- Mascarpone: it is not really cheese even though it is commonly considered so. It is more like a clotted cream.
- Savoiardi ladyfingers: use my recipe to make your own homemade ones or buy them at your local grocery store, Italian deli, or on the internet.
- Coffee, plenty of coffee! It is the main ingredient in tiramisù. You can use decaffeinated coffee if you are concerned about caffeine late in the evening. You need about 12 little cups of Italian espresso or about 250ml of American coffee for the perfect dunking process.
- Cocoa powder: sprinkle it on your tiramisù just before serving. Either sweetened or unsweetened cocoa works perfectly with this delicacy.
- Rum or Marsala wine: it makes the dessert even more flavorful if you like the flavor of alcohol.
- Vanilla pod: it is an extra ingredient, which is not part of the traditional recipe. Scrape the tiny seeds from inside the vanilla bean and add them to the mascarpone. You can also use vanilla extract, which gives the extra flavor.
- Whipped cream: it makes the tiramisù “lighter” and fluffier. It is sacrilege for the lovers of the genuine tiramisù, but personally, I think it produces a more stable and uniform result.
- Chocolate shavings: it’s a great finishing touch. Sprinkle them on the layers, and your tiramisu will be deliciously crunchy.
- About 6 egg yolks (90g) at room temperature
- ½ cup of sugar (170g)
- 3 tbsp of water (50g)
- 1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon of extract
- 1 cup of mascarpone (at room temperature)
- 1 cup of whipping cream or all whites from about 6 eggs
- 24 Savoiardi ladyfingers or ½ of a one-pound package
- cold coffee (about 250ml) or 8 shots of espresso
- ½ cup of rum or Marsala wine (optional) (20ml)
- Unsweetened or sweetened cocoa powder, enough for sprinkling on layers and on top
- ½ cup of coarsely chopped dark chocolate
- Prepare the coffee, add the rum (optional) and let it cool down completely;
- Coarsely chop the chocolate, and set aside;
- Divide the egg yolks from the whites: put the yolks in the bowl of your stand mixer (KitchenAid) and start beating them;
- Prepare the syrup for pasteurizing the eggs. Bring the water and sugar to 250°F (121°C). Use a food thermometer. If you do not have one, just look at the sugar. If it makes bigger and thicker bubbles than before, it’s ready:
- Gently pour in the sugar syrup into the egg yolks and beat them on medium speed until the mixture cools down to about 68°F (20°C) where they are fluffy and pale yellow.
- Stir the mascarpone until creamy and fluffy; in the beginning, it will be quite sticky, and then it will get runnier;
- Add the vanilla seeds or extract to the mascarpone cream and mix well with a wooden spoon;
- Dilute the mascarpone with a little egg yolk mixture, which will get softer. Incorporate the remaining part of the egg mixture with gentle downwards movements;
- Whip the egg whites or cream into stiff peaks and fold in the mascarpone cream. Here again, use a little whipped whites to dilute the mascarpone cream;
- Then add the remaining with gentle downward movements.
- Now to assemble your dessert: dip the ladyfingers on both sides in the cold coffee;
- Arrange them in a glass or aluminum pan or ceramic dish;
- Spread the mascarpone cream on the top; sprinkle with cocoa powder and the coarsely chopped chocolate;
- Repeat one more time, spread the last layer of cream, and top with cocoa powder and chocolate shavings;
- Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Top it with more cocoa powder just before serving;
- Tiramisu doesn’t last long: it stays fresh up to 3 days in the fridge.
5 common mistakes you must avoid
- Whipped cream or whipped egg white? According to the purists, the recipe only calls for whites that are whipped to stiff peaks but (no whipped cream at all). However, the most important pastry chefs in Italy use whipped cream in their tiramisù. It is not just a matter of taste but of texture, too. Even if you beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, they release some water after a few hours, which make the tiramisù too liquid. Using whipped cream keeps it stable. You can store it in the fridge for 2 or 3 days if you haven’t devoured it by then.
- When you pasteurize the eggs with the sugar syrup at 250°F (121°C), make sure it is completely cold before adding the whipped cream or whites. Beat the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy; then let it cool down before folding in the whipped cream or egg whites.
- For a fluffy tiramisù the mixing technique is very important. You have worked hard to make your mixtures very airy, so do not ruin them by overmixing. Be mindful of these two critical steps: beat the mascarpone until creamy and dilute it with a little egg and sugar mixture to make it runnier. Then fold the remaining whipped yolk/sugar mixture into the mascarpone with delicate downward movements. Perform the same operation for the cream or the whipped egg whites. Use a little cream or egg whites to dilute the mascarpone and yolk mixture once more and then fold in the remaining with delicate downward movements.
- Sprinkled with cocoa powder, your tiramisù will be even more tempting. To make it even tastier, sprinkle cocoa powder on each layer.