A cliché it may be, but the Sards are no less fond of this 1950’s Italian classic than I am, and I see no reason not to be, because when done well it can be one of the nicest things to eat. Don’t be put off by mediocre tiramisu experiences, this recipe is totally fool-proof, and I have fed it to many Sardinians who declare it is the best they have ever tasted.
Literally translated as ‘pick me up,’ tiramisu is not only delicious as a dessert: it is the perfect thing for breakfast after a heavy night, the booze and coffee providing both the hair-of-the-dog alcohol and the caffeine necessary. There is no time of any day, in fact, when a little pick-me-up is not welcome.
For me the key is the quantity of alcohol. Like a good trifle, it is this boozy kick which elevates the albeit deliciously childish custard/cream and cake combo into something a little more adult and refined.
I like to make mine in a big dish or trifle bowl for serving by the generous scoopful, rather than in individual portions.
Tiramisu (serves 4 greedy people, or 6 ascetics)
3 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
200ml strong black coffee
5 tbsp cocoa powder for dredging.
First, separate the eggs. Place the yolks and the sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk with an electric beater (or in a mixer) until they become thick, pale and mousse-like.
Mix in the mascarpone by hand, folding it in until completely incorporated. Make the coffee (make sure it is good, strong, espresso coffee) either in a moka or using a machine or whatever you have. Stir in the marsala and brandy and set aside in a shallow bowl.
Whisk the egg whites until smooth, creamy peaks are formed, but not too stiff so that they become dry. Fold into the mascarpone mixture, incorporating them gently so as not to lose too much air.
Dunk the saviordi briefly into the coffee mixture, making sure they are fully immersed, and arrange them on the base of your dish/bowl. The idea is not to have them either sopping or still-crisp, but somewhere in between. I dip, hold for a second, turn and hold for another second, and then remove. It pays to be a little OCD here, as no one wants a tiramisu swimming in liquid.
Scoop over the first half of the mascarpone mixture over the saviordi layer. Spread out evenly. Repeat the soaked-saviordi layer and then finish with the second mascarpone layer on top of this. Dredge well with bitter cocoa powder and place in the fridge to set for at least an hour or two. If you like you can add fresh cocoa powder just before serving; I like it when it has slightly melted into the cream.