I’m usually not huge on sweets — I’d take a bag of chips over a piece of cake any day — but when it comes to tiramisu, I’m in. When it’s done right, it has all the components of a great dessert: light, creamy and not too sweet.
If tiramisu is on the menu, I’m ordering it — and I’m sure you can imagine it’s on the menu quite often these days. Given my current blood-mascarpone levels, I think I’ve reached connoisseur status.
I rarely meet a tiramisu that I actively dislike, but, I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a purist. Tiramisu is such a classic, simple dessert — too often I see it overdone and overcomplicated by restaurants that are trying too hard. In reality, this recipe only calls for six basic ingredients, and nailing the balance and preparation is the key to a killer tiramisu. So, let's break it down:
First layer: ladyfingers. Traditional tiramisu is made with these sweet, cakelike biscuits. These can be homemade or store bought — either way, nothing fancy here. This is where I think a lot of restaurants tend to over do it. To me, the simplicity and airiness of these cookies is essential in achieving the ideal tiramisu consistency. Ladyfingers are truly the perfect, spongy vessel for soaking up the espresso in this desert — a light dip is all they need to harbor that earthy espresso flavor and maintain their integrity.
Speaking of espresso, this element is pretty difficult to mess up. Italian coffee is world renowned for a reason.
Now onto the cream — perhaps the most temperamental component. Made up of sugar, eggs and mascarpone, the ratio is crucial. Too sweet and I tap out after a few bites. Too many egg yolks and it’s a custardy mess. Too many egg whites and it's foamy and tasteless. The mixture should be lightly sweet, smooth, rich, creamy and a little bit fluffy.
As far as composition goes: two layers of lady fingers with a modest layer of cream in between and a heaping layer on top, finished off with a generous dusting of cocoa powder. Together, it should absolutely melt in your mouth.
And there you have it, the perfect tiramisu. Is that too much to ask?