I never thought that I only made Tiramisu for Valentine’s Day, but I just recently thought about all the times I ever made it, and I suddenly realized–yes, this is my traditional, go-to-and-impress-him dessert. If it’s not Valentine’s Day, it somehow has been responsible for making people fall in love. True story: Two friends of mine married their spouses shortly after making this dessert. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence. There’s something about its layered espresso goodness that makes everyone smile and swoon. Tiramisu, which literally means “pick me up,” has plenty of coffee, espresso, liqueur, and rum to keep you going!
What’s the best thing about making Tiramisu? It’s fancy and tasty without the need for an oven. I love making this dessert in the summertime for that reason. There is technically no baking involved, but you will need a good stand mixer (or regular electric mixer) because you will need to make sure you get the consistency of the mascarpone and whipped cream mixture right. Other than that, this is the perfect dessert to make for your sweetheart. You can make it in about forty minutes of prep work, leave it overnight, and wake up to a decadent treat.
The most expensive and probably difficult ingredients to find if you do not live in an Italian neighborhood are mascarpone and ladyfingers. When I asked for the mascarpone cheese in my neighborhood grocery store, the attendant asked me if it was similar to parmigiana cheese. Uh, no! This is a sweet, Italian cream cheese! Although he could not help me, I eventually found what I was looking for by the chocolate covered strawberries. Maybe other people see that this, too, is the best Valentine’s Day treat? The secret must be out…
Can you use regular Philadelphia cream cheese instead? No. If you need to order it from Amazon.com because you live in Minnesota, then so be it. It’s worth the wait. I will say that if you are feeling extra creative, you can make your own savoiardi (ladyfingers), but the ones that come from Italian bakeries are more than excellent.
Okay, as with any baking where you are whipping a cream, you need to make sure your bowls that you are mixing with are chilled. If you really are short on time, throw them in a freezer and start to prepare everything else in the meantime. Cold bowls will help get the nice, fluffy peak you need out of your mixture.
To begin, you need the following:
A stand-mixer (or electric mixer–DO NOT MIX BY HAND WITH A WHISK)
Two mixing bowls (chilled)
A 13 x 9 inch pan (you can do any similar size if needed, but you may have more or less mixture needed)
A rubber spatula
Cast of Characters (Ingredients):
2 cups strong brewed coffee, room temperature
1½ tablespoons instant espresso powder
6½ tablespoons Kahlua, divided, 2½ tablespoons Bacardi Rum (you can also substitute vanilla and coffee extract if you need it without alcohol, but I highly recommend using the coffee liqueur and rum!)
6 egg yolks
⅔ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup cold heavy cream, divided
24 ounces mascarpone cheese
14 ounces dried ladyfingers (savoiardi) <–Typically, two boxes worth.
3½ tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder <–Go for unsweetened! I used Hershey’s Cocoa Unsweetened. If available, go for the dark cocoa powder–that’s my favorite!
1. Prepare the ladyfinger coffee mixture. Brew two cups of strong coffee (and if you have, you can also brew one shot of espresso) and pour into a large bowl. Measure 2 1/2 tablespoons of Kahlua, 2½ tablespoons Bacardi Rum, and 1½ tablespoons of Instant Espresso Powder. Stir all ingredients into the espresso powder has dissolved. If you don’t have Instant Espresso Powder, feel free to substitute Instant Coffee Powder, but DO NOT use actual coffee or espresso grinds as these will not dissolve.
2. Crack eggs and separate whites from yolks. In a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat yolks at low speed until just combined. Gradually add sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1½ to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once or twice. Add ⅓ cup of the heavy cream to yolks and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds, and then scrape bowl. Do not over beat!
***If you have pasteurized eggs and want to eat Tiramisu traditionally, proceed. For those of you who are bothered by the concept of a raw egg, you can do this optional step to cook the eggs lightly.***
OPTIONAL: Set the bowl with yolks over a medium saucepan containing 1 inch of gently simmering water; cook, constantly scraping along bottom and sides of bowl with heatproof rubber spatula, until mixture coats back of spoon and registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 4 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir vigorously to cool slightly, then set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
3. Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons Kahlua until combined. Transfer bowl to standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, add mascarpone, and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer mixture to large bowl and set aside. DO NOT OVERBEAT! IF IT IS LIQUEFIED, YOU CANNOT FIX IT.
4. In a now-empty mixer bowl, beat the remaining heavy cream (about 6.5-7 tablespoons) at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1½ minutes. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 1½ minutes longer. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set mascarpone mixture aside.
5. Assemble your lady fingers by soaking them first, one-by-one, into a 13 x 9 pan. Grab one ladyfinger, drop and roll in the coffee/rum mixture for about two seconds. Do not let it get soggy! Because it will be sit overnight, it will continue to get very moist. In fact, by the third day of leftovers, it may be almost “too wet.” It’s just an excuse to eat it all right away.
6. For each ladyfinger you soak, you must put the cookie on the bottom of the Pyrex. You are making one layer with just soaked ladyfingers first. You may have to break some in half to fit perfectly for your individual pan.
7. Apply the first half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers; use rubber spatula to spread mixture to sides and into corners of dish and smooth surface. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in fine-mesh strainer and dust cocoa over mascarpone or simply sprinkle it on. You can also sprinkle a little espresso powder for more oomph!
8. Repeat dipping and arrangement process of ladyfingers by placing the newly soaked ladyfingers on top of mascarpone mixture; spread remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and dust with remaining 1½ tablespoons cocoa. If you have any leftover crumbs from the ladyfingers, feel free to sprinkle these on top as well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least 6-8 hours. Cut into pieces and serve chilled. Leftovers can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.