Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tiramisu (DB)

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

They chose Baltimore pastry chef Carminantonio Iannaccone’s version of tiramisu for a couple of reasons. Firstly, his recipe is different from most other tiramisu recipes as he makes a zabaglione, an egg custard which is flavoured with Marsala wine (I used coffee instead). Even more important is that his zabaglione is cooked so there is no risk from using raw eggs. He also makes a vanilla flavoured pastry cream which isn't seen in many other tiramisu recipes.

I've made tiramisu in the past, even with homemade ladyfingers... but I've never made the entire thing from start to finish from scratch (even the mascarpone cheese!). I have to say that my favorite part of this challenge was learning how to make the mascarpone cheese. I never realized how easy it is to make and that stuff is soooo expensive that I am glad I know how to make it now!

While this challenge took lots of advance planning with lots of overnight refrigeration required, each individual component was simple to execute.

For both the zabaglione and the pastry cream, I started the double boiler on low heat but had to increase it to medium in order to get the mixtures to thicken up. I also had to heat both for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe indicated. I'm not sure that keep the water in the double boiler at a low simmer would ever get the mixtures warm enough to thicken up.

For the mascarpone cheese, I was a bit upset because the recipe says to use a wide skillet. It does not say to set up a double boiler. Sure, I thought it was odd that I was setting my bowl in a skillet with simmering water, but I thought I was following the instructions correctly. Had it said to set up a double boiler, I would have known right away that the bowl shouldn't be touching the bottom on the skillet. It was only after being unable to get my cream up to 190F that I went back to read the recipe notes and noticed that the hosts mention that it needs to be a double boiler and the cream needs to be in a stainless steel bowl that does not touch the bottom of the pan. I am not sure how deep everyone else's skillets are, but I don't have a skillet deep enough to serve as a double boiler so I think the recipe is a bit misleading. So, once I tossed that batch and started over using a saucepan for the double boiler and a stainless steel bowl for my cream, getting it up to 190F was a breeze and making the mascarpone cheese was very straightforward. Once I got the cream up to 190F, I added some lime juice and continued heating a litte bit longer, and then it thickened up quite nicely. A little chill time in the refrigerator overnight and I had mascarpone cheese! How cool :)

Honestly, when I couldn't get the mascarpone cheese to work out, I almost wanted to call it quits and cheat by using store bought. I figured that no one would be the wiser if I did that anyway... but I'm glad I persisted... and to that end, I have photographic evidence that I completed this part of the challenge:

Assembling the tiramisu was easy, I didn't go for anything elaborate because these days I am lucky to even get any baking in with my 3 month old (almost 4 months - where does the time go?!) baby.

As for the taste? I used chocolate macadamia nut kona coffee instead of espresso, and added real rum instead of rum extract to my dipping solution. I really enjoyed this dessert. The ladyfingers from this recipe were better than the ones I had made previously, and the overall end result was much more like the traditional tiramisu that I am used to having, as opposed to the other recipe I tried which was very cream cheesey and more like a "tiramisu cheesecake" flavor. This will definitely be my go-to recipe for tiramisu from now on.

Thanks Aparna and Deeba, for hosting this month's challenge. I am so happy I learned how to make my own mascarpone cheese! Make sure you check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see how everyone else enjoyed this classic Italian dessert.


Mascarpone Cheese – Vera’s Recipe (Baking Obsession) for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese.
Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger Biscuits – Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home
Tiramisu – Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007


  • A double boiler (a stainless steel bowl that fits inside a large saucepan/ pot without touching the bottom will do)
  • Two or three large mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • A medium sized heavy bottomed pan
  • Fine meshed strainer (to remove lumps from pastry cream, if any)
  • Electric mixer, hand held
  • Serving dish (or dishes) of choice (8" by 8" should be fine)
  • Spatula for folding and spoons as required
  • Plastic wrap/ clingfilm
  • Baking sheets
  • Parchment paper or nonstick liners
  • Pastry bag (can be disposable)
  • Plain 3/4" pastry bag tip or cut the end of pastry bag to this size (If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off)
  • Oven
  • Cooling rack
  • Thin-bladed spatula for removing ladyfinger biscuits from the baking sheets
  • Instant-read thermometer (optional)
  • Strainer
  • Cheesecloth or cotton napkin for draining mascarpone
  • Fine-mesh strainer for shaking cocoa powder on tiramisu


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

Once assembled, the tiramisu can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Notes from the Challenge Hosts:

  1. If you cannot find Marsala, port wine is considered a good substitute.
  2. If you would rather not use alcohol in your tiramisu due to diet restrictions or because you want to serve it to children, you may replace the Marsala with an equal amount of espresso or coffee.
  3. Many people, especially those who are not excessively fond of coffee, might find brewed espresso very strong. In this case, please feel free to dilute the espresso or coffee to the desired strength.
  4. It is generally suggested that cream with 25% fat is best for making mascarpone, but 36% works just as well.
  5. We both used lime juice. Deeba has a recipe for mascarpone posted on her blog here.
  6. The mascarpone recipe below is for approximately 340gms of mascarpone. The tiramisu recipe requires only 1/3 cup/75gms so you may scale down the recipe to requirement or put the extra mascarpone cheese to other equally good use. (100gms cream will yield approximately 75gms mascarpone)
  7. While using the double boiler to make the mascarpone as well as the zabaglione, always ensure that the bottom of the bowl on top doesn't touch the bottom of the lower one. It is important to use a stainless steel bowl to pour your cream into, while making the mascarpone.
  8. Ladyfinger batter is very fragile so fold in the flour and yolks very carefully into the meringue so that the whites don't lose their volume.
  9. It might be a good idea to decide the size of the dish in which you intend to set the dessert, and make the fingers to a size which would fit that dish. This makes it easier when assembling the tiramisu later. Do remember that ladyfingers/ savioardi puff up a little while baking.
  10. Ladyfinger biscuits may be stored up to a week in an airtight container. We both made the savoiardi fingers 4-5 days in advance, and stored them in an airtight box in a cool place (or the refrigerator).
  11. We both made the zabaglione & pastry cream the previous day, and assembled the tiramisu the next morning. I (Aparna) then froze my tiramisu for 7 days before decorating and serving it.
  12. Placing the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about 1/2 to 1 hour before hand makes the cream whip up very well.
  13. Do not dip the ladyfinger/ savoiardi into the coffee solution for more than ONE second, or they might become very fragile & disintegrate. Extra soaking is likely to spoil the end product, making it soggy. I (Aparna) dipped my biscuits only on one side and found they soaked up more than enough coffee solution.
  14. If you would like to de-mould your tiramisu from your dish (cutting can be easier and neater this way, you can line your dish with plastic wrap (leaving a little extra on the sides of the dish) and then start assembling your tiramisu. Once the tiramisu sets in the refrigerator, you can use the overhang to pull the tiramisu out of the dish.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cherry Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad

I know it's not quite spring or summer yet, but I've never been much of a winter person so I've been anxious to greet the warmer months, along with their fruits. So, I went in search of a good tomato salad recipe.

I decided to make a refreshing tomato cucumber feta salad using some fresh frozen herbs I received from Daregal Gourmet. Their herbs are frozen just after harvest to ensure fresh taste. I don't know about you, but whenever I buy fresh herbs from the supermarket, I never seem to be able to use them all before they go bad. I always feel really bad about it, too, because fresh herbs cost a pretty penny. Fresh frozen herbs seem to be a great alternative for cooks like me, because I can have the herbs on hand and use them whenever I'd like, without worry of them spoiling.

This salad takes minutes to prepare, and is so light and refreshing. It makes a great starter, but to be honest with you I loved it so much that I ate all of it myself in one sitting like it was an entree salad! The fresh frozen herbs were a great addition. I would say that they're not quite as good as fresh herbs, but much definitely better than dried herbs... so I'm glad to have them on hand in my kitchen. If you try this recipe, make sure you season this salad with lots of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to bring out all of the flavors.

Cherry Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad
from Simply Recipes

2-3 cups of cherry and/or pear tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup of chopped cucumber, peeled (and seeded if the seeds are bitter)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 Tbsp chiffonaded mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped oregano
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp of finely chopped shallots or green onions
2 teaspoons olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently toss the tomatoes, cucumber, feta, onions, mint, and oregano together. Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 2-4 Servings

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dorie's Best (Coconut Apricot) Chocolate Chip Cookies (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Kait of Kait's Plate: My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Of course every baker I know is always on the look out for "the best" chocolate chip cookies. So, I was anxious to try Dorie's favorite recipe. She says they are slightly crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle.

I wish I had read the P&Q before making these, because I ran into the same problem as everyone else... my cookies spread out and flattened like crazy in the oven! It seems the problem may be in the amount of flour in these cookies. Apparently most of us don't put as much flour as Dorie does in our measuring cups when spooning the flour in. Dorie recommends weighing out 4.75 ounces of flour for each cup, and the consensus seems that the additional flour prevents these cookies from spreading too much.

Luckily, I split my dough in half. The first batch I used to make regular chocolate chip cookies (without any nuts). These were the ones that flattened out and were just okay. With the second batch I used Dorie's "playing around" suggestion and added shredded coconut and dried apricot pieces. I absolutely loved these! The coconut and apricots made these cookies nice and chewy, plus I think they helped prevent them from spreading as much as the regular batch. I've always liked dried apricots dipped in chocolate, so I knew that I would enjoy this combination.

Thanks, Kait, for hosting this week. While I haven't found a new favorite basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, I will definitely make these coconut apricot chocolate chip cookies again! If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed these classic cookies! (And if you're interested in trying my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, click here.)

* Recipes notes:
- It's best to weigh your flour instead of measuring it out. Dorie's "cup" is 4 3/4 oz per cup.
- I added 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut and 1/2 cup chopped dried apricot pieces into my half batch of cookie dough. I'll probably add 3/4 cup apricots next time.
- For tips from other TWD bakers, click here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Classic Red Velvet Cake (SMS)

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays (SMS) recipe was chosen by Rosy of Rosy Lips and Lavender: Red Velvet Cake. It's basically a cake with a mild chocolate flavor that is colored red with either beets or red food coloring. Melissa adds cinnamon and red wine vinegar to her cake, some non-traditional ingredients to spice up the cake a little bit.

I decided that I didn't really have the time to make a pretty layer cake (my cake decorating skills leave a lot to be desired anyway!), so I went the cupcake route. I did use my molten cake pan to make some extra large cupcakes and sliced one of those cupcakes to make a mini red velvet cake. I made a full recipe which yielded 18 regular sized cupcakes and 4 huge cupcakes.

I'm not sure if it was because I didn't let my cream cheese warm up enough, or if it was because I used the fat free variety, but I could not get my cream cheese frosting to be smooth! So, my frosted cupcakes looked pathetic (which is why you won't see any photos of them here), and my mini red velvet cake looks pretty sad too... but I just couldn't put up a post without any photos so you get the one up top. Luckily the appearance of the frosting had no bearing on the taste of these cupcakes, as they were incredibly moist and delicious. The cream cheese frosting was good, but not my favorite. I prefer this cream cheese frosting, or even better - coconut cream cheese frosting.

I haven't had very many red velvet cakes before, but this recipe is definitely a keeper and I will certainly be making this cake again. This would be a great cake recipe to use for cupcake pops, too, if you wanted to do something more fun. If you would like to try the red velvet cake recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays Blog Roll to see how everyone enjoyed this crimson cake!

* Recipe notes:
- If making cupcakes, bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- I only used 1.5 tsp of red food coloring, but add the full 2 tsp (or more) if a more intense red color is desired.
- I made 2/3 of the frosting recipe and that was sufficient to frost all my cupcakes.
- For more tips, click here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Milk Chocolate Bundt Cake (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Kristin of I'm Right About Everything: Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes.

This week's post is particularly short because I've been busy with the baby - I was happy to even get the baking time in! I don't have mini bundt cake pans, so I doubled the recipe and used my regular bundt pan.

Some folks seemed to have some trouble with the chocolate glaze so I took the tip from one of the bakers in our group to halve the corn syrup and that seemed to do the trick, as my glaze turned out just fine.

My husband got to bring this one in to work, so I didn't get to try it. He said it was a decent cake, but a little dry. That seemed to be the general opinion on this one - that it was just okay. If you're looking for a good chocolate cake recipe, try the "She Ain't Heavy" Chocolate Cake recipe, or the Cocoa-Buttermilk Cake recipe.

Thanks, Kristin, for hosting this week. If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed these mini chocolate treats!

* Recipes notes:
- If making this in a regular bundt pan, double the recipe.
- You can also make cupcakes instead of mini bundt cakes with this recipe.
- For the chocolate glaze, only add 1 teaspoon of corn syrup to the melted chocolate. If making a regular size bundt cake, make 1.5x the glaze recipe.
- For tips from other TWD bakers, click here.