In response to requests from the DC Board:
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweet marsala wine
250 g (1/2 lb) mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups instant espresso coffee
3 Tbs Kaluha
24 Italian ladyfingers (note these MUST be Italian ladyfingers which are crisp not soft)
unsweetened cocoa powder
1. Boil 2 cups water. Add 6 Tbs instant espresso coffee. Add Kaluha (optional). Chill.
2. Beat egg yolks with sugar until light. Beat in Marsala (optional) and cook gently in double boiler. Stir constantly until thickened. Cool.
3. Beat mascarpone until smooth. Beat in cooled custard.
4. Whip cream until light. Gently fold into cheese mixture.
5. Quickly dip 1/2 ladyfingers in coffee mixture [don't soak them]. Place in bottom or dish. Spread half of topping mixture over top. Repeat.
6. Sprinkle cocoa powder over top through sieve. Cover. Chill. Enjoy.
Note: The perfect size dish for this recipe is a Pyrex 11x7 inch glass pan.
You can also make your own lady fingers.
I think of tiramisu like trifle--you can make it as easy as you'd like by buying the individual ingredients or as hard. I have a good recipe for sisley tiramisu from an old Bon Appetit (not on the epicurious site, though) if anyone is interested, I can post it.
yknow, i never thought about that actually - that tiramisu IS like trifle, i.e. you can just buy what you dont want to actually make. cool. that kind of just makes me want to make it that much more. i think the two big, big things to keep in mind when making tiramisu tho are
1) the amount of soaking the cookies go through
2) the quality of your zabaglione (the heated yolk, sugar, and marsala mixture)
you really do, in my experience anyhow, have to get more of the coffee mixture into the cookies than you think. when i was making it, we had great big sheets of the baked cookie dough layed out and we brushed the coffee mixture on and we def did NOT put enough on. we thought we had and it looked OK, but in the end, when viewed from the side, you could see that only the upper half of the dough sheet had absorbed the mixture. this left us with a serioiusly dry 'bed' of cookies, as it were. still tasty, but not quite perfect. i'd like to try it again, but i dont feel like making a bunch of silly ladyfinger dough...and i dont want to go out and buy it either, tho, cuz then i feel like i didnt really 'make' anything, yknow? hehe.
I've also done the opposite when I've added way too much coffee mixture. Mushy cookies--still tasty but not quite right. Yeah, I kind of feel the same way as you about making trifle, too, like if I bought the poundcake/sponge cake, all I did was assemble and not cook. But, sometimes you just want quick and easy and as long as you get good quality ladyfingers or pouncake/spongecake, it's all good. I went through a tiramisu phase a long time ago, experimented a lot, but haven't made one since...maybe it's time. When I first started making them, you couldn't find mascarpone anywhere. I remember driving from store to store for hours. Now it's everywhere. Cool.
I live in England so I don't have your problem, but any good Deli or Italian grocery (there must be one where you live) will have ammaretti. Savoyardi are a good substitute, there are also some decent bicuits/cookies on sale in this country called Boudouir biscuits or Lady fingers.
I don't live in your area but when I made tiramisu using Ina Garten's recipe, I found the savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers/crisp cookies) at a local Italian deli/grocery store. They also carried the mascarpone that I needed. You might try calling a few in your area to see if they sell them.