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Feb 22, 2010 07:40 AM

Making tiramisu - need help

Hi there,

I'm trying to make tiramisu cake for the first time. I've browsed many different recipes and some mention to use Bailey's, some use Rhum, some use any Coffee Liqueor, some mentions no alcoholic content at all.

So what's the difference if I use one or the other? Which one would produce the best tiramisu?

Plus, I figured I also need ladyfingers cookies... ummm never heard of that. Can I buy that at any local grocery store? mascarpone cheese too

and for unsweetened cocoa powder, can I substitue it with hot chocolate powder?


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  1. This will probably be moved to the Home Cooking board.

    The mandatory soaking liquid is very strong black coffee, preferably from an espresso machine or moka pot. Liquor is optional. Rum is a frequent addition though you'll also see grappa, Marsala and various liqueurs. Personally, I'd avoid a sweet liqueur as most recipes are already sweet enough; rum adds punch and cut without muddying the flavours or making the dish cloying.

    You'll find lady fingers in many grocery stores, though sometimes they're stuck with the packaged cakes and breads, not the cookies. Called "doigts de dame" in French and "savoiardi" in Italian. Milano, the great Italian supermarket on St-Laurent in Little Italy, certainly has them, as well as first-rate mascarpone (far superior to the supermarket stuff in tubs).

    Don't use hot chocolate powder instead of unsweetened cocoa. Again, you don't want to add more sugar. And you want the cocoa's bitterness to counterpoint the dish's inherent richness.

    2 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      I have found this recipe to be the best. I saw it on the food network and really had some great experiences making it. I use a cube of unsweetened chocolate as a shaving at the end for the top, and it is beautiful. Good luck!

      1. re: carswell

        Just to add a couple things to the above post. For lady fingers, look for the firm hard type labeled "savoiardi" as the typical soft ones will not hold up as well after dipping them in coffee.
        There is no "best" version. Since this is your first time, make the classic one with very strong black coffee flavored with either rum or grappa. Buy the best mascarpone. Make it in the morning to serve that evening to allow the lady fingers to get soft. Dust it with a good layer of unsweetened cocoa powder before serving.

      2. I've found lady fingers at Trader Joe's. TJ also has the best price on mascarpone in my area. My local grocery store carries it at $5.99 per 8 oz so it adds up quickly for a tiramisu. I think TJ's was about $2.99. Don't use the lady fingers you see at most grocery stores, as others have said. They're too soft and more like little cakes than savoiardi. If you want, you can make your own. I like this recipe:

        If you don't have a pastry bag, you can use a zip lock bag and cut a small tip off the corner. I like it with marsala wine but wouldn't turn it down w/ another liquor.