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Oct 27, 2010 05:20 PM

What is the key to an amazing tiramisu??

Seriously, I've had so many average or not so great tiramisus but I know when we were in italy, they were heavenly! I'm wondering what the trick to this is. In some ways, the recipes seem very simple and I wonder if in italy or even here, the people that make it well, maybe there is something more to it. The last time I made it, it didn't turn out right texturally (too soggy).

I'm going to try and make my own ladyfingers though. I'm thinking that would probably make a big difference. Anyone ideas? Has anyone tried alternating the vanilla mascarpone layer with a mascarpone chocolate layer?

Any recipes or help would be appreciated!

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  1. I don't have a recipe for you, but I'm glad you started this thread. I too am a tiramisu lover and will be avidly following this post.

    1. There are diff approaches to tiramisu. Some focus on the espresso coffee flavor others the chocolate shavings. Those components are definately key but getting the lady finger dipped right is everything. Soggy tiramisu is usually a soggy lady finger issue. I wouldn't make lady fingers from scratch for this particular recipe (but homemade is lovely for many other purposes so don't let me discourage you) but using firm not soft baked lady fingers would be my recommendation straight off. Next is your marcapone cheese; buy the best quality you can find. My fav recipe is from Giada which can be found on the FN website easily. She also does a raspberry tiramisu that is fantastic. Good luck!

      10 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        +1 on HillJ: the quality of the products you put into it will have a direct bearing on the finished product - and that means the liquers also. I can't even tell you how many mediocre Tiramisus I've had because the maker used cheap alcohol. It really makes a difference. I haven't done a chocolate layer, but I've done an espresso layer and it was marvelous.

        1. re: mamachef

          I don't use alcohol of any kind in my tiramisu. I just never cared for the taste and my kids enjoy tiramisu so I wouldn't add it on their account. But I have used extracts and one really unique version uses Anise; very diff. I also don't care for cocoa powder of any kind in this recipe, much prefer dark chocolate shavings mid layer and on top.

          But the important thing is to make a tiramisu that appeals to your preference and if you begin with really good quality, firm baked lady fingers, a great quality marcapone cheese you're well on your way.

          Recently I had a pumpkin tiramisu at a party and it was very tasty. I couldn't imagine the combo of pumpkin & espresso...but it really worked.

          1. re: HillJ

            I was just going to post here HillJ that I am fond of it too but not with the inclusion of alcohol. The biggest problem I find when ordering it (not always but it is common) is the soggy factor. When i've made it I get the lady fingers from a Little Italy deli. They're packaged and very crisp, almost could seem delicate but maybe have to be to stand up to typical ingredients. I prefer those coffee syrups if I need to add a certain something extra or simply rely on the coffee or expresso to be predominant.

            I prefer creamy and rich to soggy and mooshy.

            1. re: iL Divo

              Couldn't agree more, iLD. Some of the syrups sold at Starbucks work incredibly well in tiramisu.

              1. re: HillJ

                HillJ, I should list the flavors I've bought that are brilliant.

        2. re: HillJ

          This is Giada's basic recipe; as I mentioned I omit the rum and go with dark chocolate for my family.

          1. re: HillJ

            I made a delcious Tiramisu last weekend for a family gathering. It was Giada's recipe with a few changes.

            I used a shot of brandy in the egg yoke/mascarpone mixture and a tablespoon of it in with the coffee. Also, on top of the first layer, I heavily sprinkled dutch cocoa powder. On top of the second layer, I sprinkled it again heavily with the cocoa and also did chocolate shavings.

            I was surprised how much I liked the brandy in it. And yes, I could taste the alchohol, but to me it was very authentic tasting.

            And I have made it with both soft and hard ladyfingers, the hard ones I dip in the coffee mixture, the soft ones I let sit on the counter for a few hours to air dry. And I paint them with the coffee mixture, so they don't get soaggy at all.

            I love Tiramisu.

            1. re: mcel215

              I like the sound of yours too. I vote for the alchohol as well. I will just make two, one for the adults and one for the non/drinkers and children.

              1. re: chef chicklet

                Thanks, I'm making it again for Christmas myself. :)

          2. re: HillJ

            I love Giada's recipe, too. I like mine on the sweeter side, so I increase the sugar to 1/4 cup. If at your disposal, try to find fresh mascapone cheese and fresh does make a difference. I use Italian ladyfingers that you can pick up from any Italian market.

          3. Definiely use the firm lady fingers as HillJ sugggests, and do not oversoak them. The dry portions of the cookie will continue to wick the liquid in the wet portion. I find, also, that using Irish creme for the liquor yields fantastic results.

            1. You speak of a topic near and dear to my heart ... as a fanatic of ice cream (and all things icy and creamy), I simply adore tiramisu.

              So, lets discuss.

              Tiramisu has many many variations, with the only constant probably being the mascarpone cheese.

              At it's core, tiramisu is essentially a semifreddo, an Italian ice cream cake of sorts. So if you think of it in those terms and begin the process with that as your fulcrum, things are a bit easier.

              So lets start with the basic ingredients and figure out where we want to start and end.

              In Italy, the tiramisu you had probably used raw eggs. Many recipes in the U.S. will either use cooked eggs (at least eggs heated in a double broiler, or bain-marie) for fear of Salmonella poisoning, or completely sub out the eggs with whipped cream. (Some people get even more fancy and bain-marie the egg yolks, only, and use whipped cream in place of the egg whites.) Stay traditional ... use raw eggs. Remember, you're trying to make a Zabaglione, not a custard.

              Use good quality real Italian espresso, not American espresso. This might be another area where your experience here and in Italy differed. Many commercial (incl. restaurants) will use weak or American espresso which is generally more bitter than its Italian counterpart, or (gasp!) coffee. But understand something, using real espresso will be expensive if you do not have an espresso machine and whole beans at home. For example most recipes call for something like 1.5 or 2 cups of espresso. If you price that out (either in shots or fluid ounces), you can easily end up paying something like $20 or more just for the espresso from a coffee shop. That said, the cost is worth it and your tummy will thank you for it.

              Cocoa powder
              Use the Natural Cocoa Powder. Not (and I repeat, not) the Dutch Cocoa powder you might find at the market.

              Lady Fingers, or the base.
              Use Italian lady fingers, Savoiardi. They are thicker than typical American style ladyfingers and are spongy enough to be highly absorbent but still retain a good crispness to them.

              Wine or liquor
              Use sweet Marsala wine. Some will call for things like Kahlua, Rum or even Bourbon or whiskey. Stay true to the original, use sweet Marsala.

              Go two layers (e.g. ladyfinger, filling, ladyfinger, filing, cocoa powder). Don't do one, and don't go beyond two.

              Those are the key basics as I see them for making a classic tiramisu. Once you've got those down, you can experiment and adjust your ingredients and/or make additions as you see fit to suit your tastes.

              Good luck and enjoy.

              6 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                <i>$20 or more just for the espresso from a coffee shop</i> !!!

                Just get an inexpensive 6-cup aluminum Moka coffeemaker and a can/packet of Lavazza. I make it double-strength (1/2 the water) for tiramisu; takes 3-4 rounds to get 2 cups.

                I agree with all your other tips!!

                I use a "Balducci's" recipe found on the web and have never had any complaints from Italians. I use the packaged (dry) ladyfingers available here and there is no real problem with sogginess; you just have to keep an eye on drizzling the espresso evenly and slowly, until the ladyfingers have absorbed it to their maximum, but not beyond. That's where the double-strength espresso makes a big difference.

                1. re: lidia


                  Re: making espresso in coffeemaker. I generally find it lacking because espresso is supposed to made with hot water that is heated to just the right temperature (about 15 degrees below boiling) and with the water forced through the ground beans with just the right pressure. A coffeemaker *can* make espresso with espresso beans, but it's just not the same for me ... not rich and lacks depth of flavor.

                  But lucky for me, I found a used espresso machine at a yard sale ... :-)

                  1. re: lidia

                    Drizzling rather than dunking in the coffee is key to not-soggy tiramisu.

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    "Stay true to the original, use sweet Marsala".

                    I don't know. It's pretty damned good with Sambuca...

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      What he or she said! The only problem I find with ALL my trials at this, is leftover. Regardless of my choices for ingredients, if it's not eaten all at once, it WILL go mushy on you. Guess it's the nature of the beast. I suppose it's like those cannoli's you see in the rotating cake case in a diner...they LOOK mushy..and sad...

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        May I ask, why not Dutch processed cocoa? Everywhere else I read recommendations especially for Dutch one. Is it about cheap brands of Dutch cocoa or is it about all of them?

                      2. I've had much success with this recipe:

                        This will give you the chocolately mascarpone that you were asking about. Like others have noted, I agree that it is important to use the firm lady fingers and not to over dip them.