From a previous post of mine:
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.
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.
Original post here:
I'll share my recipe. It's traditional but I like using flavor enhancers and this one is a bit sweeter:
(One 9-inch square spring form baking pan or glass baking dish)
This recipe uses raw eggs. Make sure you have a good source for farm fresh eggs.
1 cup brewed espresso, room temperature
1/2 cup sweet marsala wine (or 1/2 cup Kahlua)
5 large farm fresh eggs, separated
8 Tablespoons superfine sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 ounces mascarpone
1 package of 24 Savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers)
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Chocolate shavings or curls
In small bowl combine marsala with room temperature espresso and stir.
Whip egg whites and salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks appear. Add half the sugar and continue whipping until stiff, foamy, and almost triple the volume. Meringue should be white. Scrape meringue into another bowl and set aside.
In the same mixing bowl add egg yolks with remaining sugar and scraped vanilla bean or extract. Whip until light and thick, about 3 minutes. Turn off mixer and add half the mascarpone. Blend at lowest speed for only a few seconds and continue to smooth by hand. Repeat with the remaining mascarpone. Fold in egg whites with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
There should be 4 layers in total, alternating soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture; bottom layer should start with ladyfingers and top ending layer should be mascarpone mixture dusted with cocoa and topped with chocolate shavings.
Immerse each ladyfinger VERY quickly, for far less than one second. Do not wait until the cookie is saturated. The liquid will continue to soften the cookie while slowly seeping through to the center. (Alternatively you can use a pastry brush for more control). Lay rounded side down on the base of the spring form pan or glass baking dish. Continue until 12 cookies have lined the bottom of the glass dish. Top first ladyfingers layer with half the mascarpone mixture to form second layer. Repeat by making third layer with remaining ladyfingers after immersing, resting in the same direction as first ladyfingers layer (I think it looks nicer this way). Top this layer with remaining mascarpone mixture.
Spoon a small amount of unprocessed, unsweetened cocoa (you can use semisweet/bittersweet) into a small fine mesh strainer and lightly dust top layer with cocoa. Sprinkle top generously with cocoa shavings/curls.
Wait at least 4 hours before serving; an overnight rest is preferable.
Completely Optional: I sometimes dust the first layer of mascarpone mixture with cocoa as well as the top layer.