Recipe etc.: Pick-Me-Up

For any of you dessert fiends or Italian obsessed readers, you may have noticed the hint in the title.

Yes, this is going to be about Tiramisu.  [It literally translates to pick-me-up.  I know, I love the Italians too].

Not only is it one of the best desserts ever created [in my humble opinion], I also like to think it was a dessert based on the very principles nibs etc. is founded upon: upcycling.

When you think about it, the Tiramisu sits - literally - rooted in soaking dry 'lady finger' biscuits in liquid.  Call me crazy, but I bet you some clever person decided that instead of throwing away the seemingly stale biscuits, they could whip up an elegant dessert and perhaps avoid getting fired/hung [era-depending].

Now, every nonna, chef, cooking school will have 'their' version.  It's one of Italy's most famous desserts and yet it is almost impossible to find the 'perfect' one [or maybe I'm just picky, read, a snob].  I hope that this one, bestowed unto me by a cooking school in Siena, Italy, [which some will debate was its true cultural origin, just saying..] brings you close.

Photography © Virginia Repetto

It's simple, and humble in its appearance.  But, done right, it will blow anybody's socks off [this coming from a non-coffee drinker].  So we thought it could perhaps offer some inspiration for the forthcoming New Year's Eve celebrations.  You can make it in advance, you can upcycle any stale biscuit ends, fruit - poached/canned [the Italians might disagree here, but I was once served a white chocolate and berry version and it was pretty excellent], and bottom-of-the-bottle booze.  It really is the ultimate, bestover celebration dish.

Ingredients

4 eggs
150g Caster Sugar
300g Savoy Biscuits/Lady Fingers
3 tablespoons Espresso Coffee
3 tablespoons Whisky
Cocoa Powder for dusting
Chocolate Chips for decoration

Method

Prepare the espresso.  Once cooled, add the alcohol and leave to soak in the fridge while you prepare the rest.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and frothy - may take 5 or more minutes.
Whisk up the mascarpone until lighter in texture; this will make it easier to incorporate into the egg and sugar mixture - blend carefully.
Whisk the egg whites until firm and fold through, mixing well, but gently.
Line a rectangular [or oval, round, even] dish with your biscuits, in a single layer.  Carefully, evenly, drizzle over the coffee/alcohol liquid, until no biscuit edge is left untouched [if need be, add more liquid to taste], making sure you have at least half in order to repeat this step a second time.
Spread half of the mascarpone cream on top and sprinkle with cocoa powder. 
Repeat the layering of biscuits, liquid, cream and cocoa powder.
Roughly/thinly chop some dark chocolate [or pulse/blitz some chocolate chips in a food processor] and sprinkle on top.
Put in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Variations

If you have a large dish, doing one single layer of biscuits, and then cream, also works excellently.  Alternatively, a tall and narrow one - trifle style - works too.  As do individual glass-portion sizes.
If you don't have whisky, rum works well.
Adding fruit: mixed or red berries, leftover poached plums or pears, canned fruit [sacrilege, almost certainly.  Serve to Italians at your own risk.  But if you've leftover fruit lying around..!].

 

Photography © Virginia Repetto