Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge - Tiramisu

It's that time of month again!

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

When I first saw the challenge, I was very excited. Tiramisu? Delicious. I have even made a version of it a few times, and it was always very well received.

Then I read a little further. This wasn't just constructing tiramisu. This was making every component. From scratch. Including the marscapone cheese. Umm... making cheese? Yeah. A little daunting. Add to that making savoiardi biscuits (lady fingers), pastry cream and zabaglione (zabagli-what? yeah, that was my first thought, too...) and I quickly moved from excited to, well, still excited, but pretty nervous, too.

My apologies, once again, because this will be a long, picture-heavy post.

One of the first considerations I had for this challenge was time. There were five components that had to be made for this challenge, three of which need to be chilled completely before the final product could be constructed. So I had to determine when each would be made, and make time for each step, to ensure that I could have time for a re-do if I goofed anything up majorly. Which was a big concern I had.

I decided to start with the marscapone, since it was what I was most nervous about, and since it has to be refrigerated for the longest amount of time - overnight to 24 hours. I have never even had (to my knowledge, anyway) marscapone, much less made it. The tiamisu I have made in the past? Yeah, uses cream cheese instead. The process of making marscapone is actually quite straightforward - heavy cream (as pure as you can find) is heated in a bowl placed into a pan of simmering water until it reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit, at which time lemon (or lime) juice is added to help thicken the cream. Simple enough, right? Well, I hit a snag that, from what it seems on the Daring Baker forum, was pretty common. My cream would not come to 190 degrees. It was supposed to take 15 minutes. I was standing and stirring for over 45 and I still could not get any higher than 170. Turns out that my equipment was the problem. I thought maybe my candy thermometer was broken, but it seems that the pyrex bowl in which I was heating the cream was actually insulating it too much, and therefore preventing the cream from heating any more. But I found that out later. What did I do at that point? Figured I might as well push my luck and add the lime juice to my 170 degree cream and cross my fingers. It seems that luck was on my side that night, because only a little bit of stirring later, my cream was thickening beautifully, with only the faintest hit of a curdle, and I knew my cheese was ready to be drained. Several layers of cheesecloth in a sieve over a bowl, and I had officially made my very first cheese. This went into the fridge to chill.

The next morning, I decided to tackle components two and three - vanilla pastry cream and zabaglione, which I looked up, and is an egg-custard, usually flavored with marsala wine. These were made in the morning, because they require at least four hours to chill, so I figured I would aim to make them both first thing. Little miss was very happy to help me whisk together the ingredients for the pastry cream, and as this is cooked over low heat (and I was standing right there), I let her take a turn. When it was time for the zabaglione, though, I did that one myself, since it is cooked in a double boiler - didn't need anything going off balance and near-boiling water splashing on her. I used coffee (decaf) instead of marsala, to ensure that this would be a family friendly dessert. And I am not a big wine fan, anyway. The double-boiler picture here actually shows how frothy the zabaglione was as it was coming together. It actually cooked up quite a bit darker, and was a really nice, thick, custardy consistency. That's the finished product, over on the left. It only took about an hour to make both of these, and soon enough, they were in the fridge chilling.

In case you are wondering what little miss was up to while I was stirring, stirring, stirring hot custard, it was this:

Yup. The kid loves to do dishes, so if I need a few minutes I put some warm soapy water in the stoppered-sink, give her a new sponge, and throw all kinds of plastic cups and bowls in there for her. She loves it. I only hope she loves it as much in 10 years when she has to do it as her chore, rather than for fun...

But I digress.

The next major component for this challenge was the savoiardi biscuits, or, as I know them, lady fingers. I was never a fan of lady fingers - I only ever bought them when I was making a tiramisu, and, in my opinion, they were basically a placeholder for all the creamy goodness. Until now. These biscuits are, for lack of a better word, lovely. Light, airy, delicate cookies, I can't even begin to explain to you how much better they are than their store-bought counterpart. They come together so easily, even considering that eggs have to be separated. With a sprinkling of powdered sugar before being popped into the oven, they are just fantastic. They are stand-alone worthy, no longer relegated to placeholder status. I could tell, though, looking at my completed biscuits and then at the pan in which I was planning on making my tiramisu, that one batch would not be enough to make all three layers that the recipe called for, but this was really no problem. I quickly made another batch, and was very happy to know that I would have extra biscuits for snacking on. Yay!

And can you believe all of that was done by lunch time?

After dinner that night, I got ambitious, and decided that we should finish up the tiramisu so that it could chill overnight and be dessert for the next day's dinner. Which happened to be Valentine's day. Aaww.

So after dinner, I whipped up the final component, and the only one that I have made before. Fresh whipped cream. Yum. The whipped cream was gently folded into the combined marscapone, zabaglione and pastry cream to make a quadruple-y delicious and, somehow both rich and light cream. The next part was the part little miss was looking forward to all day. Dipping the biscuits in cooled, sweetened coffee to create delicious layers of biscuits and cream. Then the whole thing went back in the fridge.

And the result?

So good. So much better than my old version of tiramisu.

So good, in fact, that I decided to make another, only to get a little more, well, daring.

Yes, there is more.

For my second tiramisu, I decided to try a different flavor, rather than another traditional coffee tiramisu. I chose berries.

To do this, I took a bag of frozen mixed berries and cooked them down and strained them to make a concentrated berry juice. I used this berry juice in place of the coffee used in the traditional one to flavor the zabaglione and for dipping the biscuits. Such a little change, but wow.

This was just as good as the first one, and had such a fresh taste to it, thanks to the berries. I even took a piece of this one in to the gym for my taste-tester to try, and she said "wow" a few times, with a big smile, so I am thinking it went over pretty well.

Deeba, Aparna, I cannot thank you enough for this challenge. I learned something new with each component, and can guarantee you that I will be making this again. And again.

Full recipes can be found here.


  1. You guys did a wonderful job! I particularly like the idea of using berries in it! :D

  2. Lovely tiramisu. Very nicely done.

  3. WOOT you did so well. How wonderful!! I adore your pretty little helper. Dishes too?? She is precious! Also love the fun you had making the entire thing, and that you did it again. I did too... 3 times and loved it round. Thank you for being such a wonderful player to the challenge. I loved hosting it!

  4. How nice that your kids helped you with the challenge! It really does look great. well done!!

  5. Like the idea with the mixed berries. I used raspberries in mine.

  6. It looks great and what a bonus that you had help with the dishes! I made a couple of flavours too and the raspberry was my favourite. I also had to make 2 batches of ladyfingers because I couldn't stop eating them!

  7. Aw, I need a little helper too! I think the berries in the tiramisu is such a great idea - I imagine it really compliments the other flavours. It looks great!

  8. Awesome job! I especially like the berry version. It must have been really refreshing.

  9. Beautiful job on your tiramisu! Fabulous and very pretty sous chefs too. My helpers were taking care of other things for me. Taking out the dog, mopping the floors, etc. I adore it when I have help with the chores.

    This month's challenge was a real learning experience wasn't it? I had trouble with the vanilla pastry cream, the mascarpone and the zabaglione. I figured out that it wasn't my thermometer (a digital), but the burner on the electric stove in our rental house. I'm going to check out the other burners to see if they do better. I don't have any trouble with the oven, but the stove top is problematic. When it comes to the stove, I can't wait until we get home and I've got my gas stove top back.

    Great job!

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

  10. Looks good! I agree that the homemade savoiardi were so, so much better than store-bought. A whole different creature, really. :)

    Kristin @ Real Life Flavors

  11. You describe things so well, I feel like even someone like me *might* be able to do something so daring ;)

    Good job girlie... wish I was your taste tester at the gym (which is highly entertaining that your tester is at the gym, LOL!).

  12. It all looks absolutely delicious! I love the berries you added =D.

  13. Gorgeous tiramisu! I love your berry version as well. I wholeheartedly agree about the mascarpone being an adventure! Great job!

  14. Looks like a perfect tiramisu to me! So sweet that you had a little helper on this challenge, too. :)

  15. That's just great. Nothing like having the kids being a part of it all. Glad you liked the challenge so much.
    Thanks for baking with us.

  16. Your Tiramisu's look wonderful! I had to send my little 7 and 8 year old boys outside to play in the snow while I whipped up my recipe...them being home (snow days here in Michigan) is why it was a 4 day process :) Cannot wait to see what next months recipe is!

  17. I'm glad I'm not the only one who was confused as to why my cream would never make it past 170 (I was using a pyrex bowl, too). :)

    Love BOTH of your tiramisus.... they look great!

  18. Oh my god! I need to have a dish wash-loving child immediately! Ha!

  19. Awesome! As soon as I can eat dairy again I will be making this! Hubby and I love tiramisu so much that our wedding cake was tiramisu flavored. But, I've never made it completely from scratch, this is right up my alley!

  20. Your tiramisu looks amazing. It's so cool that you got a little help :)


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