I think every Italian restaurant in the country has tiramisu on their dessert menus. And now that I'm starting to see it at Chinese buffets, I think we can just admit that it's part of our dessert lexicon. It's been done a million times over, but every time I see it offered, even if I KNOW it's going to be bad, I still order it. When I was younger, I tried to make a version by Giada de Laurentiis at home, but even that didn't come out the way I expected. A good tiramisu is hard to find.
When I finally decided to try again, I scoured the internet for what would be the most delicious, most authentic tiramisu. I would overcome any sourcing issues, translate from Italian, whatever it took. When I landed on one that claimed to be direct from someone's Italian in-laws, I was curious. When they listed the ingredients like a demand letter, I knew I had found the right recipe. This tiramisu is transcendent. It really is amazing. But I have to add that if you have no immune system, or you're 2 years old, or you're on your death bed, you might not want to risk the tiny chance of getting salmonella from the raw eggs. Although I think I still would.
Adapted from Silvia Lavecchia and Michael Janke
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
6 large eggs
2 packages Alessi savoiardi ladyfingers (about 36 cookies)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces Cognac
1 (6.8-ounce) can Illy unsweetened espresso drink
Grated bittersweet chocolate
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Bring all the ingredients to room temperature. Pour the espresso drink into a shallow flat-bottomed bowl or dish. Add 1 ounce of water and 1 ounce of Cognac.
Separate the egg yolks and whites. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Add the mascarpone cheese and 1 ounce of Cognac and mix until blended. In a second mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until fluffy. Fold the beaten egg whites into the mascarpone cheese mixture. Mix only enough to blend as over-mixing will deflate the egg whites.
Quickly dip a ladyfinger in the espresso bowl. To get the right amount of espresso on the ladyfinger, lay the ladyfinger flat in the bottom of the bowl, sugared side UP, and immediately pull it out. Place each ladyfinger flat in the bottom of a 9x13-inch glass dish, sugar side DOWN. The ladyfinger will quickly absorb the espresso. Soaking the ladyfingers in the espresso will result in soggy ladyfingers.
Build a layer of dipped ladyfingers across the bottom of the glass dish. If some of the ladyfingers do not look dark from the espresso, spoon a few more drops of espresso on the ladyfingers. Any espresso left in the bottom of the dish will be absorbed by the ladyfingers. Spoon a layer of the mascarpone mixture across the layer of ladyfingers, using half of the mixture. Grate bittersweet chocolate over the mascarpone mixture. Dip another layer of ladyfingers and lay them on the grated chocolate. Layer them as before, sugar side DOWN. Drip espresso on the ladyfingers that don’t look dark. Spoon the remaining mascarpone mixture across the second layer of ladyfingers, smoothing the top.
Refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 4 hours before serving, preferably overnight. Before serving, sift the unsweetened cocoa over the top of the tiramisu.
Makes 16 servings