Wednesday, December 14, 2005


There are many stories about the origins of Tiramisu’ and there are 4 different regions in Italy that claim paternity. They are: Piedmont, Lombardia, Veneto and Tuscany. Today the debate continues, sometimes rather lively, but I will allow you to decide which story you like the best. Each will find some supporting evidence so you narrate the one that best fits the occasion.

One of the most imaginative indicates that a pastry chef from Turin created the dessert for the prime minister, Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour. The minister loved sweets and given his arduous task of uniting the Italian peninsula he needed something with a lot of energy, thus the name Tiramisu’ or Pick Me Up.

Another states that the restaurant “El Toula’” in Treviso created the pastry based on a local delicacy. Another indicates the origins in the 1600s, when local pastry chefs from Siena prepared this dessert for the visit of the Granduca di Toscana, Cosimo III De’ Medici. The dessert, as told by the locals, was created to emulate the characteristics of the Granduca, that is, Greatness in Simplicity. The pastry had to be frivolous while important, just like the Granduca. Thus this specialty was named “Zuppa del Duca” or “Soup of the Duke”. Later, it seems, members of the court attributed this pastry with aphrodesciacal powers so the name changes to Tiramisu’.

No matter where this pastry originates it is marvelously simple. Its consistency is that of a cloud yet smooth and satisfying. I have tried many versions here in the US, none of which have anything to do with Tiramisu’. Usually they are prepared with some whipped cream, or worse, a non dairy substitute for whipped cream. The restaurant will then pour some sauce over the top to hide the hideous flavor and consistency.

The preparation is very simple, like making a pudding, and if you make your own Savoiardi (Lady Fingers) the results will be me even more luxurious.


For the Mascarpone Cream (Crema di Mascarpone)

400 grams (just less than 1 lb) of Mascarpone
10 Tablespoons of Sugar
4 eggs
4 Tablespoons of Cognac

For the Tiramisu’

1 lb Mascarpone Cream
2 cup (16 oz.) of Strong Espresso
1 cup (8 oz.) Cognac
1 lb of Savoiardi (Lady Fingers)
Powdered Dark unsweetened Chocolate (Cocoa)


The night before you intend to prepare this dish, prepare the espresso. We use a Moka - 6 cups and prepare it twice. Let the coffee sit over night.

Preparation of the Mascarpone Cream

Divide the yolks from the egg whites and set the whites aside.
In a mixing bowl smooth the Mascarpone cheese. Most commercial Mascarpone found here in the US will be rather compact and not creamy. Use a fork the cream the mascarpone. Do not whisk the Mascarpone as it will most likely divide into butter and serum.

Place the yolks in a mixing bowl and whisk until small bubbles start to form. While whisking (you can use the whisk of a good quality mixer) slowly add the sugar. Continue whisking until creamy and very light in color. If you are concerned about using raw eggs you can do this in a bagno maria (double boiler) which will take the egg temperature high enough to kill the bacteria while not cooking the eggs. When creamy continue whisking and slowly add the 4 tablespoons of cognac (brandy can also be used but cognac is better).

Add the egg yolk mixture to the Mascarpone and set aside.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until very stiff peaks are formed. Carefully add the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture. Always mix from bottom to top, lifting from the bottom and moving carefully to the bottom. Stirring will collapse the egg whites and this will be a belly bomb.

Putting it all together

In a bowl pour the coffee and the 8 oz. of Cognac. Dip ½ of the Savoiardi, flat side down, in the coffee cognac mixture and place on the bottom of a high sided 9-12 inch glass or ceramic casserole dish. Place side by side until the entire bottom of the dish is covered. Allow enough time for the Savoiardi to absorb the liquid, but not so much that the Savoiardo disintegrates, before placing in the dish.

Spoon ½ of the Mascarpone Cream over the Savoiardi and level carefully. Dip the remaining Savoiardi in the coffee liquid and place on top of the Mascarpone in the casserole dish. Finally, spoon the remaining Mascarpone Cream over the top layer of Savoiardi and smooth the top.

Finish with abundant powdered chocolate. The top should be dark brown once finished. I also grate ½ a bar of dark chocolate on top of this. I have also made curls, shaves, and even broken pieces.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

This dessert is a luxurious, light, and just plain heavenly when prepared properly. Pare this dessert with a sweet liquor wine such as a Moscadello or a Moscato dolce.


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Blogger Christina said...

My mouth is watering...great article about my favorite dessert! Yummy!

8:25 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Thanks. This is one of my passions. In the next few days I will publish the recipe to make your own Savoiardi. They are a melt in your mouth delite!!!

11:05 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

No need for Cognac! Trust me! If the ingredients are good quality, and the coffee is sufficiently aromatic (i.e. we're talking of real, Italian espresso coffee) then there's no need for cognac.

3:09 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Slawka, a privilege to have your comments on my blog!

Actually, Raffaella prefers Rum, it is a question of balance and of personal taste. I have studied the origins of Tiramisu', as most recipes we use, and have published the one that seems most prevalent.

I personally enjoy the "fondo" that forms in the bottom of the container, but I also clean my coffee cup with grappa so I may be biased.

Please check back every once in a while. In February I will be writing about wines and I would enjoy your thoughts.


3:41 PM

Blogger langfors said...

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm tiramisu!!! My favorite Italian dessert. Hey, this is my first visit to your site and I like it. Keep the great recipies coming. I will make it to Italy some day.

7:18 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

Right! If you have any doubt or "curiosità" on wine don't hesitate to ask me. I'll be glad to help!
Keep up with the good work!

6:09 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Slawka, I will be dedicating the month of March - bottling season - to wine. I will surely appreciate any thoughts you may have.

I hope to increase awareness regarding the quality of Italian wines, mostly the less publicized varieties.

Merry Christmas e tanti auguri di Buone Feste!!!

6:55 AM


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