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A lovely Italian moka pot

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote was on tiramisu. My introduction to making Tiramisu came through the recipe of Giuliano Hazan in his useful book Every Night Italian. What I liked about it so much was its use of Strega as a liquor, which Giuliano says is classic, even though I’ve never come across anyone else using it. I made that tiramisu for years. I loved it, friends loved  it, and customers loved it.

But it’s natural and healthy to evolve, and over the years my approach to tiramisu has been transformed significantly. I no longer use any liquor. I make it in individual serving goblets instead of a large cake.  I have reduced the ratio of ladyfingers and increased the ratio of mascarpone cream. And finally, I found a workaround to the problem of using raw eggs (even though fear of raw eggs is largely unfounded). All of these changes, except perhaps the last, reflect changing practices in Italy as well. More and more the tiramisu I make resembles the tiramisu I’m served in Rome, Bologna, and Venice.

There’s nothing wrong with the version I used to make, but change and variation are usually healthy. Here’s how I make it now.

Tiramisu (Makes 18 portions)

  1. Begin by beating 6 large eggs yolks with the whisk attachment in a stand mixture until thick and pale yellow, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. While the yolks are whisking, heat 150 grams sugar with 100 grams water over high heat until boiling vigorously.
  3. Very slowly, drizzle the boiling sugar syrup into the egg yolks with the whisk going at high speed. This should raise the temperature of the yolks to 140 degrees or so, cooking them without curdling.
  4. Turn down the speed one or two settings, and beat for a full 15 minutes until light and very much expanded.
  5. Add 2 half pound packages of mascarpone, and then add 100 grams of sugar dissolved in a cup of cream (225 grams).
  6. Mix until thick, about a minute or two depending on the speed. Turn off the mixer.
  7. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cream into each of the 18 dessert goblets. I use a small ice cream scoop.
  8. Prepare a cup or so of very strong coffee, preferably with an Italian moka pot, a staple of home coffee making in Italy.
  9. Cut 18 dried ladyfingers in half and briefly soak 2 halves at a time in the coffee, adding a little milk if desired. Then place each pair of halves in each of the 18 goblets. Each brand of ladyfingers varies in how much soaking is needed. The temperature of the coffee also makes a profound difference. Sometimes 2 seconds is too much. Other times 5 seconds is not enough. It just takes a little practice and experience. What you don’t want is for the ladyfinger to be sodden at this point. If it is moistened on the other portion but still hard inside, the moisture will wick its way into the center and tenderize the whole cookie over the course of several hours.
  10. Add about 1/4 cup of mascarpone cream (I use a large ice cream scoop) on top, smoothing it out with a spoon.
  11. Finish by dusting with cocoa. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 12 to 24 hours.
  12. Serve cool, but not right from the fridge.

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