Thursday, November 1, 2018

Rosie Makes Tiramisu.

Today, I'm making my version of tiramisu, meaning "pick me up," referring to the shot of espresso which was originally tossed into the concoction.  Tiramisu, if you're wondering, is an Italian dessert.  It's layered with sponge cake or ladyfingers soaked in some type of liqueur (typically rum or coffee), with chocolate or cocoa powder, and mascarpone cheese.

Now, tiramisu comes with a history , which may or may not be true, but it makes a good story.  Most versions of tiramisu's origin say it was created in the 1960s at "Le Beccherie" restaurant in Treviso, Italy.  The chef, Carminantonio Iannaccone, created the dessert based on the everyday flavors of the region - strong espresso coffee, mascarpone-zabaglione cream, bitter cocoa powder, Marsala, and ladyfingers.  However, a more fun account credits the tiramisu as being a product of Italian brothels. As the story goes, in the late 1800s, competition between bordellos was fierce and one particular brothel started offering its customers espresso coffee as a complimentary beverage.  Other brothels followed suit, then to attract more customers as competition increased, the bordellos offered savoiardi cookies (similar to ladyfingers) which were dunked in the espresso or sometimes a liqueur.  The name "tiramisu" means "pick me up" in Italian, since the combination of cookies and espresso was considered an energy booster for patrons so they could go about their daily activities after their bordello activities, instead of taking a nap.

Now, back to tiramisu...
  My version of tiramisu uses what I have on hand.   I have egg whites, so I'm making angel food cake.  I have heavy cream, so I'm making whipped cream.  I have nuts, so I'm making candied pecans and almonds.  And I have a chocolate and caramel concoction I made for a cheesecake topping not too long ago so that's going in it too.  It's going to be good.

Like I said, I have egg whites, so I'm making an angel food cake.
Sort of.
I had a cup of egg whites in the fridge, leftover from when I'd used the yolks for a custard for vanilla ice cream and for a Hollandaise sauce for my Eggs Hawthorne.  The recipes I found for angel food cake generally called for 12 large egg whites.  I didn't want to use that many egg whites, just use the cup I had, which was 6 egg whites, or thereabouts.  So I made a scaled-down angel food cake which turned out to be just right for the tiramisu.

Also, for my tiramisu, I'm not using a big trifle bowl and the whole angel food cake, torn up, at one time.  I'm simply tearing up enough cake for individual servings and layering with whipped cream and my chocolate caramel sauce, then topping with candied nuts.

Rosie's Scaled Down Angel Food Cake
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup egg whites  (6 or so large whites), room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 tsp cream of tartar

Heat oven to 325°.
I used a 10-inch tube pan which I didn't grease or flour since you want the batter to have something to cling to as it rises.  
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and 6 TB of the sugar.
Using a stand mixer (preferred) beat egg whites for a minute or two.  Add in the salt and extracts and continue beating another minute.  Sprinkle in the cream of tartar and keep beating until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks.

Rosie Note:  Separate your eggs when they're cold.  The yolks are firmer and less likely to break at lower temperatures.  Beat your whites at room temperature, when they're more relaxed.  Air is more readily incorporated into room temperature egg whites than cold egg whites and they will beat up to a greater volume.

Beat in the remaining sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.  Gradually fold in the dry ingredients.
Spoon the batter into the pan and bake about 25 minutes, or until golden brown and top springs back when lightly touched.
Remove cake from oven and set it upside down.  Let cool.
Loosen edges of cake and remove from pan.

Here's my half recipe of angel food cake.

Next, I'm making candied nuts.  You can use any nuts you like.  I happen to like pecans and almonds.

Candied Nuts
1/4 cup sugar
1 TB water
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pecans
Combine sugar and and water in small saucepan.  Heat over low, shaking pan, until sugar dissolves.  Bring just to a boil.  Stir in nuts to coat and remove from heat.
Spread nuts evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet. I sprinkled a little pink sea salt over them, but you could use kosher salt.  Bake at 300° for 20-25 minutes, shaking halfway through.  Let cool.

Nuts going into simmering hot sugar water.

Stir to coat, then spread out on baking sheet and ... bake.

Next I whupped up a batch of whipped cream.
I don't need to tell you how to whip cream, but I will.

Here's a Rosie Tip:  For maximum volume and best texture, chill the bowl and beaters first.  I set them in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

The cream will whip better when the bowl and beaters are chilled.  When cream is whipped, air bubbles are created.  If the cream is cold, the air bubbles are suspended by a network of tiny fat globules, which allows the cream to expand into a light, airy mass.  If the temperature is warm, the fat globules soften and collapse so the cream can't whip up as fully and it takes longer to reach the maximum, diminished volume.  This extra whipping time also makes the cream slightly grainy because the fat forms misshapen clumps rather than microscopic smooth globules that surround the air bubbles.  In other words, the rheological properties of whipped cream are affected by temperature which influences fat globule aggregation and the characteristics of air bubbles.  Bottom line:  Chill cream, bowl, and beaters.

Pour in a cup of heavy cream into the chilled bowl and start beating with the chilled beaters.  When you get a good froth, gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar.  Beat until you have a nice creamy texture and soft peaks, then beat in a teaspoon or more of vanilla extract.  Taste test.  

Rosie Note:  Do not overbeat.  Overbeating to stiff peaks will produce a slightly grainy texture and the cream can curdle and break up, quickly separating into butter and buttermilk.

 I happened to make a cheesecake a few days ago and had some of this glaze left over.  It's perfect for my tiramisu.
Rosie's Chocolate and Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream 
2 TB unsalted butter
1 12-oz. package bittersweet chocolate morsels.

Combine sugar, water, and vanilla in medium saucepan and heat to dissolve sugar.  Cook over medium heat to a clear bubble and continue cooking until amber-colored.  You want to exercise an Amber-Alert here.  When it gets amber-colored, it's ready.  At this point, caramel can go downhill in a heartbeat.  Remove from heat and stir in the cream.  It will bubble and spit.  This is normal.  When it calms down, stir in the butter and the chocolate and let it melt.

To assemble the tiramisu:  I prefer individual servings here instead of a big trifle bowl full of cake and whipped cream.  Tear angel food cake into bite-sized pieces.  Fill a parfait glass or wine glass with angel food cake pieces and whipped cream, drizzling chocolate/caramel sauce throughout. Sprinkle on candied nuts.  Eat and refill.  Repeat.

This is delightful.


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