Welcome to December my favourite month of the year and to share my goodwill with you, this entire month will be dedicated to celebrating the holidays with stylish simplicity around your Christmas table. To kick off my best intentions, I inevitably started with the distinguished Italian dessert Tiramisù with a spritz of my South African heritage. Christmas comes around only once a year and this is the moment where you want to be creative and impressive (with ease) and essentially give your guests and loved ones the feeling that this truly is a special time. A time where you can take an old, every day classic and turn it into an extravagant holiday dessert.
Tiramisù literally translated from Italian means “pick me up” and the lift in question is usually derived from the coffee soaked Savoiardi biscuits or lady fingers that can drink coffee like there’s no tomorrow (truth be told they actually never see tomorrow when used for Tiramisù). I’ve often asked myself whether the biscuits where intentionally made for this because if so, then a beautiful intention it was! When the biscuits drink, they transform from being stiff and dry to a soft, moist sponge that serves as a delicate base for all that rich zabaione (sabayon) cream which together form a passionate commitment to seduce. Using these words I can’t help but wonder if the legend surrounding Tiramisù is true. Rumour has it that this dessert’s popularity grew in Italy by being served freely in brothels by the Madame to both clients and prostitutes alike, to keep them up. But that’s a whole new blog!
Traditionally Tiramisù is made with Marsala wine which is what gives zabaione it’s distinct flavour. But here I’ve opted to replace the wine with Amarula, a cream liqueur from my home country. On her recent visit my Mum brought us a bottle and I decided to make the most of what little time we have left with it before the bottle runs dry. This was my first time using Amarula in a Tiramisù and can I just say it is absolutely “stupendo” to put it in the words of Enrico who has been eating the classic family favourite since a very young age. Often we talk about his late grandmother who he claims was incredible at preparing Italian sweets and since she lived only a few floors above him naturally her grandchildren, in typical Italian fashion always had something good to eat at Nonna’s. I was a bit worried the first time I had him taste my not-quite-Nonna’s adaptation. I’m smiling as I recall watching him nervously, waiting for his response almost as if he was a judge on one of those cooking reality shows where the contestants wait for the baby to be thrown out with the bath water or NOT. That was the day I discovered what Tiramisù means when he declared “Tiramisù means pick me up and you just lifted me to the Sky!” Oh my heart! I felt it jumping in my chest with utter joy.
For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Amarula is a cream made from the Marula fruit which grows in Africa and I thought to share with you the charming description on the bottle.
“Amarula is a pure blend of Natures fresh cream and the mysterious taste of the wild Marula fruit. Africa’s majestic elephants walk for miles to feast on the sun ripened Marula fruit which is indigenous to the regions vast subequatorial plains.
The hand picked Marula fruit is fermented, distilled and matured for two years in French Oak before being blended with the finest fresh cream. Internationally award-winning Amarula is best enjoyed neat or on ice”
Or in a Tiramisù by my decadent standards! I can’t conceive of a more a opulent way to add that touch of luxury to an otherwise fairly conventional dessert (which I still adore). To celebrate with class and style I suggest that you prepare this on a large elegant serving tray of glass, silver or white porcelain instead of the customary tradition of using a casserole dish. I find that the traditional method of using bakeware obscures the beauty of the layers taking away some of the appeal. Here I’ve used a round handmade, extra large glass plate with burnished gold trim to set the festive mood, but for a larger quantity I would suggest using an elongated serving plate. If having fewer guests you may also consider preparation in individual long-stemmed wine glasses with wide bowls placed on a sparking silver under tray for a more sophisticated look. I’ve created a recipe here which easily serves six and cuts into neat slices of 3 biscuits, 2 layers of zabaione cream and 1 layer of fresh cream in each slice. Double this recipe and you will have seconds for everyone, serve with a shot of Amarula or an espresso and you are bound to be ushering out a Very Merry lot. Let’s get started!
- 18 lady finger biscuits
- 2 cups of strong filter coffee
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tbs castor sugar
- 5 tbs Amarula
- 250g mascarpone
- 250ml fresh cream
- 1 tsp confectioners sugar
- cocoa powder for dusting
- 50g cold dark chocolate
- Create a double boiler by placing a pot of water filled 1/4 of the way onto a low heat.
- Place egg yoks, castor sugar and 2 tbs of Amarula in a large heat resistant mixing bowl.
- Beat a with a hand mixer for 10 seconds before placing the dish over the double boiler. Ensure that the bottom of the dish is not touching the hot water.
- Beat on high speed until the yes triple in volume and become light and delicate sabayon.
- Remove sabayon from heat and let stand to cool for a few minutes.
- Add mascarpone and beat until smooth.
- Add the remaining Amarula and mix until well combined.
- In a cold mixing bowl whip fresh cream for two minutes, add confectioners sugar and continue whipping to stiff peak stage.
- Fill whipped cream into a piping bag with a pastry tip of your choice.
- Twist the end of the bag tightly and place in the fridge.
- Place the cold coffee in a shallow bowl and begin dipping the biscuits.
- Dip six biscuits and place them sided by side to form one row of biscuits.
- Spoon over the first layer of sabayon cream over the soaked coffee biscuits.
- Repeat the first step by placing a second layer of dipped biscuits on top top of the first layer of sabayon.
- Again spoon remaining sabayon adequately over the biscuits.
- Remove piping bag form the refrigerator and pipe a layer of fresh cream over the last layer of biscuits in a pattern of your choice.
- Dust generously with cocoa powder.
- Finish with finely chopped chocolate.
Maestros Need to Know *No Amarula? No problem. Irish Cream will suffice. *A very important note to remember when dipping the biscuits is not to dip both sides. Hold the biscuit under side into the coffee and let the biscuit soak up the coffee until the coffee reaches to 1/3 up to the surface of the biscuit. If you watch closely you will be able to see this happening clearly. I always use this method to prevent a soggy Tiramisù. As the dessert sets the moisture will reach the surface making for the perfect moistness in the base. *In this recipe the yolks were almost orange giving this dessert a deep colour. Deep colour yolks usually come from free range hens and if you can buy them it will make your cream look that much richer. *The best way to get an excellent Tiramisù is to use the finest coffee and the finest cocoa powder. These two ingredients is what makes this dessert truly exceptional. *When chopping chocolate to garnish ensure that the chocolate is cold to prevent it melting when you begin chopping. Use a large chef knife and work in a rocking motion by holding the tip of your knife with your right hand and the handle with your left. *To learn the best techniques to making a sabayon please refer to the notes in the Legendary Gianduja Semifreddo recipe.