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The Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Tiramisu

This was the first time I took part at the Daring Baking Challenge, and which recipe could be better than Tiramisu, one of the most popular and beloved Italian dessert?! We often make tiramisu at home, but buying ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese. Obviously, if you want a very good tiramisu, you must choose superior quality products.

Making tiramisu from scratch gives you the chance to have excellents ingredients: fresh, delicious… and should we talk about the pride of making ladyfingers and mascarpone all by yourself?

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna from My diverse Kitchen and Deeba from Passionate about baking. The challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Tiramisu from scratch

For the zabaglione:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
  • 1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee) – I used Port, a small leftover from my holidays in Lisboa years ago!
  • 1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:

  • 1/4 cup/55gms sugar
  • 1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract – I used a teaspoon of vanillina powder
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream  – I used 36% cream
  • 1/4 cup/55gms sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract – I used a teaspoon of vanillina powder

To assemble the tiramisu:

  • 2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
  • 1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
  • 1/2 cup/110gms sugar – I prefered not to use sugar, I do love bitter coffee
  • 1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
  • 36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
  • 2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 50 gr chopped dark chocolat

Making Mascarpone


  • 474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do) – I used 500 ml of 36% cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface. I waited until I saw small bubbles, I didn’t need the thermometer!
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. I couldn’t find proper cheeseclothes so I used a clean linen kitchen towel, and it was perfect! Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
I was so scary because it seemed so liquid: but just be patient… the day after it will be like bought mascarpone cheese, just way better!
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

What a surprise!!! I finally obtained 270gr of mascarpone cheese from 500ml of cream, so I had a few leftover… it was perfect with crackers and olives, all my friends loved it, because it was creamy and softer than usually. I think  it is worth making mascarpone from cream, because it is cheaper than buying mascarpone directly and the quality… well you can’t compare it!

Making Ladyfingers – Savoiardi biscuits


  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted – I used  95grams all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

I was surprise: following literaly the recipe, my ladyfingers biscuits were perfect, light, golden and spongy.

Making Tiramisu

For the zabaglione

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water: I followed this second option.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the port, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

Not only my first time making mascarpone cheese, but also my first time making zabaglione – I must admit – and we loved it, we really loved it, Claudia as well!

For the pastry cream

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble.
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu

Mix together the warm espresso and rum extract in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. I didn’t use sugar: first because I don’t drink coffee with sugar, second because tiramisu is already way sweet, so – in my opinion – it was better to use unsweetened espresso. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside. Now, just have a teaspoon of it: isn’t it

Now start assembling the tiramisu: I decided to use glasses to make monoportion tiramisu. Easier to eat, after a lunch or in the afternoon, and very nice to see, they seem like cappuccino cups!
Workings quickly, dip ladyfingers in the unsweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger at the bottom of the glass. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your glass is completely covered.
Spoon othe cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with some chopped dark chocolate: I decided to add this crunchy bits to give a twist to the tiramisu.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight. Sprinkle with some more chopped chocolate.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please.

OUR OPINION: SUPERB! AMAZING! THE BEST TIRAMISU EVER TASTED! consider we are Italians and we have had many chances to have tiramisu, but in everyone’s opinion it was the best ever. The aftertaste of zabaglione is extremely important: never noticed how it can be relevant and how it can give it a distinctive character.

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