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Christmas Eve Dessert- Tiramisu

December 22, 2010

Pastry chefs like December because people eat a lot of desserts. They are in the mood to celebrate the holidays and dessert adds to the festivities.

This rainy weather is perfect for baking. It’s comforting to be in the kitchen scooping cooking dough, sifting flouring and weighing out chocolate. By the time Christmas Eve Dinner comes around I am in full baking mode. It’s my favorite holiday for desserts; the high point of a month of nonstop baking.

There will be 23 people around the table for Christmas Eve at my house. Actually it will be two tables with some sitting on stools at the counter. It will be served family style. I will make two desserts – one chocolate and one fruit, so chocoholics and those who prefer something lighter are both happy. At least one of these I want to make a day ahead to spread out the work. I don’t want to have to be in fifth gear all day in the kitchen on the 24th. I want to enjoy putzing in the kitchen, baking, cooking and wrapping the last of the stocking stuffers. I don’t want to be exhausted at 6:00 when the first bottle of Champagne is uncorked.

I always pick classic desserts to make on Christmas Eve. It’s a traditional holiday and I want a dessert that is really good but matches the spirit of the holiday. This year I am making tiramisu and Meyer lemon pudding soufflés.

I haven’t made tiramisu for at least 10 years. It’s great for a crowd and is better made the day before. The last time I made it I had a house full of over eager eaters. With the tiramisu made the day before I knew they would start nibbling at it before the party and who knows how much would be left by the time I planned to serve it. To circumvent these human mice, I made it when they weren’t around then wrapped it completely in foil and labeled it “beef stock”.

Later they kept asking me where the tiramisu was and I said I was too busy and hadn’t gotten to it yet. The look on their faces when I unwrapped it to put on the table was priceless. Needless to say, I will never get away with that trick again but it was so good the first time I don’t need to.

Here’s my tiramisu recipe. Some people use lady fingers but I prefer to make a sponge cake. Lady fingers get too soggy and disintegrate. Sponge cake soaks up the espresso but still retains some texture. The cake cuts best when it is a day old.

You can use a turkey baster to soak the cake with the espresso. I will make the cake Wednesday and assemble the tiramisu on Thursday. Wrapped carefully and put in the fridge it will be ready for Christmas Eve.

Tiramisu

Serves 8 to 10

Mascarpone Cream

6 large eggs*, separated

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

2 cups (one pound) mascarpone cheese

Pinch of cream of tartar

1 recipe Sponge Cake (see below)

To assemble the tiramisu

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, ground up in the food processor, very finely chopped or grated

1 3/4 cups brewed espresso or coffee (regular or decaffeinated), at room temperature

To make the mascarpone cream: Combine the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and whip on high speed until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, add the mascarpone, and whip until smooth and thick, about 30 seconds

Put the egg whites in a clean mixer bowl and whip on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to high, and whip until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone cream in 2 additions.

To assemble the tiramisu: With a serrated knife, cut the sponge cake into quarters. Slice each piece in half horizontally like you were slicing a roll to make a sandwich. Spread a layer of mascarpone cream about 1/2 inch thick in the bottom of a 2 1/2-quart glass bowl. Sprinkle some of the chocolate on top. Place the cake pieces, cutting or tearing to fit as needed, in a single layer over the mascarpone cream. Brush the cake with some of the espresso and top with more mascarpone cream and chocolate shavings. Repeat the layers—cake, espresso, mascarpone cream, chocolate—until the bowl is full or you run out of cream or cake.  Your top layer should be chocolate.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Overnight is great. Spoon into individual bowls to serve.

*If you are uncomfortable eating raw eggs use pasteurized eggs.

Sponge Cake

Makes one 11 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch cake

1 1/4 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of kosher salt

5 large eggs, separated

1 1/4 cups sugar

5 tablespoons boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 °. Grease and then line the bottom of an 11 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch baking pan with 1-inch sides with parchment paper. (If you don’t have a sheet pan this size uses both a 9 by 13 inch pan and a 9-inch pan. Put a little less than 3/4 of the batter in the larger pan. The cakes will take a few minutes less to bake.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment whip the egg yolks and sugar on high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Reduce to medium low speed; add the boiling water and vanilla extract and mix until combined, scrapping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase to high speed and again whip until thick, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the dry ingredients.

In a clean bowl of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment whip the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. They should be smooth and not clumpy. Fold half of the whipped whites into the batter and then fold in the remaining whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake until golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature before cutting. If you have made the cake the day before, store it at room temperature uncovered.

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One comment

  1. I love tiramisu. It is one of my two favorite desserts, and whenever ordering dessert at a restaurant, tiramisu (most times)is my choice.

    Our oven has been cranking out cookies all week long. And the weather temperatures outside have been freezing, so the warm kitchen, I agree, is the perfect place to be.

    Merry Christmas to my favorite Pastry Chef!



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