Culinary Crack!

A comedian once said that coffee is the modern day crack. If that is true then Tiramisu is the best culinary crack you will ever be so happy to be addicted to. One bite fills your mouth with the silky texture of mascarpone (Italian triple cream cheese). Take a bite. Just as you think you can’t take the rich, creamy pleasure of the mascarpone any more you get a cleansing burst of espresso delivered in a perfectly soaked ladyfinger. The beautifully bitter, balanced espresso fools your mouth into thinking this isn’t the richest thing you have ever eaten. As a result you immediately take another bite. The unsweetened cocoa sprinkled on top just before serving becomes the perfect foil for the sweet richness. It is the only time I have ever found chocolate to take a backseat. Serve yourself a small piece because you will finish every bite on the plate!

I had the pleasure of learning how to make this silky, indulgent dessert from two of the best chefs in the same month.

In 1993 I was fresh out of culinary school in San Francisco and was doing a stage with Anton Mosimann in London. I would come in at 5:00 in the morning to work with the bread/pastry chef. He taught me how to make the perfect tiramisu. I then returned home to San Francisco and started working at Café Adriano. Adriano Paganini, one of the most brilliant chefs I know, taught me how to make the same Italian treat but he did not use any alcohol. I liked his version even better. It really allowed the beauty of the three star ingredients to really shine – espresso, mascarpone, and ladyfingers (sugar coated “cookies”).

I love this dessert because each ingredient shows itself perfectly yet they come together to create a symphony of flavors that blow your mind. Although a touch time consuming it is so simple to make. Whip whites with sugar. Set aside. Whip yolks with sugar. Gently stir in room temperature mascarpone and watch the rich yolk mixture turn a cloud like pale yellow. Fold the whites into the yolks. Pull 20 shots of espresso and dip your ladyfingers into the warm espresso for just a few seconds. Watch them soak up the espresso instantly. The key to great Tiramisu is a perfectly soaked ladyfinger. There is nothing worse than a dry ladyfinger. Lay your cream into a casserole dish. Line your well soaked ladyfingers on top and then add another layer of the silky cream. Dust with cocoa to order. Don’t serve this on a first date unless you intend to marry the person. They will be yours forever!
Eat well, enjoy life, be happy.