Done right, a classic tiramisù can be transcendent. A creamy dessert of espresso-soaked ladyfingers surrounded by lightly sweetened whipped cream and rich mascarpone, tiramisù depends heavily on the quality of its ingredients. If you don't have a barista at home, get the espresso from a local café or use heavily brewed coffee. As for ladyfingers, make them yourself or buy them, but keep in mind that store-bought varieties can be soft and spongy (like angel food cake) or hard and crispy (like biscotti). Both types of are fine here, but if you're using the softer variety, it's best to brush it lightly with espresso rather than dipping it deeply.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
For the Cream
- 4large yolks
- ½cup/100 grams granulated sugar, divided
- ¾cup heavy cream
- 1cup/227 grams mascarpone (8 ounces)
For the Assembly
- 1¾cups good espresso or very strong coffee
- 2tablespoons rum or cognac
- 2tablespoons unsweetened
- About 24 ladyfingers (from one 7-ounce/200-gram package)
- 1 to 2ounces bittersweet chocolate, for shaving (optional)
- Using an electric mixer in a medium bowl, whip the yolks and ¼ cup/50 grams of until they are a very pale yellow and have about tripled in volume. A light ribbon should fall from the beaters (or whisk attachment) when lifted from the bowl. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, wiping out the medium bowl used to whisk the yolks and set aside.
- In the medium bowl, whip the cream and the remaining ¼ cup/50 grams of until it forms soft-medium peaks. Add the mascarpone and continue to whip until it creates a soft, spreadable mixture with medium peaks. Gently fold the mascarpone mixture into the sweetened yolks until combined.
- Combine espresso and rum in a shallow bowl and set aside.
- Using a sieve, sprinkle the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish (an 8 x 8-inch dish or 9-inch round cake pan would also work) with 1 tablespoon of powder.
- Working one at a time, quickly dip each into the espresso mixture - are quite porous and will fall apart if left in the liquid too long - and place them, rounded side up, on the bottom of the baking dish. Repeat using half the ladyfingers until you have an even layer, breaking the ladyfingers in half as needed to fill in the gaps (a small gap between the ladyfingers is acceptable). Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers in an even layer. Repeat with remaining ladyfingers dipped in espresso and mascarpone mixture.
- Sprinkle top layer with remaining tablespoon of powder. Top with grated chocolate, if desired.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours (if you can wait 24 hours, even better) before slicing or spooning.