Tiramisu is said to have appeared for the first time at a restaurant in the Veneto region in the 1970's, and has quickly become a world-renowned specialty.
Tiramisu is a non-denominational dessert: who wouldn't want to eat it? Everybody can find a good excuse. For us Jews, for example, it's the perfect Shavuot treat: layers of mascarpone cream to remind us of the sweetness of Torah, and several shots of espresso to get us through the night of learning (Tiramisu means "pick me up" in Italian!). Or what about Mother's day? You could surprise her with something girly and new, replacing the traditional coffee with sparkling wine and adding juicy strawberries: welcome spring!
2 cups (about 1 lb) mascarpone 1/2 pint whipping cream (makes about 1 1/2 cups whipped) 4 eggs* 26 Italian ladyfingers (savoiardi) 1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste) 1 1/2 lb strawberries 1 1/2 cups Prosecco or champagne (for kids, use Kedem sparkling grape juice) Mint and small meringues to decorate
In your blender or food processor, puree 1/3 of the strawberries with the wine or juice until smooth. Set aside in a small and shallow bowl.
Using an electric whisk, or in your food processor, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. When they become frothy, add the mascarpone; process until combined and set aside.
In a perfectly clean bowl (you can wipe it quickly with a few drops of lemon or vinegar to make sure it’s degreased) beat the egg whites (which should be clear, with no traces of yolk) with an electric whisk until they start forming soft peaks.
Gently fold the whites into the mascarpone cream with a spatula, using an upward motion. Fold in the whipped cream as well. Chop 1/2 of the remaining strawberries and add them to half of the mixture. Also add enough strawberry/wine juice to make it pink.
Dip each ladyfinger into the remaining strawberry/wine mix for 5 to 8 seconds, flipping them a couple of times (letting the cookies soak too long will cause them to fall apart). Arrange the soaked ladyfingers on the bottom of a glass or pyrex 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or two smaller square or round pans). Spread the pink half of the mascarpone mixture on top. Make a second layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with the white mascarpone mixture.
Slice the remaining strawberries and use them to decorate. You can also add some fresh mint leaves and meringues. Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. You can also make the tiramisu in individual Martini cups: tres chic!
Yield: 10–12 servings, or more according to serving size
*Raw eggs always carry a small risk of salmonella infection: to reduce the chance of contamination you can pasteurize the eggs prior to use. Or you can purchase pasteurized eggs – www.safeeggs.com. If using pasteurized eggs, it will be harder to beat the yolks frothy and especially to beat the whites stiff: you will need to add a touch of cream of tartar (or lemon juice or white vinegar) to the whites; about 1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar or 3/4 teaspoon lemon for 4 whites. You will also need to use an electric mixer and beat for twice as long as you would with regular eggs.