I come across this mental question often. Why do I love certain foods?
What makes a particular classic dish delicious and why has it sustained years on menus and the recipe was handed over from generation to generation already. Why do critis rave about these dishes?
See, for me as a chef it is not easy as – “I just like it.” I have to know why a dish is delicious. The flavor combination has to make sense to me. That is when the mental debate starts:
A. What are the individual ingredients of that recipe?
B. Is it creamy, crunchy, crispy, citrusy, fatty, prickley. Does it make my tongue numb or is it soft, or chewy? It might be even stinky, or just fragrant. Does it make my mouth feel hot or cool?
When my spouse and I go for dinner we often try to guess each other’s dessert selection she always is right when there is tiramisu on the menu because for sure that will be my dessert for the evening. I worship that Italian classic and I am willing to “travel” out of my neighborhood for a good variation on this classic.
Let’s do the twist
Most of the time I like to change the recipe of a classic dish. So - the question comes to mind when does an added ingredient to a well know food “favorite” become an distraction or when is it a welcome addition to the already delicious dish?
So what makes this tiramisu sing? A creamy layer of house-made mascarpone between crunchy, nutty twice baked almond cake layers (I also did one version with a blackberry-nut cake layer – delicious).
A classic tiramisu recipe I dug out of an old Italian cook book wanted me to whip egg yolks with sugar over steam to the ribbon stage (this is the stage the eggs yolks are partially cooked and someone can see ribbon streaks when whisking)
For my version I decided not to add eggs. I find the house-made mascarpone rich enough already and I did not want to have a partially cooked egg yolk in my dessert for safety reasons.
The question arises can I call my version tiramisu? We decided - as long as the flavors are the same like a traditonel tiramisu we can call it that. We will see what the response is when I serve it as a dessert amuse bouche to some of my regular customers…
My version of Tiramisu
You can make your own mascarpone it’s not that difficult.
Heat pasteurized heavy cream (4 cups) to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, then add tartaric acid (1/4-teaspoon). Continously stirring cook the mixture for four minutes, then put it in a container and refrigerate it (3 hours).
At this point the cooked mixture curdles (thickenes significantly).
Poure mixture into a cheesecloth lined basket, put a container under the basket to catch any excessive liquid (whey). Whey is quit healthy.
Store the mascarpone filled basket in the refrigerator overnight (8-10 hours).
Sweeten mascarpone with honey to taste.
Sugar, eggs, ground almonds, melted butter, all purpose flour (measure each 18 ounces).
Whip egg and sugar over steam to ribbon stage (see explanation for ribboon stage above) then add ground almonds, melted butter and flour.
Bake in preheated oven in cake mold (I used 18x13x1-inch sized, square) for 40 minutes @ 325 degress Fahrenheit (or a cake tester is clean when pierced in middle of cake). Cool cake then cut into half inch thick pieces, then lay out on sheet pan and bake at 250 degress Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Coffee: I brewed fresh espresso (6 espressos) and mixed it with Kahluha (2 shoots) (Mexiacan coffee falvored liqueur with vanilla) instead of tratidionaly Marsala (Marsala is aged in wooden caskes. A fortified wine similar to port wine).
Assembly: Brush the almond-ladyfingers with little of the espresso/Kahluha mix then pipe (pastry bag) the honey sweetened mascarpone on it and sandwich it with a layer of almond-ladyfingers. A few dots of mascarpone cream and espresso dust finishes the chef’s tiramisu.
The question remains - what makes a chef sing? It’s probably the kaffeine in the espresso!