Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tiramisu ~ Heaven on a Dessert Plate!


This divine Italian dessert translates to mean ‘pick me up’, supposedly referring to the ‘kick’ provided by the strong coffee, sugar and alcohol in it!
On the other hand, a slight mistake in spelling it as "Tiramuso" could end up meaning that you were "pulling a sulky face"! Classic tiramisu is made of alternate layers of espresso soaked ladyfinger biscuits and a cream made from mascarpone cheese and zabaglione (an egg custard).

The perfect Tiramisu is a balance of flavors of a sweet zabaglione, strong coffee, marsala wine, creamy mascarpone cheese and the dusting of unsweetened cocoa.

So when, where and how was tiramisu born?

Tiramisu is said to have its origins in Treviso (Italy), and there are quite a few stories about how it came to be created.
One story traces the tiramisu as far back as the Renaissance claiming that it was first made in honour of the visit of Grand Duke Cosimo di Medici to Tuscany. Yet another one points to the tiramisu being an adaptation of the "Zuppa Inglese" referring to the sponge cake and cream layered English Trifle.
However, experts in this area generally agree that the tiramisu as we know it today, was born in the ‘70s.
Some believe that the Tiramisu was created in the the Le Beccherie (a restaurant in Treviso). Ohters suggest that Tiramisu was first made in 1971 by an Italian baker named Carminantonio Iannaccone in a small bakery in Treviso, Italy.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.


Tiramisu is made up of several components which can be made separately and ahead of time and put together the day before serving.
Making tiramisu from scratch requires about 2 to 3 days (including refrigeration) from when you start making the mascarpone to the time the tiramisu is served. So this challenge requires some prior planning.

Please read the instructions as you need to begin making the mascarpone at least a day in advance.
The zabaglione & pastry cream also need 4 hours to an overnight for chilling, as does the main dessert. The flavours mature after an overnight rest, and the dessert can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days.
Once assembled, the tiramisu can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately


A double boiler (a stainless steel bowl that fits inside a large saucepan/ pot without touching the bottom will do)
Two or three large mixing bowls
A medium sized heavy bottomed pan
Fine meshed strainer (to remove lumps from pastry cream, if any)
Electric mixer, hand held
Serving dish (or dishes) of choice (8" by 8" should be fine)
Spatula for folding and spoons as required
Plastic wrap/ clingfilm
Baking sheets
Parchment paper or nonstick liners
Pastry bag (can be disposable)
Plain 3/4" pastry bag tip or cut the end of pastry bag to this size (If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off)
Cooling rack
Thin-bladed spatula for removing ladyfinger biscuits from the baking sheets
Instant-read thermometer (optional)
Cheesecloth or cotton napkin for draining mascarpone
Fine-mesh strainer for shaking cocoa powder on tiramisu


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.


1. If you cannot find Marsala, port wine is considered a good substitute.
2. If you would rather not use alcohol in your tiramisu due to diet restrictions or because you want to serve it to children, you may replace the Marsala with an equal amount of espresso or coffee.
3. Many people, especially those who are not excessively fond of coffee, might find brewed espresso very strong. In this case, please feel free to dilute the espresso or coffee to the desired strength.
4. It is generally suggested that cream with 25% fat is best for making mascarpone, but 36% works just as well.
5. We both used lime juice. Deeba has a recipe for mascarpone posted on her blog here.
6. The mascarpone recipe below is for approximately 340gms of mascarpone. The tiramisu recipe requires only 1/3 cup/75gms so you may scale down the recipe to requirement or put the extra mascarpone cheese to other equally good use. (100gms cream will yield approximately 75gms mascarpone)
7. While using the double boiler to make the mascarpone as well as the zabaglione, always ensure that the bottom of the bowl on top doesn't touch the bottom of the lower one. It is important to use a stainless steel bowl to pour your cream into, while making the mascarpone.
8. Ladyfinger batter is very fragile so fold in the flour and yolks very carefully into the meringue so that the whites don't lose their volume.
9. It might be a good idea to decide the size of the dish in which you intend to set the dessert, and make the fingers to a size which would fit that dish. This makes it easier when assembling the tiramisu later. Do remember that ladyfingers/ savioardi puff up a little while baking.
10. Ladyfinger biscuits may be stored up to a week in an airtight container. We both made the savoiardi fingers 4-5 days in advance, and stored them in an airtight box in a cool place (or the refrigerator).
11. We both made the zabaglione & pastry cream the previous day, and assembled the tiramisu the next morning. I (Aparna) then froze my tiramisu for 7 days before decorating and serving it.
12. Placing the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about 1/2 to 1 hour before hand makes the cream whip up very well.
13. Do not dip the ladyfinger/ savoiardi into the coffee solution for more than ONE second, or they might become very fragile & disintegrate. Extra soaking is likely to spoil the end product, making it soggy. I (Aparna) dipped my biscuits only on one side and found they soaked up more than enough coffee solution.
14. If you would like to de-mould your tiramisu from your dish (cutting can be easier and neater this way, you can line your dish with plastic wrap (leaving a little extra on the sides of the dish) and then start assembling your tiramisu. Once the tiramisu sets in the refrigerator, you can use the overhang to pull the tiramisu out of the dish.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Easy Homemade Granola

This homemade granola is filled with nuts and dried fruits, it's reasonably healthy and wholly addictive. You can customize your own blend by exchanging fruits and nuts at will. I even added few flax seeds and sunflower seeds for extra crunch. You'll just fall in love with the aroma of toasted oats and nuts starts to emanate from your oven. This granola is great for snacking on its own, and for layering in fresh fruit, in yogurt parfaits or by simply adding plain milk to it. This will serve as a very healthy breakfast and you'll definitely enjoy making it all by yourself. You can even double the batch if you want.

Yield: 1 pound

Easy Homemade Granola
from "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dried cherries
plus (i added 2 tablespoons flaxseeds and 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with cinnamon and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.

Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the raisins and cherries over the granola and use your hands to transfer it to an airtight container. The granola will keep for 1 week.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mushroom Mutter Masala

Mushroom Peas Curry

This delicious dish is not often found in restaurants, but one that is definitely worth trying. The ingredients are so simple and you'll be surprised to see the end result which will make you keep licking your fingers. You can just halve, quarter, or thickly slice the mushrooms according to their size.

Serves 3-4


350 g button mushrooms
225 g frozen peas
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
200 ml or 1 US Cup Curry sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin or cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves/ kasoori methi
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons chopped green coriander


Rinse and thickly slice the mushrooms. Rinse the frozen peas well in hot water and drain.

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan. When hot. add the mushrooms and green peas and fry on a gentle heat for 4 - 5 minutes till the mushrooms look soft.

Now add the curry sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir in the salt, turmeric, ground cumin, and chilli powder. Simmer stirring occasionally. for about 15 minutes.

Add the dried fenugreek and the garam masala and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Allow the oil to settle and skim off the excess. Stir in the green coriander and serve.

Basic Curry Sauce

This is the most closely guarded of all the secrets of restaurant cooking.
Once prepared, it has a very smooth texture and a pale golden color. Taste it and it is pleasant with a subtle curry flavor. Every good restaurant has a large pan of the sauce always at hand, with the recipe varying only slightly from chef to chef. It forms the base of all the restaurant curries from the very mild to very hot and spicy. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, although the best restaurants will prepare no more than 3 day' requirement in one go. Together with your spices, the prior preparation of the curry sauce and whatever vegetable you propose to use, a selection of dishes can be made in a matter of minutes.

You will see that the making of the curry sauce is in fact simple with no special equipment required other than a blender. It is essential, though, that you follow strictly the instructions for blending and skimming as these are two procedures that can make the difference between a good curry and a poor one.

The quantities given here are enough for 3 to 4 people. If you do not require so much, you may halve the quantity of each ingredient, or alternatively freeze the remainder of the finished sauce.

Adapted from "The Curry Secret" from Kris Dhillon

For approximately 4 main course dishes.
Preparation and cooking time : About 1 1/2 hours


450 g onions
25 g ginger
25 g garlic
750 ml water
3/4th teaspoon salt
1 small tin(110 g )tomatoes OR can use 2 fresh ripe tomatoes
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika (can substitute chilli powder)

Peel and rinse the onions. ginger, and garlic. Slice the onions and roughly chop the ginger and garlic.

Put the chopped ginger and garlic into a small blender with about 1/2 cup of water and blend until smooth.

Take a large saucepan and put into it the onions, the blended garlic and ginger, and the remainder of the water. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to very low and simmer, with the lid on, for 40 to 45 minutes. You'll see that the water turns green. Don't worry.
Leave to cool.

Once cooled pour half of the boiled onion mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Absolute smoothness is essential. To be certain, blend for at least 2 minutes. Pour the blended onion mixture into a clean pan or bowl and repeat with the other half of the boiled onions.[ To make this more easier, just drain the boiled onions and reserve the water. Simply blend the onions until smooth and combine it with the reserved water.]

Open the can of tomatoes. Pour into the rinsed blender jug, and blend. If using fresh tomatoes, blanch them first by boiling whole tomatoes in a pan of hot water for few minutes and take the skin off, let cool and then blend. Again, it is important that they are perfectly smooth, so blend for about 2 minutes.

Into a clean saucepan, put the oil, turmeric, and paprika/chilli powder. Add the blended tomatoes and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Now add the onion mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil again. Turn down the heat enough to keep the sauce at a simmer.

You will notice at this stage that a froth rises to the surface of the sauce. This needs to be skimmed off. Keep simmering and skimming for 20 -25 minutes, stirring now and again to prevent the surface sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

Use immediately or cool and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

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