Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Tiramisu from Scratch

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.

I have to admit, my relationship with this challenge was sort of complicated. No offense to Aparna or Deeba, but I kind of had a love/hate thing going on with this whole thing. For starters, I wasn't super excited when I read that it was the challenge this month because the tiramisu I'd tasted before (using Postum) just wasn't my very favorite, but I was willing to give it a try. I read through the ingredients and saw that it used espresso (which I kind of figured it would), but also Marsala (I can't have coffee or alcohol for religious reasons) and that they recommended just substituting more espresso for the Marsala if you didn't want to use alcohol. Yeah. Thanks for that. Then I had the idea of using raspberry syrup to replace the espresso and Marsala and started to get excited. Then I read through the directions and saw that this could take 2-3 days start to finish because you had to make your own mascarpone which had to sit overnight and chill. As did the pastry cream. And the zabaglione. And the assembled tiramisu. And we were baking our own lady fingers. Oh, brother.

I knew things were going to be frustrating when after an hour of trying to get my cream to the desired temperature to make mascarpone cheese (it was only supposed to take 15 minutes) I gave up and just added the lemon juice to try to get it to curdle. If I were the swearing type, I would probably have let a few fly during this part of the challenge. I was actually very impressed that the mixture at the end which just seemed like really thin custard was able to set up into a cream cheesy consistency as promised. I was also very glad that it tasted better than other mascarpone cheese that I have encountered in the past. This just tasted pleasantly like slightly tangy cream.

As for the pastry cream and the zabaglione, they were delicious and the lemon zest really went well with the raspberry flavor. And when you mixed them together with whipped cream and the mascarpone--oh, landy. That was the "love" part of the love/hate relationship I had with this dessert. I could have eaten that creamy concoction by the spoonful.

The lady fingers were one of the "hate" parts. I was also sorely tempted to swear because of them. They made a horrible mess of my kitchen, which might have something to do with the fact that my two-year-old was "helping," and they didn't bake up as big or as fluffy as I think they were supposed to. But what they hey, they worked well enough in the finished dessert. They were just kind of creepy, anorexic, skeletal lady fingers instead of nice plump pretty ones.

Looking back on the whole thing, it was a good challenge and my family all loved the finished product. It challenged me, which was nice, I just kind of had a bad attitude about the fact that it took three days to make and used almost every pot, pan, and cookie sheet in the house. And I wanted to swear. Several times. Way more than ten times. All I could think about as I made it was that it had better darn well be worth it in the end, and I think it was. I'm just probably never going to make it again.

If you have three days to kill and want to make this dessert (you glutton for punishment, you), you can find the recipe here. To make my non-alcoholic, caffeine free version, just use raspberry syrup wherever it calls for Marsala or espresso and put three drops of red food coloring into the zabaglione to make it look pretty. Here is my recipe for the raspberry syrup:

3 cups raspberries (I used frozen ones I got from my sister-in-law's garden this summer. Mmm.)
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat slightly and allow the mixture to simmer until the berries start to break down, helping the process along my mashing them slightly with a spoon. Go ahead and think of whatever is bugging you at the moment while you squish them. It will make it more fun. When you've had enough mashing and simmering, remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Allow to cool to room temperature. I diluted some of the resulting syrup with water for the Marsala substitution because I didn't want it to be too strong, but if I were to do it again I would probably just leave it full strength and I'll bet it would be delicious.