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All You Can Eat

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February 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Tiramisu recipe from me to you, with a nod to Saleh al Lago

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d show you some love by sharing my tiramisu recipe. Truth be told? It’s not my recipe: it’s Saleh Joudeh’s, the name behind the late, great Saleh al Lago at Green Lake. There, over the course of five years, I sliced into, oh, hundreds of tiramisu, turning a single spring-form pan of whipped deliciousness into a dozen even slices, plated and garnished with chocolate shavings for my paying guests. If you’ve ever tried Saleh’s recipe — the one I’ve tweaked and prepared so many times over the years I feel comfortable calling it my own — you’ll thank me for showing you how easy it is to construct at home.

You don’t have to use expensive mascarpone or Kahlua, but fresh eggs are a must and you should spring for some good chocolate.

Ask a dozen cooks how to make this creamy Italian dessert and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Go online and you’ll find umpteen variations. Chances are, you’ll also find a recipe on the package of two of its main ingredients: mascarpone cheese (usually hiding in plain sight near the tubs of fresh mozzarella at area supermarkets) and ladyfingers (the hard “biscuit”-style version sold in packages of 24 in the cookie or “ethnic” aisle). But I’ve always loved Saleh’s best.

Bear in mind that while the ingredients are more-or-less the same in every recipe (with variations mostly in regard to the number of eggs, the amount of coffee or espresso, the inclusion or exclusion of liquor and the use of cocoa powder vs. chocolate shavings), unlike other cakes, this one is not baked. Which means the eggs involved are (Danger, Will Robinson!) raw.

And that is why, at this juncture, I’m obliged to quote this warning, found on the menu at Anchovies & Olives: “The King County Department of Health would like to inform you that consuming raw or undercooked foods may contribute to your risk of food-borne illness. The Chef would like to inform you that overcooking fresh seafood is a crying shame.”

This “chef” would also like to inform you that you do not need a spring-form pan to make tiramisu. Instead, you may layer the dessert into any vessel, including but not limited to the Pyrex rectangle you use for lasagna, the square pan you use for making brownies or — as they do at Tutta Bella — these cool rectangular bowls. That said, I’ve got just the pan to do a Valentine’s Day tiramisu justice.

Tiramisu at Tutta Bella (left). And the man closest to my heart holding the properly shaped pan for a Valentine’s Day tiramisu close to his.

Here’s a little pictoral to give you an idea of what it takes to construct this classic dessert, so popular here in Seattle, it’s become a sweet cliche:

If you’ve got a standing mixer to beat egg whites while you’re prepping, you can whip up a tiramisu (and clean up after yourself) in less than 30 minutes. Really.

And now, I’ll leave you with this heartfelt greeting, because I can’t help myself: Happy Valentine’s Day from me to you, and here’s how to make my tiramisu.

Piece ‘o my heart (attack).

Ingredients

Two packages (24 cookies each) ladyfingers: I use approximately 30

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

Three large eggs, separated

pinch of cream of tartar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups espresso or very strong coffee, brewed then cooled

1/2 cup Kahlua (or any coffee-flavored liqueur)

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup grated chocolate (any high-quality baking chocolate will do)

9-inch springform pan

To prep:

1. Brew and cool the coffee, place in a shallow bowl (or a glass pie plate) then mix in the Kahlua.

2. Grate the chocolate, set aside.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the whites.

4. In a small bowl, use a fork to beat the egg yolks with the sugar.

5. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until the whites form stiff peaks (you may do this by hand, too — good luck with that!).

6. In a large bowl, use a sturdy whip to lightly loosen the mascarpone, which has the consistency of cream cheese. Add the yolk/sugar mixture to the mascarpone and whisk till combined, then add the heavy cream and mix well.

7. Use a spatula to gently incorporate the egg whites.

Note: The bowl of my Kitchen Aid has a handy handle, so I usually pour the whole megillah back into that bowl for assembly, but feel free to do whatever works for you.

To assemble:

1. Have at the ready the ladyfingers, the coffee/Kahlua mixture, the mascarpone/egg concoction and the chocolate shavings.

2. Submerge a single ladyfinger into the coffee mixture, count to two and pull it out, letting the excess coffee drip back into the bowl. Starting in the middle of the spring-form, layer the ladyfingers into the bottom of the pan. You’ll have to break a couple biscuits in two (before dunking them) so they fit into the circle.

3. Cover the ladyfingers with half the mascarpone/egg mixture, then sprinkle liberally with 1/4 cup or so of chocolate shavings.

4. Repeat this process to form a second layer (layering the ladyfingers in the same direction) but do NOT garnish with chocolate — yet.

5. Place the finished cake on a dinner plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least four hours. (I often make the tiramisu the day before to ensure it’s well set.)

6. To serve, remove the ring, slice into 12 triangular pieces, and sprinkle with the remaining shavings.

Comments | More in Recipes | Topics: Desserts and Sweets

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