Updated: Sep 20, 2021
by Rachel Roddy from Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome (Saltyard Books)
Well made, a tiramisù is a bloody good pudding, a sort of extraboozy, fruitless, caffeinated trifle dredged with cocoa. It's prepared - constructed really - by alternating layers of savoiardi (sponge fingers) soaked in espresso and dark rum with a cream made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar and more booze, then finished with a liberal dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder. Literally translated, tiramisù means 'pull-me-up' or 'pick-me-up'. It's a pick-me-up of considerable force, but one that shouldn't impose or sit heavily. Rather, it should delight and leave you wanting more.
I'm not sure why, but I think it tastes better when eaten from a glass, ideally a tumbler. The modest depth and sloping sides provide a perfect vessel for the six graduating layers. Actually, nine layers if you include the cocoa, which can be sprinkled on top of each of the three layers of cream. A glass tumbler is also the perfect way to both display your imperfect layers and contain the inevitable chaos as you plunge your teaspoon down to the bottom of the glass in order to get a perfect spoonful: a soft clot of coffee and rum-soaked sponge, a nice blob of pale, quivering cream, a good dusting of cocoa and just a little of the coffee and rum pond at the bottom of the glass.
Makes 6 (ideally in 150-ml Duralex glass tumblers) “or use a single dish, ideally glass”, says Nige
150ml strong espresso coffee, still warm
2 tablespoons dark rum or brandy
110g caster sugar
12 savoiardi biscuits
good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
Mix the espresso with the rum or brandy and 30g of the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another. Add the Marsala and remaining sugar to the egg yolks and whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy before adding the mascarpone and stirring it in carefully. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently but firmly, fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture with a metal spoon.
For each tumbler you will need 2 biscuits. Submerge a biscuit into the coffee mixture until it is sodden but not collapsing. Gently break it in half and tuck half in the base of the glass. Spoon over a tablespoon of the mascarpone cream before placing the other half of the biscuit on top and covering it with another spoonful of cream. Using a fine-meshed sieve, dust the surface with cocoa powder. Take another biscuit, soak it as before, break it in half and place both halves side by side on top of the cocoa-dusted mascarpone cream. Cover the surface with more cream.
Repeat this process with the other 5 tumblers. Keep them in the fridge for at least 8 hours before eating, so that they are absolutely set. Before serving, dust the surface of each one very liberally with more cocoa powder. Eat.