[page currently under reconstruction]

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Tiramisu

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. (And, I'm actually posting on time...it's a miracle.)

It's hard for me to believe that the tiramisu as we know it today, was born in the 1970s. Somehow, I thought it had been around at least 100 years. I guess people had more important things to do 100 years ago than stand around a kitchen all day long to make this labor intensive, yet luciously decadent "pick-me-up" dessert.

Yes, I said labor intensive. Especially if you do the 'real' thing and don't take shortcuts. The challenge was to make your own savoiardi (ladyfingers) and marscapone cheese. The tiramisu also involved making your own zabaglione and pastry cream. Since we'd already made ladyfingers once, and I knew where I could buy some ready-made, I used those instead. [Sorry, I have two small children and a life....something had to give.]

I did make the marscapone, and I'm glad to have the recipe since I often can't find it in the grocery store. I used ultra-pasturized heavy cream (not recommended) mixed with some whole milk; it was a bit loose, but it seemed to work okay. The zabaglione was really tasty, but since it was so lemony, I omitted the lemon from the pastry cream.

My overall opinion: the 'parts' all tasted really good on their own - as a whole, the flavor was quite good, but the tiramisu was the lightest I've ever eaten. In fact, I think it was too light. I'm glad I didn't add the lemon zest to the pastry cream; it would have been too overwhelming. It may have been that the marscapone was too loose, but it the finished product just wasn't firmed-up enough for my taste. After all, with all those eggs & cream, I was expecting something more filling. I dusted the top with dutch-process cocoa powder, and if I make this again, I think I'll dust the top of each ladyfinger layer with it since it worked well with the coffee. However, I'll definitely be altering the rest of the recipe before I make it again.

Ok folks, this is a long one (my changes in italics):


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings (I doubled everything for a 9x13 dish)

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (I omitted)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups brewed espresso, warmed
1 tsp rum extract (optional) (I omitted)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (I used 4 packs)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used dutch-process)


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 (optional) 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; double ingredients for a 9x13) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract (optional) 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.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash is such a versatile veggie, good for roasting, pureeing, and, of course, being made into a velvety soup. America's Test Kitchen developed this recipe, and it's definitely a winner in my book. The flavor and texture are just right - not too sweet, not too squash-y. And it's a beautiful shade of orange (and I'm not just saying that because I live in TN)! This soup is perfect for a cold, wet, and/or windy day, and it's worth the little bit of effort it takes to make it. It's a delicious way to use up any squash you may have stashed in your pantry.

Butternut Squash Soup

4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2-3 Tbsp. grated onion (use 1 large shallot if you've got it)
3 pounds butternut squash (~1 large), cut in half lengthwise, then each half cut in half widthwise; seeds and fibers scraped out and reserved
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
pinch grated nutmeg (optional)

Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat until foaming. Add the shallot/onion and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the seeds and fibers from the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns a saffron color, about 4 minutes.

Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, place squash cut-side down in a steamer basket and lower into the pot. Cover and steam squash until completely tender, about 30 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and transfer the squash to a rimmed baking sheet to cool. When cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin into a bowl. (Discard the skin.)

Strain the steaming liquid through a mesh strainer into another bowl (or large measuring cup). You should have 2.5-3 cups liquid. Discard the fibers & seeds.

Puree the squash in batches in a blender, pulsing on low and adding enough reserved liquid to obtain a smooth consistency. Transfer the puree back into the stockpot and stir in the remaining liquid (until desired consistency is reached), cream, and brown sugar. Warm the soup over medium-low heat until hot (do not boil). Stir in nutmeg (if using) and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooking at Home with America's Test Kitchen (2006)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pork Tinga with Potatoes & Fresh Cheese

I'm a big fan of cooking shows on PBS. Our local station airs quite a variety, and just recently I've discovered Rick Bayless' Mexico - One Plate at a Time. I love Mexican food, so of course I was intrigued. Rick shows the origins of the food he makes (shot on-site in Mexico), then returns to his home in Chicago to recreate the dishes. Since this one was made in the slow cooker and didn't have any 'exotic' ingredients (i.e., I actually had all the ingredients already), I had to try it. I'd never even heard of tinga before, but this recipe yields melt-in-your-mouth pork and potatoes covered in a deeply flavored tomato sauce that is excellent with corn tortillas. It's the 'least effort for the most flavor' dish I've ever made. It may not photograph very well, but it is simply delicioso.

Pork Tinga with Potatoes & Fresh Cheese

1 Tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces chorizo sausage, removed from its casing (optional - I left this out)
4 to 5 medium (about 3/4 pound total) red-skinned potatoes, chopped into ~3/4-inch cubes
1 large white or yellow onion, sliced 1/4–inch thick
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles, en adobo, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon chipotle canning sauce
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
For serving:
About 1/2 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like salted pressed farmers cheese
Sour cream
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and diced (optional)
Warm corn tortillas (wrap ~10 corn tortillas in a heavily damp paper towel and microwave for 1 minute, then place in tortilla warmer or wrap in a clean kitchen towel)


Heat the oil in a stovetop-rated slow cooker* liner over medium-high heat. (If your slow cooker liner isn’t made from a material that can be used on a stovetop, use a very large (12-inch) non-stick skillet.) Once the oil is very hot, add the pork and chorizo (if using) in an single layer and cook, stirring until the meat has browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and if you’re using a skillet, transfer the meat and its juices into the slow cooker. Add the potatoes.

In a large bowl, combine the onions, garlic, tomatoes, chipotles, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour mixture into the slow cooker and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook for 6 hours at the highest temperature.
After six hours, gently stir the tinga. If the sauce seems too thick, stir in a little water. Taste, and season with salt if you think the dish needs it.

*For stove-top cooking, brown the meat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (i.e., Dutch oven). Add remaining ingredients to the pot as directed for slow-cooker. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat. Simmer for ~2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Scoop into a large bowl. Serve with warm tortillas and queso fresco, sour cream, & avocado (if using) on the side.

Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexico - One Plate at a Time, Season 7