You will never make tiramisù better than mine. I’m not gloating, just stating a fact. You may as well make peace with it now.
When my dear friend Letizia asked me to make my famous Limoncello and Berry Tiramisù for her daughter’s birthday party, I was thrilled. First because Letizia is a wonderful cook, so anytime she asks me to make a food item I get all flustered and honored and start sounding like Sally Field accepting an Oscar. Second because it gave me an excuse to go off Weight Watcher’s exactly 36 hours after hopping back on the wagon. Because it was for a child’s birthday party, people. I mean, who doesn’t cheat on their diet for a child? Cruella DeVil, for example, was stick thin because she did things like refuse to prepare desserts for children’s birthday parties and attempt to skin puppies for a fur coat. I am not Cruella de Vil.
The great thing about tiramisù is that it’s so amazingly simple to make (there’s really only one thing you can screw up, which I inevitably screw up every time I make it), even this variation which was suggested to me years ago by another wonderful cook, Judy Witts Francini. The tricky thing about tiramisù is that success of the end product depends almost exclusively on the quality of the ingredients you use. Which is why my tiramisù rocks, almost certainly much more than yours will.
I use the classic 1-1-1 proportion–100 g mascarpone-1 egg-1 tablespoon sugar—which I multiply by 5 to fill a nice sized baking dish. To make the cream, you mix the mascarpone, egg yolks, and sugar (I also add some limoncello here. An amount somewhere between “half a glass” and “too much to reasonably drink in one sitting”). Then you fold in the whites which you’ve whipped to hard peaks. You layer it with Savoiardi cookies (ladyfingers to those sad world citizens who can’t lay their hands on the real deal) and mixed berries (I use two bags of frozen berries, which I thaw and toss with some sugar and blackberry liqueur then let sit for an hour or so), and leave it set in the refrigerator for a few hours to a day. What could be simpler?
But here’s the trick: I go to the dairy down the road and get the mascarpone they make fresh every morning.
Then I go to the fowl I harbor in my backyard, and grab eggs right from under the hen’s butt.
Then I go to the liquor cabinet and get a bottle of homemade Neapolitan limoncello so rich you can slice it with a knife and a bottle of homemade Umbrian blackberry liqueur.
Then I whisk it all together. Which is actually the biggest pain of the whole process. Fresh dairy mascarpone is about as hard as butter, but you can’t whisk it with an electric mixer because it will break down and get all curdy on you. So, you hand whisk. And whisk. And whisk some more, until your arm starts to ache and just when you are cursing that stronza Letizia who should have just requested that you bring a bag of chips or something because, what, are you, like, Laura Ingalls Wilder now? you look down and–voilà—there is a lovely smooth cream in your bowl.
Then you whip your egg whites with an electic mixer, loving every 21st century automated minute of it, and fold it together.
Once you’ve admired your lovely homogeneous cream you can start layering it with your cookies and berries: cookies, berries (make sure you use enough juice to moisten the cookies), cream; cookies, berries, cream.
Then you screw up the one thing you can screw up. You use too much cream in the first layer and don’t have enough to completely cover the top layer. You probably would have had enough cream had you not been pilfering it out of the bowl since you made it, but you are not Cruella de Vil. So, you just spread what you have left semi-attractively over the center of the top layer, call it “rustic” and conveniently forget to photograph the final product.
Which, I can assure you, is better than yours will ever be. But I’m not gloating.