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SOUL FREAKING DELICIOUS: TIRAMISU WITH A TWIST
I enjoy baking. When a recipe asks me to cream butter and sugar together I can feel the pleasure centers in my brain spiking. I know it isn't healthy, but it is delicious. Last Thanksgiving I was feeling particularly excited because I was trying new recipes. A member in my family who typically passes on my pies every year expressed intrigue in cherry pie. I realized cherries and pie had never been combined in my kitchen, and that I was going to turn someone into a "pie person". I planned my menu and prepared for the chaos that would consume my kitchen space that week. When I got to the store, I found there were no cherries. I had it confused in my mind that cherries were a winterberry. I left the store without cherries and without a pie for the holiday. I wasn't going to use canned cherries even if other's swear by them. People suggested I buy a cherry pie, or "just do pumpkin"—but no, that's not how I solve problems.
Are you familiar with Jack White? The famous rock musician from the White Stripes, The Raconteurs, or simply Jack White? There is a documentary of his that I watch occasionally each year. Whether you are familiar with his work or not he is a pretty creative artist that I am charmed by. He describes how he makes a show interesting, real, and genuine. To summarize White explains that during the set-up of the stage he organizes things in a way that makes it stressful. A mic stand placed two inches from where it should be, or the piano is too far from the guitar making traveling on stage more of a struggle. These little details force a genuine experience that an audience can feel. I admired that he intentionally made things more difficult so the routine never becomes stale. The exercise can't get familiar if it's changing every night. In the kitchen, I do the same thing. I call it "Jack Whiting". I do something I haven't done before because sometimes chaos produces a better product.
I couldn't make the cherry pie I desperately wanted to try this year. Instead of going into the holiday dinner with one pie that was perfectly reasonable I decided to make tiramisu. Tiramisu is an elegant and refined Italian dessert. I adore tiramisu from a loud Italian restaurant in my city. They make it from scratch and it shows. The silky cream, with espresso-soaked ladyfingers and a dusting of cocoa. Most tiramisu recipes require a day's time to produce an authentic and tasteful dessert. One time I attempted homemade cheux pastry that resulted in tears of frustration. This year I would try again. I "pinned" the recipe blindly and shopped for the ingredients the night before Thanksgiving. The grocery store the night before Thanksgiving is a desperate place. The aisles are messy, people are frantic, and the employees are frazzled. I needed mascarpone. The absolutely essential ingredient to a tiramisu. The grocer could not help me, she didn't even know what it was. I figured most people were not hunting for the expensive Italian cream cheese but there was none on the shelves. I decided I would have to improvise. I grabbed some whipped American cream cheese and butter. My Google research concluded the difference between American cream cheese and Mascarpone cream cheese is fat. I used 16 oz of American cream cheese and ½ cup of butter and combined until fluffy. That was enough to convince me. The recipe is grueling, but doable in a day. I made a beautiful cake, that satisfied my craving.
This cake can make an appearance at any point in the year, but tis' the season to bake. Everyone is turning their ovens on and they might as well make something sweet. Follow along for the recipe and my endearing commentary. The link to the original recipe will be provided.
Make the cake. To my surprise, this tiramisu wasn't using ladyfingers. I imagined I was going to relive my nightmare, but instead, I was baking a genoise sponge—something I could handle.
Preheat the oven to 350° using non-stick spray coat three small cake pans. Line each pan with parchment paper, by tracing the bottoms to fit inside.
For the cake, you'll need, 6 eggs,1 cup of sugar, 1tsp of vanilla extract, 1 cup of cake flour, and 4 tbs of melted unsalted butter.
Grab a large mixing bowl. The recipe uses a whisk, but I used my beater attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. Start by whipping 6 eggs, 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. The mixture should become pale and fluffy. The size will triple after 10-12 minutes which is when you want to stop.
Carefully add ⅓ sifted cake flour. You may also use all-purpose flour, just sift 2-3 times. I used a spatula to fold the flour in gently. The eggs have air trapped inside the batter, and over mixing will cause deflation and a tough cake. Repeat this process until all the flour is incorporated.
Fold in 4TBS melted unsalted butter. Be gentle and pour the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake 15-20 minutes. The original recipe has a different bake time, my pans baked my cakes quickly I was concerned they were overdone. Watch them carefully and test for doneness. When the tester comes out clean with an exception of a few crumbs remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
*I let my cakes cool overnight, but on a cooling rack, an hour should be fine.
*My cakes were slightly overbaked and looked quite porous. I wanted to quit and admit defeat.
Make the Mascarpone filling, and espresso soak.
For the filling, you need; 4 large egg yolks, ½ c. of sugar,⅓ c marsala wine,16 oz mascarpone cheese, and 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream.
Create a double boiler by boiling some water in a stockpot. Place a sturdy heatproof bowl over the top of the stockpot and begin whisking yolks, sugar, and wine in the bowl. The color will become pale and the mixture will double in volume. Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the mascarpone.
Using a stand mixer, or hand mixer beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the mascarpone mix. Refrigerate.
Make espresso soak.
The soak combines 1 ½ cups hot water, 2 ½ tbs of instant espresso powder, 2 ½ tbs of brandy and 2 ½ tsp of powdered sugar.
* I didn't use brandy because there were children at my house, and they wanted cake. I just doubled my espresso powder.
Brush the mixture onto the sponge evenly. The cake is going to soak up the espresso very well so don't stress about the cake being soggy. When one layer is soaked use a spatula or spoon to spread a nice layer of mascarpone filling on top to seal the layer.
Repeat with the second and third layers, beginning with the soak, and sealing with the mascarpone. The top layer DOES NOT have a filling. Leave it naked.
Make the cream cheese frosting.
You will need 6 oz of cream cheese, ¾ cup powdered sugar,2 ¼ cups cold heavy whipping cream.
Combine in a mixing bowl until it looks like frosting. I like it a little looser so that it spreads easily. I frosted my stacked layers evenly and dusted the top with plain cocoa powder. I was "Jack Whiting" so I grabbed a pastry bag and piped some swirls on the perimeter. Popped it in the fridge to set and chill.
This cake is absolutely stunning and reasonably tear-free to bake. I will definitely make it again, and encourage you to as well!
The original recipe is from Baking A Moment, the link will take you there.
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