Tiramisu recipes: 3 versions of the classic Italian dessert to lift your spirits

Posted by for Food and Drink

Because who can say no to chocolate, coffee, biscuits and booze? 

Have the tightened restrictions on life around the UK and the sudden arrival of grey, windy weather left you feeling a little down? Us too. So in an attempt to brighten our moods, we’re going to get back into experimenting with new recipes – just as we did in the early focaccia-and-sourdough stages of lockdown.

This time around, though, we want to make things that feels distinctly special and dinner party-worthy, rather than cosily domestic. First on our list? Tiramisu. Consisting of soft savoiardi (or ladyfinger) biscuits soaked in espresso, layered with creamy mascarpone cheese and topped with grated chocolate or cocoa powder, the retro Italian dessert looks and feels like something you might order in a restaurant. 

It also requires just enough effort to be a pleasurable distraction – while also being virtually impossible to mess up. And you don’t have to limit tiramisu to after dinner. 

“Literally translated as ‘pick-me-up,’ tiramisu is not only delicious as a dessert: it is the perfect thing for breakfast after a heavy night, the booze and coffee providing both the hair-of-the-dog and the caffeine necessary,” says cookbook author Letitia Clark. “There is no time of any day, in fact, when a little pick-me-up is not welcome.”

And if there’s a ever a time we could do with a pick-me-up, it’s now. Clark’s two-booze tiramisu recipe is featured below – as is a traditional tiramisu by Sue Quinn, served in individual cocktail glasses. If you like your desserts fruity, there’s also Laura Zavan’s recipe for a beautifully pink raspberry and rose tiramisu. Buon appetito!

  • Traditional tiramisu recipe

    classic tiramisu recipe

    Time: 8 minutes

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • 16 savoiardi or other sponge fingers
    • 375g mascarpone
    • 180ml cold espresso or 5 tsp instant coffee
    • Dark chocolate, for sprinkling
    • 2 tbsp caster sugar

    You will need

    A large shallow dish, 4 cocktail glasses, electric beaters, a bowl, a grater.

    Method

    If using instant coffee, stir well into 180ml cold water. Break each sponge finger into 4 pieces and place in the shallow dish. Cover with the cold coffee, gently turning the pieces over. Set aside. Beat the mascarpone with the sugar and 100ml cold water.

    Carefully distribute half the soaked fingers among the cocktail glasses. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the top, then add the remaining fingers. Finish with a layer of the remaining mascarpone mixture. Top with lots of grated chocolate. Serve immediately or chill to let the flavours combine.

    From Cook Fast, Eat Well: 5 Ingredients, 10 Minutes, 160 Recipes by Sue Quinn (£14.99, Murdoch Books), out now 

  • Rose & raspberry tiramisu recipe

    Laura Zavan says: “Here is a variation on the mascarpone cream usually used in tiramisu — a light, rose-scented sabayon. It’s made here with pretty Roses de Reims biscuits, a French biscuit coloured pink with cochineal, but ladyfingers are an ideal substitute.”

    Preparation time: 20 minutes

    Cooking time: 10 minutes

    Refrigeration time: 2 hours

    Serves 6

    Ingredients

    • 250g mascarpone
    • 50ml rose syrup
    • 100ml double cream
    • 12 ladyfinger or savoiardi biscuits
    • 100ml rosewater
    • 200g raspberries, to decorate

    For the sabayon:

    • 3 egg yolks
    • 50g demerara sugar
    • 100ml rosewater

    Method

    To make the sabayon, beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with the sugar and rosewater. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water, and beat for about 10 minutes using an electric beater, until the mixture has a mousse-like consistency. Let the mixture cool, stirring from time to time.

    Combine the mascarpone with the rose syrup, then gently fold the mixture into the sabayon. In a separate bowl, whip the cream and add it to the sabayon mixture.

    Place 2 tbsp of sabayon cream in each serving glass. Moisten the biscuits with the rosewater and place them on top (about 2 biscuits per glass). Cover with more sabayon cream.

    Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Decorate with the raspberries before serving.

    From Dolce: 80 Authentic Italian Recipes for Sweet Treats, Cakes and Desserts by Laura Zavan (£17.99, Murdoch Books), out now 

  • Two-booze tiramisu recipe

    brandy tiramisu recipe

    Letitia Clark says: “Don’t be put off by mediocre tiramisu experiences – this recipe is totally fool-proof, and I have fed it to many Sardinians, who declared it is the best they have ever tasted. For me the key is the quantity of alcohol. Like a good trifle, it is this boozy kick that elevates the childhood nostalgia of a custardy cream and cake combo into something a little more adult and refined.

    “I like to make mine in a big dish or trifle bowl for serving by the generous scoopful, rather than in individual portions. A traditional tiramisu has only two layers of biscuit, but you can scale this recipe up quite easily, or use a tall but narrow vessel, as I have done here, to create more layers.”

    Serves 4 greedy people, or 6 ascetics

    Ingredients

    • 3 eggs, separated
    • 100g caster sugar
    • 500g mascarpone
    • 200ml strong black espresso coffee
    • 80ml marsala
    • 1½ tbsp brandy
    • 20–24 savoiardi or ladyfinger biscuits
    • 5 tbsp bitter cocoa powder, for dredging

    Method

    Place the yolks and the sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk with an electric beater (or in a stand mixer) until they become thick, pale and mousse-like.

    Mix in the mascarpone by hand, folding it in until completely incorporated.

    In a small bowl, mix the coffee with the marsala and brandy.

    Whisk the egg whites until smooth, creamy peaks are formed, but not too stiff so that they become dry. Fold into the mascarpone mixture, incorporating them gently so as not to lose too much air.

    Dunk the savoiardi briefly into the coffee mixture, making sure they are fully immersed, and arrange them on the base of your chosen serving bowl. The idea is not to have them either sopping or still-crisp, but somewhere in between. I dip, hold for a second, turn and hold for another second, and then remove. It pays to be diligent here, as no one wants a tiramisu swimming in liquid.

    Scoop the first half of the mascarpone mixture over the biscuit layer. Spread out evenly. Repeat the soaked-savoiardi layer and then finish with the second mascarpone layer on top of this.

    Dredge well with bitter cocoa powder and place in the fridge to set for at least an hour or two. If you like, you can add more cocoa powder just before serving, but I like it when it has slightly melted into the cream.

    From Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia by Letitia Clark (£26, Hardie Grant), out now

Images: © Matt Russell; Deirdre Rooney; Akiko Ida

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