In Italy, the zabaglione – a frothy custard made of egg yolk whipped with sugar and fortified with wine – has been administered to the weak, to fighters and lovers for at least 500 years.
Only in the early ’80s however, Loli Linguanotto, the chef of a restaurant in Treviso near Venice, conceived a dessert that was meant to be good for everyone, the young and the old. He layered lady fingers dipped in espresso with a mixture of zabaglione and mascarpone cheese and sprinkled it with cocoa powder.
The now world-famous tiramisu had been invented and became an instant success. Indeed the tiramisu is known and appreciated probably way more than Loli would have ever anticipated.
Needless to say, the secret of the recipe is to use original ingredients. Take real espresso no coffee granules, Italian mascarpone no bland cream cheese, good quality lady fingers, no store bought sponge cake. When I can, I use Sardinian savoiardi which are larger, softer and more fragrant than regular lady fingers.
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoon /50 gr. sugar
- 1/2 pound / 250 gr. mascarpone
- 1 cup/ 250 gr. chilled heavy cream
- 1 and 1/2 cup cold espresso coffee
- 1/3 cup dry Marsala or other sweet wine
- 30 Italian lady fingers
- unsweetened dark cocoa powder for dusting
Beat egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water using a whisk or an electric mixer until smooth and fluid. Add 3 tablespoon Marsala and whisk thoroughly for another minute or so. Remove bowl from heat and let it cool. Add the mascarpone until just combined.
Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold it gently into the mascarpone mixture.
Add the rest of the Marsala to the coffee and transfer into a flat bottomed bowl which must be wider than the lenght of the lady fingers.
Now work quickly. Dip both sides of each lady finger into the coffee mixture for a few seconds. The cookies absorb rapidly and will disintegrate if left in the coffee. Line the bottom of a baking pan with one layer of ladyfingers, making compact rows. Spread a 1/2 inch/ 1 cm layer of the mascarpone filling on top. Repeat layers of cookies and filling, ending with mascarpone.
Cover the pan with clingfilm and chill for at least two hours and up to 2 days. Before serving dust with cocoa. This looks prettier and fresher than dusting before chilling.