Hello my friends how are you? Have you had a lovely summer?
While the North of Europe has suffered crazy high temperatures this year, we have had one of the mildest summers in ages. I can’t really say it’s been cool, but it’s been nice enough for us to venture out for wonderful day trips.
As you might remember, once a year we love to visit the Piano Grande di Castelluccio in the Sibillini mountain, a breathtaking mountain areas about 1 and 1/2 hour South-East of Assisi.
This visit has gifted us with the most magnificent blossoming of wildflower we have ever seen. Part of the flowers are planted part are wild, but no matter how they have grown, the rainbow of colors was just out of this world. There was no need to filter the photo!
Another favorite summer moment has been a sunset atop the just-restored Sciri tower in Perugia. This 46 mt (150 ft) limestone watchtower is one of the few surviving among the 70 plus towers which represented for centuries a symbol of prestige for the local nobility. Imagine: a medieval Manhattan or a grander San Gimignano, this was Perugia in the Middle Ages. Sadly, all this is gone. In 1540 ruthless Pope Paul III had most of the towers demolished to punish the city for an insurrection against salt taxes.
I must admit I did not feel very cool as we were huffing and puffing to climb the 200 steps which bring you atop the tower. However, the sweeping views over the old town are marvelous, with the shaded ascent of via dei Priori and the medieval stones turning golden and orange in the sun.
And how about cooking? I don’t cook much in the middle of the summer as we mostly survive on tomato salads and simple pasta sauces. However, I was recently asked to bring a pear-amisù to a dinner party. Of all my desserts, this seems to be the most popular among friends.
As it turned out, I happened to have a glut of figs and no pears, but there were no complaints over the results and no leftovers.
For the base:
- approx. 30 Italian crunchy lady fingers
- powder cinnamon for dusting (optional)
- a pan or plate that can hold the cookies in 1 layer
For the mascarpone custard:
- 4 egg yolks
- 8 tablespoon / 100 g. sugar
- 3 tablespoon dessert wine like Vinsanto, dry Marsala or Moscato
- 500 gr / 18 oz mascarpone
- 2 and 1/2 cup/ 600 ml chilled whipping cream
For the fig salad:
- 1 cup dessert wine
- 10-15 ripe figs (depending on size), peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoon orange liqueur, brandy or limoncello
- 3-4 cardamom pods
- juice of 1 lemon
Prepare a fruit salad with figs at least 2 hours and up to 1 day before you need them. Peel, slice and place them in a glass or porcelain bowl, add liqueur, lemon juice, cardamom pods and dessert wine. Taste it. If your figs are not very sweet you might need to add some sugar or honey, if they are too sweet you will need to add more lemon juice to balance. Cover, refrigerate and let them steep in the spiced wine until they release their lovely juice which you will need to soak the cookies (see below).
You can also stop here and serve the fruit salad as a dessert because – as long as you have fresh sweet figs – it’s beyond delicious as it is.
Make the tiramisu at least 4 hours before serving and up to one day ahead. I pasteurize the eggs for the tiramisu custard, so it’s safe to keep it refrigerated for a little longer if needed.
To make the custard:
Cream egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl then set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Keep beating using a whisk or an electric mixer until very warm to the touch but not quite boiling. Ideally the mixture should reach 70° C (160 °F). Add the dessert wine and whisk thoroughly for another minute or so. Remove the bowl from heat, place it in an ice bath and let it cool completely.
Alternatively, mix all zabaglione ingredients until pale and foamy, microwave on high for 30 sec. Whisk again and microwave again for 30 sec. then transfer the container in a bowl full of ice to stop it from scrambling.
Add the mascarpone to the cooled egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold it gently into the mascarpone mixture.
To assemble tiramisu:
Line the bottom of a pan or serving dish with the ladyfingers in a single layer, making compact rows. I slice a few cookies to fill the gaps. Distribute the marinated figs on top of the cookies then drizzle the juice evenly over the cookies so they will be soft but not soggy.
Cover with the mascarpone custard. Cover the pan with clingfilm and chill for at least two hours and up to 1 day.
If you have leftover wine, pour it into a small pan, then reduce to a syrup over low heat and cool. Drizzle the syrup over the tiramisù just before serving. As an alternative, dust lightly with powder cinnamon