What do you think of when you think of Tiramisu? Is it creamy, is it chocolatey, is it custardy? I imagine that every Italian home and restaurant has their own special recipe, but the one that I really enjoy that reminds me of Italy is the recipe that I devised after tasting the house speciality tiramisu at Alla Rampa Restaurant in Rome. Alla Rampa is just under the Spanish Steps, and I was so impressed with the dessert that I went back for seconds the next night. Their version is dished up from a large flat baking tray, and is coffee and sponge covered in the most delightfully light custard with marscapone and sprinkled with powdered chocolate. No creamy layers or chocolate layers in sight. I once made this for Nancy Lam and she cleaned up the dish by scooping out the remnants with her fingers and licking them, such an amazing compliment from a great lady.
If you are ever in Rome, please make sure that you pay a visit to Alla Rampa to try this amazing dessert. If you are not likely to go to Rome in the near future, follow the recipe below and let me know what you think – I hope you love it. The quantities are approximate because I made the recipe up, please feel free to adjust them to suit your taste.
1 pack of Boudoir or Savoiardi biscuits (these are sponge fingers which soak up the coffee and liqueur)
1 coffee based liqueur miniature such as Tia Maria or Kahlua (approx 100mls)
1 cup of strong black coffee (e.g. use 3 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee, or if you prefer, make ‘proper’ coffee) cooled
4 eggs – separated – whisk 2 of the whites into stiff peaks, save the other 2 whites for when you want to make a meringue
100g caster sugar
4 level tablespoons plain flour
4 level tablespoons cornflour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
250g – 300g marscapone
chocolate powder for sprinkling
1. Take a large shallow dish and arrange the savoiardi biscuits in the dish so that the base is completely covered. If you have an oval dish like me, you will need to line the biscuits up like soldiers and then break some to fill the gaps around the edge.
2. Pour the liqueur over the biscuits trying to ensure that each biscuit gets a splash of liqueur. Now pour the coffee over the biscuits – use half the coffee first and see how it goes. The biscuits are very absorbent, so you are likely to need all of the coffee.
3. Whisk together 4 egg yolks and the sugar until thick and pale. Beat in the flour and cornflour along with a large splash of the milk.
4. Heat the rest of the milk in a medium-large saucepan until almost boiling, and pour it onto the egg mixture, stirring constantly.
5. Now tip the whole mixture back into the saucepan (use a spatula to scrape every drop out of the bowl), and heat again on a low heat, stirring all the time (otherwise it will stick). When it has boiled and thickened, remove it from the heat.
6. Fold in the whisked egg whites and return to the heat for a few minutes, you can also add the vanilla extract at this point.
7. Remove from the heat, cool for a few minutes and stir in the marscapone. The marscapone should melt quite nicely into the mixture, keep stirring until it is smooth and lovely (taste a nice big spoonful just to be sure). You can add extra marscapone if you like a creamier texture, it’s up to you.
8. When it has cooled down sufficiently, it can be lukewarm, but not hot, pour it over the soaked biscuits so that all of the biscuits are covered.
9. Using a sieve, sprinkle chocolate powder over the top so that it is completely covered. Chill for at least an hour, and serve only to your most deserving friends.