Sunday, March 27, 2011

St. Patrick's Tiramisu

Since we're at that time of year again, it was high time to whip up my corned beef/soda bread here at the Commissary to celebrate St. Patrick's Day last week. These associated recipes were chronicled in a posting last March, so I won't regurgitate them here; however, I added a bit of a twist this year. On the morning of my feast prep, I was perusing Twitter and came across a Chef Fabio posting (you know him, right? He's a former Top Chef/Top Chef All-Star contestant and all-around charming Italian dude) of his grandmother's tiramisu recipe. Why, I thought, how perfect for me! I should make this traditional Italian dessert to accompany my traditional Irish dinner! We're celebrating our mixed heritage! After all, my kids are more Italian than they are Irish! Why am I using so many exclamation points?!?

As I had not ever made tiramisu before, I was delighted to find that the recipe itself was not terribly difficult. I already had the 6 eggs I needed, plus some very strong coffee (not espresso, but this recipe calls for regular coffee anyway) courtesy of Mrs. Hackknife's Keurig coffee maker. I simply had to stop by my local Italian market to pick up a package of ladyfinger cookies and a container of marscapone cheese. Easy, right? Well, trouble started when I was prepping the eggs. I had to separate out the yolks from the shells, which I've done once or twice before, but it's a little tricky as the yolks and whites tend to coagulate together (one egg bit the dust as it slid out in its entirety before I could separate it - luckily, I had a backup egg ready). After mixing the egg yolks with sugar and vanilla, you whip it with a hand mixer for a couple of minutes until it's very fluffy. This is when it suddenly occurred to me (why it took this long I'm not sure) that tiramisu, one of my favorite desserts, contains a s*^&load of raw eggs. Now for those of you unaware, I have a bit of a problem consuming raw eggs. I realize that custard contains raw eggs. I realize chocolate mousse contains raw eggs. I acknowledge that there are literally hundreds of other dishes I've eaten over the years that probably contain raw eggs in some form. Yet, here I am, whipping up a homemade batch of tiramisu, becoming aware that, like the old adage about knowing how sausage is made, I don't know if I will be able to eat this now, or ever again for that matter. Soldiering on, I brewed the coffee and dunked the ladyfingers in it (word to the wise - if you make this recipe, it tells you to dip them "briefly" in the coffee. I discovered that it should say EXTREMELY briefly since they fall apart if you leave them in there for more than about a second. I think I finally got the technique about right around #20 of the 24 ladyfingers in the package), then tried to assemble the finished dessert. My recipe says to use a 10"x10" pan, which, of course, I don't have. My 8"x8" pan was too small to accommodate two sets of coffee-soaked, disintegrating ladyfingers side by side, so I had to use a non-uniform 12"x16" dish. Eventually I discovered why you really need a 10"x10" uniform pan when making tiramisu - without the pan sides to provide support, the whole thing sort of oozes apart under the weight of the top layer of cookies/fluff. Undeterred, I wrapped it in foil and threw it into the fridge, where it solidified into an ugly looking-yet-delicate mass of sugar, starch, and caffeine (and, no doubt, salmonella).

With that description, it's no wonder that the neighborhood wasn't exactly knocking down the door to get a bite. In spite of that, however, Mrs. Hackknife and her mother both found it to be delicious. I somehow managed to choke down a small piece (it wasn't bad, actually) before being overcome by waves of disgust and nausea every time I cast eyes in the direction of the pan (this greatly amused Mrs. Hackknife - "How will I ever get you to make this again if you're so unsettled by it?"). My goal next St. Patrick's Day will be to choose a more appropriate dessert, such as flan or baklava....

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