Pick Me Up

The month of May is coming up very soon, and with it, Mother's Day (in many countries, though not in the UK). While I have fond memories of going to the market on Sunday morning to buy a large bouquet of carnations for my mother, what really sticks in my mind are the desserts I would make for Mother's day lunch: orange crème caramel; strawberry shortcake; orange and chocolate drizzle cake... In fact, were I to do everything all over again, instead of making all those elaborate roast lunches, I would go for fancy teas, with stacks of little sandwiches and a choice of little cakes and scones.

So, in anticipation of Mother's Day -or any other occasion- here is my recipe for tiramisù -which literally means 'pick me up' in Italian. There are thousands of recipes for tiramisù, but this one is my favourite: the mascarpone mix is light and fluffy, yet firm enough that the dessert can be cut into portions should you decide to make in a large pan instead of individual servings. Mascarpone is labelled as a cheese, but it is much closer -in texture and in fat content- to crème fraiche and clotted cream. It can usually be found at Italian delis or close to other Italian cheeses in the dairy section.

Makes 6-7 individual glasses or 22cm/9" square dish

4 yolks
60g/5 Tbs sugar
250ml/1 cup double (whipping cream)
250g/8.82 oz mascarpone

1 packet of lady fingers or Savoiardi cookies
250ml/1 cup strong coffee
1 shot amaretto, optional
cocoa powder 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until the mix turns a pale yellow and forms thick ribbons when you lift the whisk from the bowl.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream until the soft peaks stage, and fold into the egg yolks.
Beat the mascarpone until soft, and gradually add to the yolks and cream mix.
Whip the mix until quite firm, and set aside in the fridge.
If you are using an electric beater or a stand mixer, you can mix everything in the same bowl: start with the yolks and sugar; add the cream once the yolks have thickened and turned pale yellow; the mascarpone can be added straight from its tub when the cream reaches the soft peak stage. 
While the mascarpone mix rests in the fridge, stir the amaretto, if using, into the coffee.
For individual servings, break the lady finger cookies so that they fit in the glasses. Otherwise, they can remain whole.
Dip the cookies in the coffee, turning them over so that they are soaked, but do NOT let them sit in the coffee or they will fall apart.
Place one layer of cookies at the bottom of the dish, then cover with the mascarpone mix. Add another layer of soaked lady fingers, and finish with more mascarpone cream.
Leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.
When you are ready to serve the tiramisù, use a tea strainer or a sieve to dust some cocoa powder on top.

Tiramisù will keep for three days in the fridge, and will taste even better with time. If you are unable to find lady fingers, you can always use a plain sponge cake or even some stale pound cake. Or better yet, as it is rhubarb season, you can always use layers of poached rhubarb instead!

Bon app'!


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