Posted in baking, custard, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Tiramisu

Pictures are coming!

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

This is my third time making tiramisu and my first time making the mascarpone and lady fingers from scratch.  I was impressed at the amount of work involved – the cream has four components! – but it went faster than I expected.

The cream involved:

1. zabaglione/zabaione (the former spelling is apparently a more old-fashioned one, but still the most used here; in Italy, I believe the second is more popular.  Regardless of the spelling, the pronunciation is roughly what you see in the second way.) – a Marsala wine stirred custard (or foam, because it’s actually more whisked than stirred).  I was really glad to see this used in the recipe, because 1) it means the eggs are cooked, which is safer, and 2) the best tiramisu I ever had, in a little restaurant in Fiesole, used zabaione.

2. pastry cream – a milk/cream stirred custard with a little starch

3. whipped cream

4. mascarpone cheese – cream curdled by being heated with a little acid (lemon juice)

These were all simply mixed together.

Beaten egg whites mixed with egg yolks - the beginning of the savoiardi.
The baked savoiardi.

The lady fingers, or savoiardi biscuits, are made of a French meringue mixed with egg yolks and cake flour.  This is piped onto a cookie sheet and baked.  I cut my piping hole a little small (I’m a ziplock bag piper), so I made squiggly lines to make mine fat enough, and it came out really cute.

The tiramisu is three layers of the following: lady fingers dipped in espresso (or my roommate’s leftover coffee; sue me) topped with a layer of the cream mixture.  The recipe didn’t say to, but I think we can all agree that cocoa powder is to be sifted on the top at the very end.

My friends and I enjoyed it immensely.  The mixture of every cream-based substance under the sun ended

The finished tiramisu.

up with a very nice flavor.  However, having tasted each component as I went along, I was a little sad to see all of these specific uses of cream mix into a homogeneous creaminess.  I decided that the pastry cream doesn’t add much – the mixture is already all cream, eggs, and sugar, and it doesn’t have any special flavors or much of a different texture from the zabaione – and that next time I’ll double the zabaione and leave the pastry cream out.  The zabaione carries the flavor of the Marsala – and if I got one critique from my tasters, it was “Make it boozier.”  I’d also probably use more mascarpone and compensate by making a little less whipped cream.  The lightness of this is great, but what’s the point of making your own mascarpone if you can’t even tell it’s there?  I am now a huge fan of homemade lady fingers – they’re easier to make than I expected (and you don’t need a mold) and you can make them in different shapes.

Posted in candy, thickening, Uncategorized

A different way to enjoy wine

Milk chocolate truffles
Careful with the quality of your chocolate - I thought I was getting good stuff but the ganache had a sticky quality that makes me suspect they added a thickener to it..

I’ve been groaning to myself about the state of the food blogosphere circa Valentine’s Day, but then I realized, I’m doing the same thing.  I made truffles, as I have every Valentine’s Day since my freshman year in college.  I can’t help the fact that they’re the perfect potluck base: I make the centers – a simple ganache (cream + chocolate, melted together, some add butter), this year I took Cooking For Engineers’ advice and used a 2:1 chocolate:cream ratio by weight – and everyone brings a topping.

But I also made something else that is not what you usually see on Valentine’s Day (or ever), although I must admit it is clearly V-Day themed.

Madeleine-shaped gelled wine candies
You have to be careful when you pour them in the molds or you'll get those funny little edges.

I have a thing about pâtes de fruit, which will become clear when I finally get around to posting about my cranberry ones.  This time, I made them with red wine.  I used Juanita’s Allrecipes recipe for wine jelly as a starting point, but it’s a pretty loose interpretation.  Here’s what I did:

          • 1 bottle red wine
          • 1 packet low-sugar pectin (ie, pectin that can be used with low- or no-sugar recipes; not because I’m anti-sugar, but because this pectin can tolerate a wider variety of sugar concentrations, making it harder to screw up)
          • about 3 Tbsp. sugar
          • 1/2 an ice cube of lemon juice – about 1 Tbsp
            1. Make a pectin slurry: I mixed the pectin with some of the wine so the pectin wouldn’t clump when I added it later.  If you’re using liquid pectin, don’t worry about that.
            2. Boil the heck out of everything: I boiled the wine, sugar, and lemon juice, and then added the pectin and kept boiling until 1) a little put on a plate in the freezer solidified to my liking – when I pushed on it, it broke into two pieces on either side of my finger instead of letting me make a finger-shaped hole; 2) the bubbles were small and close together; 3) it was just shy of 220°F – it seemed like it would never get quite there!  The longer you boil, the firmer they will set, unless you go way too long and the pectin breaks down, in which case they won’t set at all (although your syrup will be pretty thick by then anyway).  I would love to tell you the temperature at which this happens but I have been unable to find it myself. If anyone knows, please comment!
            3. Pan and chill: I took it off the heat and poured it into a greased mini-madeleine mold and a greased mini-muffin pan, then refrigerated.  They came out of the molds just fine.  So don’t think your baking pans are unitaskers!
            Wine candies in the mold
            The good thing about my bad molding technique is you can get a better sense of the rich color!

            The verdict: They were quite good, but a little too tart.  I would either increase the sugar, at least for this particular wine (did somebody say Riesling candy? I’ll get right on that), or drop the lemon juice.  I have a sneaking suspicion that since all the pectin I buy has citric acid in the ingredients, we may not really need to add acidic ingredients anymore.  Perhaps lemon juice and such are just still in all the recipes from before someone got the bright idea to add it to the pectin.  Does anyone know for sure?  I’ll have to test it sometime.  Anyway, wine is already acidic so maybe it’s sufficient on its own.  My recommendation is to make this with a fruity wine and no lemon juice – I still like to err on the side of too little sugar because, even as someone with a huge sweet tooth, too much sugar can take some of the complexity out of the flavor.  And these are supposed to be sophisticated candies, after all!