Individually Collective Blogging: The Merits (or lack) of Homemade Tiramisu

My good friend Christina and I have been participating in NaNoWriMo together for two years now.  Next year, we were contemplating choosing a storyline and characters and each writing our novel using the agreed upon plot and setting.  I’m not sure how this is going to work out, but it sounds rather interesting.  I was also recently inspired by my Twitter-bud, @melissaoyler and her friend (Amy) who are choosing a random topic and then each blogging about it.  Christina and I thought this would be an awesome way to test out our ability to write individually on a collective topic.

For the record, Melissa and Amy’s 2nd topic happened to be “First Crushes” as well.  You can find their posts here and here.

Today’s Topic: The Merits (or lack) of Homemade Tiramisu

I know exactly what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “How did you possibly come up with a topic like that?”  It’s easy.  It’s especially easy when you’ve had a bad experience.

“What was your bad experience?” you ask.

Normally, I would follow suit with the quote from The Italian Job and simply say, “I saidI had a bad esperience.”  However, if I did that, it wouldn’t make for a very good blog post, now would it?

First, a little background.  My senior year at The College of William and Mary I lived in an apartment complex on the south side of Williamsburg.  Initially, I lived on Christina’s couch (or rather, it was her roommate’s couch, but that’s another story).  But by September I had my own apartment.  This was good and bad.  The good thing was, I lived just four buildings away from Christina and Jessica.  The bad thing was, I lived four buildings away from Christina and Jessica.  Because we had grown accustomed to spending time together, the three of us decided that we would cook together.  One night would be Christina’s night, one night would be Jess’s night, and one night would be my night.  I’m pretty sure that we thought we were being posh and cool; and I’m sure we were.  We found quickly that each of us had a knack.  Jess was famous for being able to reproduce restaurant food, Christina could cook the best home-cooked meals you’d ever eat (traditional stuff that just made you melt inside), and I had a flair for weird stuff.

My flair for weird stuff came primarily from two sources.  First, I had Plenty: A Collection of Sarah McLachlan’s Favourite Recipes, with Chef Jaime Laurita which was not at all your normal cookbook.  And second, no one ever really told me that I couldn’t cook so I was willing to take risks that normal people wouldn’t.  I didn’t know things were hard (much like I didn’t know that hand piecing and quilting a Queen-sized Double Wedding Ring quilt was hard) so I did them anyway.

One night, not a regular dinner night, Christina and I decided that it would be wonderful to have our own little party by ourselves.  Her roommates were gone for the night and I was itching to make tiramisu.  My Plenty cookbook had a recipe that just sounded awesome.

Kahlua Tiramisu

serves 6-8

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  • 2½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon rum, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese or cream cheese
  • ¼ cup espresso or coffee
  • Ladyfingers, as needed
  • Chocolate shavings or mini chocolate chips, as needed
  • Cocoa powder, as needed

Whip ¾ cup sugar into the egg yolks until thick and pale yellow.
Reduce speed to low and stream in the Kahlua.
Set aside.

Whip cream until soft peaks form.
Place ½ cup of cream in a bowl and gently fold in vanilla and rum.
Set aside.

Fold the Marsala wine into the remaining whipped cream and reserve.

Whip the egg whites on high speed until frothy.
Stream in the 4 tablespoons of sugar and whip on high for 1 minute.

Gently mix mascarpone or cream cheese with the egg yolk mixture until just combined.
Gently fold in the ½ cup whipped cream with a plastic spatula, using slow gentle motions.
Slowly fold in the egg whites.

To assemble
Drizzle the coffee onto the ladyfingers.
Place standing up in a parfait glass or bowl.
Alternate layers of mascarpone mixture, marsala cream and chocolate shavings.
Dust top with cocoa powder.

I think that it’s important to point out that we also decided to have a “themed” night.  And Kaluha was the theme.  Since Kaluha was the flavor of choice for our dessert we decided that it would be a fantastic idea to top off the whole thing with mudslides.  After all, if we were going to have to buy a bottle of Kaluha we might as well make good use of it.  If memory serves me, I believe that we made the mudslides first so that we could enjoy them while we were making the tiramisu.

Another point worth mentioning is that this recipe isn’t exactly a “beginner’s” recipe.  No one told me that making whipped cream from scratch was hard.  Incidentally, my whipped cream turned out beautiful!  In fact, the tiramisu was gorgeous.  And very tasteful.  And my current recollection was that we may have eaten the entire thing.  Along with several blender-fulls of mudslides.  It was a very Kaluah night.  (The pygmies in the commercials would have been proud of us.)

I should mention that the evening progressed into a rather interesting night with a surprise visit from Jess’s brother who probably had his assumptions of our lunacy confirmed.  But what happens at Kaluah night stays at Kaluah night so I cannot divulge any additional details.

The next day, however, our attitude towards the glorified Kaluah Tiramisu had changed.  Both Christina and I were extremely ill.  Rather than blame it on the massive quantities of mudslides that we consumed, we blamed it on the egg in the tiramisu.  As you’ll notice in the recipe, you do not bake the finished product.  You just eat it.  We figured that the raw eggs was just dangerous enough to give us a touch of salmonella.  Neither one of us was able to touch anything that remotely resembled tiramisu for years.  I got over my fear of the stuff with relative ease, but was still reluctant to try the adventure of making it any more.

I did, however, continue to brag for years to come about how good the stuff was.  How fantastic it tasted, how I was brilliance in the kitchen.  (Save for the little fact that we both got deathly ill.)  My hubby, Steve, constantly wanted to know why I didn’t ever make this glorious concoction for him.  I kept telling him that it was a one time deal, that I couldn’t do it again.  I did cave.  And I slaved in the kitchen… for far too long.  Of course, since my initial foray with the Italian dessert, I had been told that it was virtually impossible to have made-from-scratch whipped cream turn out.  Along with my fear that I would kill my husband I was now scared of the whipped cream, deathly.  I labored and labored and I remember chocolate chips making an entrance, though now that I review the recipe there isn’t a single chocolate morsel in the thing.

To be blunt, it was a disaster.  Steve swore it was good.  I swore that it was horrific.  I begged him to let me throw it away.  He wouldn’t do it.  I think eventually it went out to relatives in small plastic containers that I didn’t even want back.  I received no feedback what-so-ever.  No one accused me of trying to poison them.  No one asked me to make it again.

I do still hold with the fact that Christina and I were hung over the day after The Great Tiramisu debacle.  But, I will never make tiramisu ever again.  Such delicate desserts are for the skilled hands of professional pastry chefs, not for the average home-maker.

You can read Christina’s recount of The Merits (or lack) of Homemade Tiramisu here.

  • Amy

    Oh man, I LOVE Tiramisu! I definitely am not confident enough to try to make it myself though!

    • Smart woman. Very smart woman. I make my hubby take me out now when I get cravings.

  • Oh dear lord… you made it again??!!! cannot stop laughing

    I still say the eggs were bad. I distinctly remember a discussion of how long past the expiration date was too long. I suppose it is possible that my drunk mind made that conversation up to mask the fact that I wound up with a horrid hangover… but it’s still my story and I’m sticking to it!

    • Yeah… I made it again, but only after Steve begged me to. I also learned a very handy little tip. If you’re not sure that eggs are good or bad, dissolve 2 Tablespoons of salt in 2 cups of cold water, then put the eggs one by one into the solution. If the egg sinks it’s good. If it floats, it’s bad. It actually works and there’s scientific basis behind it. Has something to do with the air sacks inside the egg and when they are bad the air sacks expand so much they cause the egg to float in water.

  • eyrea

    Who the heck told you that making whipped cream from scratch was hard? So long as you have an electric mixer, it’s easy.

    My mum made me make it by hand with a whisk, once, just so I’d know how in case I needed to make some during a major blackout or something. By the end I thought my wrist was going to fall off. Even then, it wasn’t exactly difficult, just tedious.

    The egg thing, on the other hand… you have a point there. Egg whites, sure, but raw egg yolks are scary to me.

    • I think that the issue of difficulty came up because there’s a fine line between whipped cream and butter…. or something like that? At any rate, difficult or not, I was completely paranoid the second time I made the stuff.

  • The beaters, the cream and the bowl all need to be cold. And don’t dump the sugar in all at once. Its that simple or I am not the authority on all things cream (and ironically married to a husband who hates all things cream except, Thank God, not Ice Cream or we would have to divorce!.

    You would have to churn for a long time to get butter. More likely the danger is it is just runny.

    Personally if I never eat tiramisu I will live. All fluff and no fun. (Fun=Chocolate.)

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