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.
I can't say I was overly thrilled by this month's challenge. I'm not a major fan of tiramisu (or Italian food in general. Shock Horror.) and the baking element was rather minimal. I did enjoy making the pastry cream though.
First up, the ladyfinger biscuits. This step was pretty straightforward, although my batter didn't make as many biscuits as the recipe said it would. I was really impressed with how professional the biscuits looked (if you squinted a bit and ignored the wonky bits). So impressed, I forgot to take any pictures.
Next I made the mascarpone cheese. This was an absolute nightmare. I heated cream in a double boiler, trying to get it to 88C. It got to about 70C and stopped. Long slow heating of cream makes clotted cream, and I could see the yellowy crust forming on my cream. I love clotted cream, but this was not the right occasion! The recipe said I would see small bubbles forming as the cream reached just below simmering point. Instead, the cream suddenly thickened and went very very stiff. I added the lemon juice just in case the process was still salvageable. There was no curdling, and I couldn't see any whey in the mixture. I strained the cream in cheesecloth. After leaving it overnight, there were two drops of whey underneath the cloth, and the cream was as solid as butter. It tasted like mascarpone, but the texture was too firm. I left it out to soften at room temperature.
The zabaglione was next on the list of components. This thickened up nicely, although the lemon zest made it look lumpy even when it wasn't. I would have added the lemon at the end to give flavour but without making the texture so lumpy.
Moving on, it was time for the pastry cream. I'd made this once before for chocolate eclairs, and it had been a bit of a disaster. I was determined to get it right this time, and kept the heat so low that it took ages to thicken up and cook. It came out really well and I finally felt like something in this recipe challenge had gone right!
Finally, I made up the sweetened whipped cream, and assembled the tiramisu. The recipe said you needed a pint of coffee. I used about a quarter of that to soak the ladyfingers. I have absolutely no idea who is getting half a litre of coffee in to 25 sponge biscuits. The recipe said to use an 8inch square dish. Mine was 8.5 inches, so I thought it would be fine. After putting a few of the biscuits down in the first layer, I realised I'd be lucky to fill half the dish.
It tasted pretty good, and it was so rich that even though I'd only made a half size portion, I still got 6 platefuls out of it. I served it up to T's parents, who were in raptures over it, and were ridiculously impressed when T told them I made the ladyfingers and the mascarpone.
(As a side note, the next morning I was ill, and the sight of that tiramisu in the fridge turned my stomach so much I hid it in the freezer. Even typing this now is given me memories of nausea, so I think that it will sit in the freezer until I give in and throw it away. It's not bad, it just has negative connotations now.)
I didn't rate the recipe at all. Every stage seemed inaccurate or poorly explained, and the quantities were either too large or too small. So for that reason, I'm not going to link to it or write it out here. Hopefully next month's challenge will be a bit more inspiring!
On the plus side, I now have a bottle of marsala to swig every time the ironing gets too much.