With summer in full swing, my desire for baking and roasting is practically nonexistent. Would I rather hang out by a hot stove or on a couch with a cold beverage? That’s right, cold beverage. But just because I won’t be baking doesn’t mean that my husband has to go without dessert until October. He is a much happier human being when he gets his sweet tooth fix on a regular basis, which makes for a much happier home life.
One of my favorite desserts to make (and his to eat) is tiramisu. It can be put together with no oven time whatsoever if you buy lady fingers from a bakery. It can be put together with 20 minutes of oven time if you make your own sponge layer. I use a half-cream cheese half-mascarpone mixture to lighten the texture of the cream, though it is by no means a “diet” version of the dessert, but I prefer the slightly tangy taste of the cream cheese over the all-mascarpone cream.
4 – 8 ounce containers of mascarpone cheese
4 – 8 ounce packs of light cream cheese
4 extra large eggs
1 cup plus 4 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup espresso
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
shaved chocolate (optional)
ladyfingers (enough to cover the dish you are using twice), or sponge cake
For sponge layer:
5 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Separate the eggs. Whisk the yoks with sugar and vanilla until pale yellow. Add flour and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until stiff peaks form.
Add a few spoonfulls of the egg whites to the yolk mixture to lighten it, then carefully fold the yolks into the whites, preserving as much volume as possible. Do not overmix, otherwise the sponge will be dense.
Bake on a parchment covered sheet tray for about 20 minutes until golden or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the sheet pan comes out clean.
Invert the sheet pan on a counter top (using a large cutting board is helpful here), and peel off the parchment paper. You want to do this while the sponge cake is still hot/warm, otherwise it will become more brittle as it cools down, and removing the parchment will be more difficult.
In the meantime, make the cream. Separate the eggs again, and whisk the yolks and 1 cup of sugar until pale yellow. Add the cream cheese and the mascarpone, and mix until blended – I use a food processor for this. You can add vanilla extract, but I’ve had great results adding a few tablespoons of cognac or brandy. Frangelico works well, but I’ve also added baked apple brandy. You should have a thick cream.
Cut the sponge cake into two large pieces each of which covers the bottom of the container you are using. Sweeten the espresso with the remaining sugar and pour half of it over the bottom layer. If using lady fingers, cover the bottom of the dish and drizzle with the espresso.
Then dust with cocoa powder, and cover with about half the cream mixture.
And a side view:
Dust the top with cocoa powder again, and cover with another layer of lady fingers/sponge cake.
Soak the sponge cake with the remaining espresso, and cover with the rest of the cream. Dust the top with cocoa powder and shaved chocolate, if using.
Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours, or overnight.