We have a guest chef today! I can’t eat dairy or chocolate, so thankfully my awesome friend Cassandra volunteered to test the tiramisu recipe that went with the pasta shards with egg menu. She is a great cook who also lives in a state capital, but hers is a magical one where you can buy hard liquor in the grocery store (and CVS!). I can find espresso powder at the neighborhood supermarket, but have to buy my booze at the state liquor store. I think we all know which is the better situation!
Here is her review:
To start with, this is probably one of the easiest desserts ever. There is no cooking required, making it perfect for a freak spring heat wave. Plus, it combines three of my favorite things – whipped cream, coffee, and chocolate. How could it possibly be bad?
Now, onto my confessions. In the true spirit of Squeaky Peanut, I cheated. I couldn’t find instant espresso powder at the grocery store so I just made a really strong batch of french press coffee (Arabian Red Sea ). This is to die for coffee, so I don’t feel bad about the substitution. Also, I made the recipe without the brandy. I stood looking at brandy at the grocery store for a good 10 minutes, but they didn’t have any small airplane-sized bottles, and I didn’t want to have a bottle of cheap $10 brandy that no one in my house would ever drink left over. I suppose it could have kept the applejack and the Kirsch company at the back of the liquor cabinet. I didn’t realize that cognac actually was brandy or I might have bought that. But whatever.
So, basically you soak the ladyfingers in coffee, layer them in a glass bread pan with whipped mascarpone/cream/vanilla/sugar and chocolate shavings. Voila! Easy as pie. Much easier than pie, actually. The only complication was that the chocolate got all melty in my hand while I was trying to shave the curls. I put it in the freezer for 10 minutes and that took care of everything.
Now that I’ve sampled it, I’d give it a B+. It is really good, but somehow less than the sum of its parts -I’m not sure why. Maybe after it sits overnight the flavors will have melded more. The whipped cream/mascarpone component is fabulous.
Thank you so much, Cassandra! By the way, she reports that it was “all kinds of awesome” for breakfast the next day after an hour spent gardening.
Here is the recipe, adapted from Dinner at Home (by Martha Stewart):
3/4 c boiling water
3 T good quality instant espresso granules (not instant coffee)
2/3 c mascarpone cheese
2/3 c heavy cream
3 T brandy
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/3 c sugar
12 store-bought ladyfingers (about 6 ounces)
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Mix the boiling water and espresso powder until dissolved. Refrigerate until cool. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk together the mascarpone, heavy cream, brandy, vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form.
Trim the end of the ladyfingers so they fit snugly (side by side) in an 8.5″ x 4.5″ loaf pan (preferably glass). Pour the espresso mixture into a shallow bowl. Briefly dip the ladyfingers one at time into the espresso, turning to coat both sides.
Line the bottom of the pan with 6 cookies. Spoon half the mascarpone mixture on top, then sprinkle evenly with half the shaved chocolate. Layer with the remaining ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture. Smooth the top with an offset or flexible spatula, then sprinkle with remaining chocolate.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least an hour (or up to overnight), or freeze for 30 minutes.