a.k.a Operation Salvage
I couldn’t master the strength for a full-blown spring cleaning yet but I did review my pantry last weekend, checking for close to or a little over their best before date items. I found (among a few other things) a package of lady fingers. Hm.
The following boozy and indulgent treat was our farewell to cold season. Be prepared for a tear in the fabric of averageness though! This tiramisu turned out to be the best* I’ve ever made, (*not my words, before you think I’m trying to paint myself in glowing colors) so good actually that I crossed out all the other tiramisus from my recipe collection. I won’t be needing them.
Before we even begin: if you are a true-born Italian and/or a die-hard dogmatic, you’ll probably find the recipe featured in this post not strictly… appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, tradition is important to me but this time I tried to strike a balance between principle and pragmatism.
I’ll tell you in advance that compared to the classic, this version is lacking – horribile dictu! – both eggs and marsala.
One thing to know about my relationship to eggs: I couldn’t care less about the expiry date written on them. OK, I can feel that’s a bit strong so let me explain.
Eggs don’t automatically go bad after a certain time. Understand that the freshness of an egg does not singularly determine its edibility. I’m looking at you, water testers! While there is science behind the method (egg shells are porous – over time air makes its way in causing older eggs to be buoyant), but it’s just that: establishing that they are not that fresh any more. Please don’t toss them just yet, they are not necessarily bad!
If you’re not sure whether your eggs are ok to use – even when they’re not yet beyond the date indicated on the carton – you have to crack them open, preferably one by one in a separate bowl. Believe me when I say you’ll notice if an egg is spoiled due to funny colors and an even funnier smell. Nothing suspicious? Great, you may carry on.
That’s my rule of thumb when eggs are going to be properly cooked. To support my theory, here’s what my grandmother told me: Back in the day come fall, surplus eggs were put away in the granary for the winter when hens were laying less to none. Stored this way, they lasted as long as Easter, still fit for consuming (for making delicate sponge cakes even!).
Raw eggs are a completely different matter however as food poisoning is no joke. Not even a tiramisu is worth the gamble with Salmonella and E. coli. Just imagine being responsible for the dessert that sent your guests down a road paved with diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, fever and abdominal cramps, even ending up hospitalized due to dehydration in more severe cases. I’d say that would be a textbook example of transferring yourself from likeable to loathsome.
Taking the above into consideration, I always use whipped cream as substitute for eggs when making tiramisu.
That said, the case with marsala is much less complex: I just don’t keep it at home. I have orahovac though, a dark, sweet, nutty-flavored liqueur made with green walnuts, popular throughout the Balkans. It’s the secret ingredient in some of the most well-received desserts I make and goes with coffee like a dream. If you travel to this region, try to get your hands on it (or look for nocino in Italy, it’s basically the same thing).
What else goes with coffee so well? Irish cream (Happy Belated St. Patrick’s Day!). I also had an open bottle with just a few sips left, so in the mixture it went too. Not at all dominant, but adds yet more complexity to the flavor.
I have experienced a big revelation too. I was sure I’d messed up when I absent-mindedly poured the cream into the bowl already containing the mascarpone, without whipping it first. Well, as it turns out you can whip the two together beautifully so I’ll never bother with careful folding (and washing an extra bowl) again.
There you have a story of working with what I have.
A safer and savvy take on the classic Italian dessert. Serves 8.
200 g lady fingers
150 ml fresh coffee espresso
2 tbsp orahovac (or other liqueur of your choosing)
250 g mascarpone
600 ml whipping cream
50 ml Irish cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
- Brew coffee, let cool to room temperature and mix with the liqueur in a shallow bowl.
- In a large mixing bowl, whip irish cream, mascarpone, sugar and cold cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, set aside.
- Dip half the biscuits in the liquid for a few seconds each side (until soaked but not collapsing), arrange in a single layer to the bottom of a 20 cm / 8″ serving dish.
- Spread half the cream evenly over lady fingers.
- Dip remaining biscuits, arrange over layer of cream.
- Transfer remaining cream to a piping bag with a wide nozzle, decorate top layer of the dessert.
- Chill overnight, or at least 3 hours. Dust with cocoa powder before serving. Enjoy!
Do you have a system for tracking the expiry dates of products in your pantry? Also, are you taking the dates indicated seriously, or you open and check if they are still good before getting rid of them? Let me know!