An Unorthodox Tiramisu

tiramisu

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.

tiramisu

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.

Unorthodox Tiramisu

  • Difficulty: easy
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A safer and savvy take on the classic Italian dessert. Serves 8.

Ingredients

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

Directions

  1. Brew coffee, let cool to room temperature and mix with the liqueur in a shallow bowl.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whip irish cream, mascarpone, sugar and cold cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. Spread half the cream evenly over lady fingers.
  5. Dip remaining biscuits, arrange over layer of cream.
  6. Transfer remaining cream to a piping bag with a wide nozzle, decorate top layer of the dessert.
  7. Chill overnight, or at least 3 hours. Dust with cocoa powder before serving. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

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!

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Billet-Doux to Summers Past: Clafoutis

sour cherry clafoutis

Recently weather has been playing make-believe with us. I was searching for a word to best describe this time of the year, but all I came up with was uncertainty. End of February is a non-season, don’t you think? Had our fair share of cold, days are getting longer, but spring is not quite here yet either. We’ll just have to endure some more.

It’s also the toughest time of year in the kitchen when you cook produce oriented (which I try to do, within reason). I wanted to whip up dessert, but not something overly decadent. I was dreaming of light, fruity stuff. But what kind of fruit, really? Apples and pears are all from storage and I’m so tired of citrus and bananas by now.

I finally got inspired when we went out to dinner to Pavillon de Paris in celebration of Husband’s name day (also known in some circles as Valentine’s Day 🙂 ). Started off with Escargots de Bourgogne followed by duck and quail, and finishing with a perfect Crème brûlée for him, and Clafoutis with forest fruits for her.

Their clafoutis was a little unorthodox, served not in slices but in a ramekin and I absolutely loved it! Instead of the classic custardy pancake batter, the texture was a lot fluffier, soufflé-like. I think I felt a hint of almond in there too, which was also a wonderful touch.

Decision made, clafoutis it is. Sure, any fresh, local fruit is months away but I have access to the next best thing: frozen fruits. It’s about time we started cleaning out mom’s freezer anyway to make space for this year’s harvest (let’s just hope this isn’t wishful thinking).

You should know my parents maintain a mini model farm of a garden in their backyard with an amazing array of fruits and vegetables and what we don’t eat fresh gets conserved. They have a big capacity chest freezer literally overflowing with home-grown produce.

So we’re set. Or are we? I’ve read through dozens of recipes in search for this airy light take on the traditional French dessert, one that will hopefully puff up nicely and stay that way instead of collapsing in the middle as it cools, but came up empty-handed. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere, I just didn’t happen to stumble upon it.

Eventually, I made an educated guess: the truth must lie in the intersection of pancakes and sponge cakes. I used some milk as per pancakes, and separated the eggs, as per sponges. Further on, I’ve decided to stick to the roots with sour cherries, although clafoutis works well with just about any fruit.

sour cherry clafoutis

The authentic way would have been using whole cherries. This is said to add more flavour but to be honest, I find having to deal with pits in your mouth a severe blow to the level of enjoyment. But, do as you like. Also note that frozen fruit should be thawed and drained beforehand.

Sour Cherry Clafoutis

  • Difficulty: easy
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The rustic, French country dessert with a twist in texture.

Ingredients

400 g sour cherries pitted or whole, fresh or frozen

3 eggs, separated

50 g + 3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp kirsch or meggy pálinka (strong, clear fruit brandy, optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

50 g almond flour

50 g all-purpose flour

60 ml (1/4 cup) whole milk

powdered sugar, for dusting

butter, for greasing the pan

Directions

  1. If using frozen fruit, thaw and drain.
  2. Grease a 32 cm / 13” pie plate generously with butter, preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F.
  3. In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Adding a tbsp of sugar at a time, continue whisking until stiff and shiny. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and remaining 50 g sugar until pale.
  5. Add vanilla, alcohol (if using) and milk. Mix well.
  6. Add almond flour and all-purpose flour, mixing just until incorporated.
  7. Carefully fold in egg whites and pour batter into pan. Arrange cherries on top.
  8. Bake for 30-35 min until set and golden. Transfer to a rack to cool, serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar.

slice of cherry clafoutis

How do you deal with winter blues?

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

A Nation’s Favorite: Túrógombóc

A Nations Favorite title image

‘No, thanks’- said no Hungarian ever, when offered the dessert I brought to you today.

So what is this thing? It translates to quark dumpling. Yes, it is a dessert made of fresh cheese curd. Some people for some reason find cheese + sweet gross interesting, but excusez-moi… cheesecake? You like THAT, don’t you! Anyway, bear with me on this one.

We have quite an extensive dumpling culture in Hungary which means of course there is no universal recipe: everyone uses a very own ‘the real deal’ method. Basic ingredients include quark cheese, flour and eggs. You boil them in water and toss them in buttery, golden breadcrumbs.

I am a huge fan of it, but I admittedly don’t eat túrógombóc anywhere else but home. The reason? Others’ are simply never to my taste. Too hard, too floury, not sweet enough. I’ll share my go-to, and leave the decision up to you.

The recipe my family is sticking to was acquired a long-long time ago from an old lady living in my grandmother’s Balaton Highlands village and immediately made all the rest look like a bad joke. The only change my mother made was swapping some of the granulated sugar for vanilla sugar (had it not been a luxury then, I am sure the old lady would have used it too).

Never had a túrógombóc anything like this anywhere else and all the friends who try ours (being suspicious at first as they were) are very pleasantly surprised. And now I’ll let you in on the secret and you are absolutely welcome to pass it on! Prepare for a jiggly, dreamy-creamy, soft and sweet on the inside and crispy on the outside treat you won’t want to live without.

Update: You live and you learn! Turns out my beloved family túrógombóc is actually an Austrian topfennockerl. No wonder, as the old lady the recipe is from was Schwab (a german-speaking ethnic group of people).

Topfennockerl - Quark Dumplings

  • Difficulty: easy
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Light and sweet Austrian dessert made from quark cheese. Makes 10 dumplings.

Ingredients

For the dumplings:

250 g unsalted quark (fresh curd cheese)

15 g vanilla sugar

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 medium egg

1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/8 tsp salt

40 g AP flour

40 g semolina

For the breadcrumbs:

75 g breadcrumbs

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp granulated sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients for the dumplings.
  2. While ‘batter’ is resting, make the breadcrumbs: in a pan on medium-high heat brown breadcrumbs on butter. Turn heat off, add sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a medium pot, boil water with a pinch of salt.
  4. Using 2 tablespoons, form dumplings from batter and gently put in boiling water. Carefully stir so dumplings don’t stick to bottom.
  5. Dumplings are ready as soon as they emerge to the surface: using a slotted spoon, transfer them to pan and gently toss to cover in breadcrumbs. Serve warm. Enjoy!

 

A Nations Favorite batter

A Nations Favorite breadcrumb collage

A Nations Favorite cooking collage

A Nations Favorite ready with fork

Some tips:

Don’t use low-fat cottage cheese, it will make for ‘dry’ dumplings.

Some recipes call for pressing quark through a sieve and you can totally do that for a smoother result, but I prefer a rustic texture with visible cheese crumbs so I save myself the trouble.

Be careful not to add sugar to browned breadcrumbs too soon, you don’t want it caramelizing.

If you don’t feel comfortable shaping the dumplings with spoons, you can make them with wet hands.

Start with boiling a test-dumpling to see if batter holds. If it falls apart, the batter probably didn’t have enough time to rest or the egg was a bittoo big. Add more semolina (a tsp at a time).

Don’t put more than 4-5 dumplings in the water at a time.

We eat them plain, but feel free to pour sour cream on, sprinkle with cinnamon and/or powdered sugar, add jam, compote, poppy seeds or whatever floats your boat.

Love,

Fruzsi