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Everyone is writing about Twitter these days, perhaps because it's really happening, or perhaps because everyone wants to figure out what the heck it's good for. Quick answer: it's great for wasting time. But I've also found that Twitter is a pretty interesting way to connect with people I may not have gotten to chat with otherwise, as well as a chance see a behind-the-scenes look at bloggers I admire. And it's a useful forum for asking for advice on recipes and restaurants.
I was daydreaming about dessert when I asked my twitter-people (tweeps? Are we really calling them that?) whether they had any tips on tiramisu ingredients or technique. The kind person who contributes to Twitter for Everyday Food magazine responded, volunteering an easy recipe for me to try. How cool! But to me, their recipe just isn't the real thing. These days, mascarpone is easy enough to find (especially in New York) so there was no way I was substituting a bar of reduced-fat-cream cheese. I wanted to grate some nice dark chocolate into it, too, not just use cocoa powder. Instant espresso isn't really my game (it just tastes off to me, even in baked goods) and the recipe didn't call for any alcohol!
We here at Pithy and Cleaver don't mind baking with booze. Shiv did invent a Mint Julep Pie, after all. I was further encouraged when I stopped at the farmer's market for a bottle of fresh cream. The woman from Milk Thistle Farm who sold me a bottle of lovely heavy cream offered her advice: for that true sophisticated tiramisu taste, I should go to a nice liquor store and buy a decent bottle of marsala. It just wouldn't be the same without it. "One last thing," she warned. "Don't soak the ladyfingers too long. And don't overbeat the cream, it's so full of milk fat, it will turn into butter."
Trying not to think of the giant tub of near-butter I was about to serve my unsuspecting guests, I headed for the liquor store with a plan. For this grown-up tiramisu, there would be not one, but two kinds of booze. Good freshly whipped cream, good chocolate, real coffee (spiked with Kahlua!) and real mascarpone, with a touch of marsala. Decadent, for sure.
And really delicious. Like, eye-rolling, expletive-dropping delicious.
This is the perfect dessert for company, since it requires no oven and must be assembled a few hours ahead. It's dramatic looking—your guests will be so impressed, they cannot imagine what a breeze it was to put together. It's rich, but not cloying. Traditionally, tiramisu has raw egg yolks in it, but this eggless version is worry-free. And don't be scared of all the alcohol, the taste is just sophisticated, not too potent.
Eggless Tiramisu with Marsala and Kahlua
2 cups very strong decaf coffee or espresso, cooled
1/3 cup plus 1 T sugar, divided
3 T Kahlua
2 cups mascarpone
3 T Marsala wine (unsalted-buy at a liquor store, not "cooking wine")
36 savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers)
1 1/2 cups very fresh heavy whipping cream
small bar good-quality dark chocolate for grating (I used four Valrhona 70% cocoa feves)
Prepare layering ingredients: chill a large bowl and the beaters of an electric mixer (a hand mixer is fine.) Prepare coffee and let cool in a wide-low dish (a loaf pan or baking dish works well.) Add 1 T sugar and the Kahlua, set aside.
Place mascarpone in a large bowl. Fold in reminiang 1/3 cup sugar and marsala. Using chilled bowl and beaters, whip cream until soft peaks form. Do not overwhip! Gently fold half of the cream into the mascarpone mixture, then add in the rest, folding carefully until just mixed.
To assemble tiramisu, have 8 1/2" trifle bowl (or other straight-sided serving bowl) next to coffee mixture. Dip savoiardi one at a time into coffee mixture briefly-count "One" as you dip one side, then turn and count "One" before removing. Place in bottom of bowl until a layer is formed (You may have to break a few ladyfingers before dipping to evenly fill bottom layer. When bottom of bowl is covered, carefully add about a quarter of the mascarpone and cream mixture, smoothing the top with a spatula. Grate chocolate on top, evenly covering the cream (you should still be able to see the cream through the chocolate.) Cover with another layer of soaked savoiardi, then another layer of cream, followed by chocolate shavings, repeating until you have four layers and all your cream has been used up. Wrap well with saran wrap and refridgerate at least two hours before serving. You can wait overnight, but the whipped cream condenses a little.