Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Very Virtuous Tiramisu, with a French Twist

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Aparna lives in Goa, on the west coast of India, and Deeba lives in Gurgaon, a city in the suburbs of New Delhi.  Many Daring Bakers presumed our co-hostesses would challenge us to a traditional dessert from India, which would have been inspiring, but their choice was marvelous nonetheless.

Tiramisu's unusual name derives from an Italian morning ritual of going into a caffe and asking the barkeep for a tiramisu, something to "pick me up."  A shot of rich, thick Vov is poured, which gives the drinker energy.  Vov is made from eggs, sugar and Marsala, the same ingredients that go into the zabaglione that enriches the best tiramisu.

Tiramisu is not a challenging dessert to prepare... when you buy a container of mascarpone and packaged ladyfingers. Such laziness is not to be tolerated in this Daring Bakers' group! We were challenged to make homemade mascarpone cheese and
Savoiardi, from scratch.

I was pleasantly surprised to find mascarpone so simple, and with only two ingredients:  Whipping cream and lemon juice!  The Savoiardi were also easier than expected.  Ladyfingers are light, crispy and sweet génoise cakes roughly shaped like a large finger. They are called savoiardi in Italian (meaning "from Savoy"), or in French,
biscuits à la cuillère. In the UK they may be called sponge-fingers, trifle sponges or boudoir biscuits.  Ladyfingers are a principal ingredient in many French dessert recipes. Today, their most common usage is in trifles, charlottes, and tiramisu.
Creamy, homemade mascarpone and freshly baked ladyfingers...

I chose Tiramisu as one of my dishes for our Valentine's Aphrodisiac Tasting Party (posted here), since it contains two aphrodisiacs - chocolate and coffee.  For my French twist, I used Armagnac in the zabaglione, rather than Marsala wine, and added a little more Armagnac to the espresso prior to dipping the biscuits à la cuillère.  After all, it was an adult party and I wanted to 'booze up' the dessert a little more with this delicious, and healthy, French brandy.

Armagnac it is the oldest brandy distilled in France.  In the 14th century, Prior Vital Du Four, a Cardinal, claimed it had 40 virtues...

"It makes disappear redness and burning of the eyes, and stops them from tearing; it cures hepatitis, sober consumption adhering. It cures gout, cankers, and fistula by ingestion; restores the paralysed member by massage; and heals wounds of the skin by application. It enlivens the spirit, partaken in moderation, recalls the past to memory, renders men joyous, preserves youth and retards senility. And when retained in the mouth, it loosens the tongue and emboldens the wit, if someone timid from time to time himself permits."

Research conducted by scientists at Bordeaux University in 2007 also supports its health benefits,  finding that moderate consumption can help protect against heart disease and obesity.  The benefits are apparently derived from the unique distillation process and aging rather than from its alcoholic content. The southwestern area of France, where Armagnac is produced, has some of the lowest cardiovascular disease rates in the world.

Looking back on our party, I do believe our spirits were enlivened, the men were joyous, Jerry was especially witty, and none of our guests suffered a heart attack after returning home to take advantage of any lingering effects of the aphrodisiacs.

I attempted a molded Tiramisu, using a glass loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Freezing for an hour or so helps to slice the pieces cleanly. To be honest, I prefer the traditional, rustic presentation, scooped out and plopped on a plate!  I apologize for the final photo, shot in a rush, during the party.

You can find the complete recipes for our Tiramisu Challenge in The Daring Kitchen Recipe Archives, here.  Thank you, Aparna and Deeba, for your Heaven on a Dessert Plate Challenge!


Mary said...

It looks great--I love those blue plates you have the ladyfingers and the mascarpone on. Hopefully all the booze I put in mine was also healthy!

Ellie said...

Lovely tiramisu. Very nicely done.

Dragon said...

Your Tiramisu is lovely. :) Great job on this challenge!

ap269 said...

Your mascarpone looks awesome. The tiramisu looks very delicious, too!

nakedbeet said...

Your biscuits look divinely light and airy, nice job!

Peggy said...

this looks absolutely great!

Lisa said...

I can't believe I missed your beautiful and delicious tiramisu. I popped in to grab the nut crusted brie recipe and was drawn to it instead. Perfect mascarpone, savoiardi and well, just everything :)