Pick Me Up is the translation of the much beloved Italian dessert Tiramisu. And Tie Me Down is what you should do if you find me in the same room with it because it really does turn me into a spineless, babbling automaton of a fool. It is that difficult to Not Eat Too Much of it. Even when the recipe has been tampered with mercilessly. And I must confess, I have a long history of adulteration with this most holy of desserts, to wit, scaling back on the fat, eliminating the eggs, and wringing out the alcohol until it is so dry, the only traces are to be found in the vanilla extract. And still it holds its own in the contest: it will have the upper hand at any spread, challenging dieter and gastronome alike to pass it by. Already full? Not to worry. These are mere clouds of delight. They are without substance and as such cannot be constrained. Already had some? Relax. This place is heaven. Obstruction of pleasure is not allowed.
I might have chosen other times of the year to wax lyrical about Tiramisu. It certainly is a great trick to pull off in the summer, no oven required. It’s quaint, and yet, cool: perfect for Mother’s Day or a birthday. But a recent revelation positions it, for me, in close proximity to the Festive Season. It’s because of that wonderful invention called store-bought eggnog. Quality versions do exist. It can easily be turned into custard by cooking it with cornstarch. (Or crème anglaise, using less cornstarch.) I suppose this might sound like an abomination, a desperate measure to be taken by only those who are so risk-averse when it comes to using raw eggs in a recipe. And these are required for an authentic Tiramisu. In the following adaptation, I have combined this custard with regular cream cheese, instead of the usual mascarpone. I go all out with the whipped cream and leave you to your own proclivities as to the spirits.
Recipe: M’s Tiramisu
2/3 liter good quality store-bought eggnog
scant ¼ c cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ pkg savoiardi ladyfingers (200 gms)
8 oz. cream cheese
½ c brown sugar
1 to 1½ c strong coffee
1/3 c brown sugar
1 pint whipping cream
3 tbsps brown sugar
some sort of alcohol is optional (rum, brandy, liqueur)
cocoa for dusting
Put half of eggnog in saucepan over medium to medium-high heat.
Whisk cornstarch together with other half of eggnog in small bowl. Then whisk this into saucepan and stir occasionally while it heats. As it grows increasingly hot, whisk more frequently, to continuously when it starts to thicken. When it hits a boil turn heat down to low, stirring for one more minute. Turn off heat. Stir in vanilla. Remove to a bowl and cover with a lid or a piece of saran wrap. Cool to room temp. If time is a factor, refrigerate to hasten cooling.
Beat cream cheese with brown sugar. Beat whipping cream with 3 tbsps brown sugar.
Beat eggnog pudding into cream cheese. Fold in 2/3 of whipped cream.
Add 1/3 c brown sugar to coffee (as well as alcohol if using), and place in a shallow bowl. Dip (and turn) ladyfingers to a count of three and place side by side in a 10 cup casserole dish (think medium-large), making one layer. Dust with cocoa. It helps to have a little sieve to do this, but failing that, use a spoon and sprinkle.
Spread about 1/3 cream cheese mixture on top.
Repeat layering twice. If, however, you ended up using a larger, shallower dish, e.g., a 9×13 pan, then you will likely only get 2 layers total. In this case, go with halves instead of thirds when it comes to the cream cheese mixture.
If any coffee remains after the final layer of ladyfingers, sprinkle it over all before the dusting of cocoa.
After final layer of cream cheese mixture, dust with cocoa. Cover all with remaining whipped cream.
Use all your restraint and let it sit for a good 20 hours before diving in.
And lest we forget….today is the birthday of a much celebrated musician, Cab Calloway.
I would like to share with you one of my personal favorites by him…..