Saturday, June 7, 2008

tried & true: tiramisu

a miniature tiramisu dessert - how can it not be #1?

so i entered a dessert showdown contest at work. there were no guidelines other than we had to provide 75 of the item we were making for the rest of my division to taste each dessert and vote on their favorite. helen and i decided we'd represent our office and i knew i'd make something i'd made a few times before with good reviews. these tiramisu cupcakes are what i'd call a winning recipe. or so i thought. i didn't win the showdown, but despite the heat and some kitchen disasters, people really liked them.

i like this recipe because it produce a fluffy, sponge-like cake and the frosting is so good, you'll want to eat it on everything in your pantry. and even though it has a lot of steps, it's pretty easy. it's even easier when you aren't making 50 (I cut these in half at the showdown so each person got half a mini-cupcake to judge).

the recipe starts out with a meringue. i love meringue for cookies and pie toppers, and i like it just as much as the base of a cake recipe. i also love that my kitchen-aid will whip up egg yolks in, literally, the blink of an eye. i recall those hand mixer days of yore when i'd spend at least 10 minutes (!) just beating 3 or 4 whites to the right consistency...

whip it, beat it

and don't worry about wasting yolks - you need those, too! i am always amazed at how different three minutes of beating changes the yolks. i'm also very saddened when the first batch of yolks are mixed in a bowl with dishwashing soap residue and come out tasting as much soapy as they were foamy. disaster #1: cracking 9 more eggs just to use the yolks. so much for not wasting things.

folding everything together (here's where i should have noticed the heat affecting my batter)

so now you've seen the batter, do you want the recipe? i came across this one through the cupcake blog (which, i must add, just shut down! ::sobs in cheerios::) and i've only seen it in a flickr album.

it's not a cupcake blog recipe, i don't think, but i'm not sure who to properly credit (becky, maybe?) also, this is the original recipe. when i referred to 9 yolks/whites above, it was because I did 1.5 of this to get more cuppie cakes.

tiramisu cupcakes
6 eggs, separated (allow to come to room temp)
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 c suagr, divided
3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 c sifted flour (measure after sifting)

1. beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy
2. add half the sugar (1/2 c), 2 tbsp at a time, beating consistently until glossy and smooth, set aside
(meringue should form soft peaks, rub a bit of it between your fingers to be sure sugar has dissolved)
3. in a small bowl* beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored (3-5 minutes)
4. gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 c sugar, water, vanilla, and salt
5. sprinkle flour over egg whites and add yolk mixture, gently fold together
6. fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 350 F for 10-15 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean)

*one without soapy residue

such pretty, off-white cupcakes. they puff up nicely but come down just a bit as they cool.

stabbed and soaked with espresso syrup

here comes the tiramisu part. these already moist and delicious cupcakes get a heavy dose of espresso syrup which absorbs and adds important flavor to the whole dessert.

espresso syrup
1/2 c powdered sugar
2/3 c water
5 tsp espresso powder (I use instant coffee packets and add an extra tsp)

1. heat water, sugar and coffee until boiling, stirring occasionally
2. remove from heat and cool completely

when cupcakes and syrup are cool, poke holes in each cupcake top and pour 1/2 - 1 tsp of syrup in each (i would do more for large cupcakes, but this is the right amount for minis)

frost me up, baby. it's ALL about the frosting

this is obviously my favorite part. it's also probably going to be yours if you already have an over-the-top obsession with cream cheese frosting. why? because this is tiramisu...which means mascarpone.

unfortunately, this is where disaster #2 came into play on this particular balmy spring night. for reasons beyond my knowledge, my first batch of frosting (including almost $10 worth of freaking cheese) went into the garbage. i whipped my ingredients up only to find a soupy mess. then i made a big mistake and added cold butter to my frosting to try and stiffen it up. i even, in trying to salvage this huge amount of goods, added some shortening (zero trans fat). i put the bowl in the freezer. i mixed and mixed and was left with a soupy, chunky mess. then i had a breakdown and threatened to back out of the showdown. it was so dramatic! husband came to the rescue with his calm nature and said he would buy more mascarpone and i would try again.

i did try again and was met with success. i have made this frosting multiple times before and had never once had a problem, so i blame the mess on two things: the heat in the kitchen and my use of cooking marsala wine. it was memorial day and i had forgotten to buy any marsala and the cooking wine was all i had. don't use that, ok? please, let me be clear. this frosting is so good when it taste all boozey and creamy at the same time. so use the real stuff!

oh sweet success. so many frosted cupcakes, so little time

mascarpone frosting
3 c mascarpone cheese
1 c powdered sugar
1/4 c marsala wine (the REAL stuff)
3/4 c heavy cream (go easy on this one)

1. blend together cheese, sugar and win until combined
2. slowly add the cream, 2 tbsp at a time, until fluffy (stop when you reach desired consistency)
3. throw frosting into a piping bag and frost each cupcake

to complete the cupcake and make it more authentic, you simply must dust with cocoa powder and sprinkle some chocolate shavings on top.

these are good. i know they can win contests. i haven't met a person yet who hasn't scarfed one down and thought about having a second, immediately. and trust me, i've tested this on a lot of subjects.


Nathanial said...

It should be mentioned that the showdown winner used boxed ingredients and made a Pittsburgh area favorite. What happens when you let burghers judge dessert? They choose on familiarity rather than taste and novelty - despicable!

alauna said...

if nothing else, helen should have won with her lemango shorties.

it should also be mentioned that the above poster will eat boxed brownies. i meant no harm to the contestants of this showdown when i posted this entry - which i why i made no mention of who won and with what dessert.

we're all winners, right?

Nathanial said...

I only eat boxed brownies out of necessity. It doesn't mean I prefer them to brownies-from-scratch.... hint hint.

Thomas said...

These were totally delicious. You should note for others though that the heat in the room makes a difference to texture and that texture with these affects the overall taste. They were good on the day they were left out, but great the next day after having been in the refrigerator.

I'd eat a million in five minutes.

(Also, a line in the first paragraph has a break randomly.)