Saturday, July 29, 2006

Are you the one?

It it a staple in many, maybe even every Italian ristorante. Perhaps, a dessert that should be a repertoire of every chef. A test of standards, maybe. A dessert who's history is debatable, and that needs no further introduction, or history lesson on another blog site.
I give you, Tiramisu à la Nicholas.
Tiramisu, à la Nicholas
I started looking for the perfect tiramisu recipe sometime in 2005. If you have scoured the world wide web for a tiramisu recipe, you will know that are many different kinds of recipes, and several ways of assembling this dessert. That, can leave you frustrated or confused. Which recipe then, is the perfect one? If I'm gonna pay a pretty penny for a tub of mascarpone, I am gonna want to make the perfect tiramisu, no? I personally do not think there is a perfect recipe for this popular Italian dessert. It is only as good, as what you think it is. As with many other desserts that do not require precise measurements, I go with the flow. Who am I serving it to? Will they prefer a boozy version, or a booze free version? How should I present this? Should it be elaborate with many different kinds of garnishes? How sweet should the tiramisu mixture be? What kind of coffee shall I use?
I really enjoyed making this particular batch. I have to say, it was almost therapeutic. I was not boxed in by exact measurements. I started off by pouring boiling water into a bowl filled with Ipoh White Coffee grounds. I paused to savour the aroma that was generously released. I then gently mashed the mascarpone into a smooth mixture. After which, I cracked whatever eggs I have left in the fridge and playfully separated the yolks from the whites by hand. I pour some sugar into the eggs and taste. Yea okay, I think it's sweet enough. I pour some sugar into my saucepan that my dad bought for me and put it under a running tap, filling it with just over twice the amount of sugar and I put it on the flame. I walk over to my liquor cupboard and I open up the doors and consider the selection. Rum? Nah, tried that one before. Marsala? Typical. Sherry? Dosen't quite hit the spot. Ah, Cognac, I taste some and I like the way it fills my mouth.The full bodiedness of the cognac won me over. I poured myself abit more although it was unnesessary. I splash some cognac into the eggs and taste. Hmm, maybe just a bit more. Splash. I turn to the now simmering pot and I pour the syrupy liquid into the coffee and I refill the pan with just abit of water and I set the bowl of sweet boozy egg yolks over it. The arduous process of whisking the mixture constanly over a stove begins, and will only end as soon as ribbons form in the mixture, turning it into a Zabaglione. Not with Marsala wine, but Cognac. I whisked, and whisked, and whisked somemore. What began as a trickle of sweat turned into something that need not be described. Hey, it's hot here in Singapore, and I have to shut the doors, or the wind will blow the flame out on the hob. Minutes pass, and the boozy egg mixture begins to thicken. Almost there... almost there... Heck, I'll turn up the heat and speed up the process. I'll slap myself silly if it turns into scrambled eggs. There! Just about the right consistency. I take it off the heat and whisk somemore, encouraging the mixture to cool down even faster. I open the doors, and enjoy the gush of wind rushing into the kitchen. One of the perks of living 14 floors up. I pour the Zabaglione into the mascarpone, and I go into a rhythm of turning the bowl counter-clockwise between each fold. The yellow of the zabaglione becomes a playful swirl against the white sea of triple cream cheese and it soons turn into a off-white mixture. I take a taste. Needs more sugar. No worries. I take another bowl and whisk out of the freezer which I had placed in earlier on and set it into the stand mixer. I pour in a desired amount of cream and spooned in some powdered sugar. I set the speed on high. The loud whirring of the kenwood mixer makes me want to hurl it down the rubbish chute and buy myself a Kitchen Aid Mixer. I watch the whisk spin in the bowl, and I'm almost hypnotized by the rotating whisk and loud whirs. A trace of ribbon begins to form and it snaps me out of my "stoned" state. I look more intently now, and I stop the mixer as soon as medium stiff peaks form. I begin the rhythm again, and fold the whipped cream into the off-white mixture. I taste it again. A slight smile breaks over my lips. Perfect. I start straining the coffee, separating sweet aromatic liquid from bland coffee grounds. I take out all of my little cups and line them up like little soul-less soldiers on cling wrapped trays. I tear open a packet of vicenzo sponge fingers and break them into half. I baptize them in liquid gold and tease them into the round bottoms. I thumb a bottle of Tia Maria, and sprinkle the liquor into the already moist sponge fingers. This oughta give the coffee a pleasant boost in flavour. I fill up a piping bag with the tiramisu mixture and I pipe them into the glasses. I repeat the process of dunking the sponge fingers and sprinkling Tia Maria to form a second layer, and I top it off with the rest of the tiramisu mixture, scraping out every bit with my essential rubber spatula. I cling wrap the entire tray, glasses and all, and proudly lifted it onto the top shelf of the refrigerator.

I went to bed that night, satisfied. I don't mean to claim that my version of the tiramisu is the best. But I am very happy with it because I've considered the ingredients carefully, and this is the way I like my tiramisu. Light, rich, and boozy with a strong coffee flavour. I can't wait to try it later. In about 9-11 hours actually. I made these for the ladies meeting at church, and I set aside 8 cups for the worship team. Hopefully, they will still be there, and I can have one.

I just spent the entire friday with Chris, grocery shopping at tekka market and then at carrefour. I couldn't refuse to try some hazelnut coffee that Jeremy's mom offered earlier on, while we were preparing for today's burger barbeque, and now I'm still wide awake. A bad call, I must say. I'm gonna start making burger buns in 2-3 hours, and sauces while the bread is proofing, and I've been awake for more than 21 hours now. It's time for a power nap.
Watch out for the Burger Barbeque post!

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