Easy, classic tiramisu
FoodA no-bake dessert

Easy, classic tiramisu

This decadent dessert takes less than 10 minutes to assemble

Tiramisu (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Tiramisu (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Tiramisu is a light yet luxurious dessert that was on my list of “special and complicated” things to try one day. That is until I started looking at recipes for it and realized this is incredibly simple to whip up — literally, the whipped cream takes 5 minutes to make and the entire dessert takes 10 minutes to put together.

Who doesn’t love a no-bake dessert? It’s practically foolproof if you follow my instructions on how to handle the ladyfingers — and if you happen to botch a portion, you can cover it with cream and cocoa and nobody will ever see it.

The ingredients are easy to find at most grocery stores. Tiramisu does use a small amount of chocolate liqueur or brandy. If you don’t want to purchase a large bottle, the mini-size bottles hold more than enough for this recipe.

1 package of ladyfingers (I suggest buying two packages in case you have a mishap)
1½ cups whipping cream
1 8-ounce container of mascarpone cheese
⅓ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces (1½ cups) of espresso or very strong black coffee
3 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur or brandy
Cocoa powder for dusting

Place the mascarpone cheese container on the counter an hour before preparation to allow it to come to room temperature. Mascarpone cheese is like a fine ricotta cheese, but when it’s cold, the texture is closer to whipped cream cheese and is too difficult to fold into the whipped cream mixture.

Most recipes call for cold espresso. I don’t have an espresso machine and I was not about to run out to a coffee shop to buy some.

If you use high-quality strong coffee at home, set aside 12 ounces to cool. I used Starbucks Via instant coffee. Two packets measure 1 tablespoon of instant coffee. I mixed the instant coffee with boiling water and I was very happy with the flavor. If you have it on hand, you could use espresso powder, which is often sold in baking aisles. Don’t use regular instant coffee because it won’t have the same intense flavor.

You can use either a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer to make the whipped cream, although a stand mixer does the job faster. If you have room, put your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 20 minutes before prepping. This helps the cream whip up and retain its texture, especially if the temperature in your kitchen is on the warm side. Add the heavy whipping cream to the mixing bowl mix it on medium-low for a minute, then add the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Once the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer to medium-high and whip for a few minutes or until the mixture is dense and fluffy.

Turn the mixer to low and add the teaspoon of vanilla. Mix for 10 seconds and turn off the mixer.
Fold in the mascarpone cheese by hand.

Use a small dish with squared-off corners to prepare the dessert — either an 8-inch-by-8-inch square or a smaller rectangular dish, which can be made from any material.

Pour the cold coffee mixture into a shallow bowl and add 3 tablespoons of liqueur or brandy, then mix it quickly with a fork.

Quickly dip each ladyfinger into the coffee and immediately place it into the dish. The first time that I made this, I thought that I was savvy and saving time and put 4 ladyfingers into the coffee. They immediately dissolved and left a mess. I learned the hard way that dipping one at a time means one at a time.

Arrange a flat layer of soaked ladyfingers (half of the package) across the bottom of the pan. If there are any holes, fill them in with extra pieces, even if you have to arrange them in a different direction.

Dot the ladyfingers with about half of the whipped cream mixture and gently spread it around with a spatula.

Dip and arrange the remaining ladyfingers into the coffee, and cover the second layer with the remaining whipped cream.

Dust with cocoa powder, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. Keep refrigerated until time to serve. It’s best to let this rest overnight so that the taste of the alcohol can tone down a bit.

When you take the plastic wrap off, you may have a few spots where it adhered to the cream. If that happens, dust it again with a bit more cocoa powder to hide those spots.

This recipe makes 8 large pieces or 12 smaller pieces. It’s light in texture so you won’t feel overfull if you follow dinner with this dessert.

Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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