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Tiramisù

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I really have to start my post on this wonderful dessert by talking about a gripe of mine. The word ‘tiramisù’ seems to be universally translated as “pick me up”, when in reality it should be “pull me up.” The verb “tirare” (as in “tira mi su”) means “to pull”. The English word “to pick” has several meanings and there is no direct translation into Italian.

Anyway, translation nit-picking aside, the tiramisù must surely be one of the most well known Italian desserts, served in practically every Italian restaurant outside of Italy. I always make a point of trying the house tiramisù whenver I go to a new Italian restaurant (and there are many in London).

Tiramisu - by wEnDy" on Flickr.

Tiramisù – by wEnDy” on Flickr.

A typical tiramisù is made up of alternating layers of finger biscuits (savoiardi) dipped in coffee, and the tiramisu cream mixture. This mixture is made up of egg yolks, whites, mascarpone cheese, sugar, and sometimes cream. Cocoa powder is sprinkled on top. In some recipes, marsala wine is also added. It is served and eaten cold.

I won’t repeat a recipe here as you can find countless varieties on the web. However, one problem I’ve always had when preparing it is trying to make sure it sets properly in the fridge, and doesn’t end up drippy. This is a big problem. After you prepare the mixture and add the layers into a tin, you have to immediately put it into the fridge and let it set for several hours. The actual time depends on the ingredients you have used and the size of the tin. When you press the spoon into a well-set tiramisu, there should be very little resistance, but on the other hand it shouldn’t just sink into the mixture. You should be able to easily ‘pull’ up a spoonful and have the mixture rise up with it, which is where the name of the dessert comes from.

It sounds like an easy recipe, and generally it is, but ensuring you have the right proportions of ingredients can be tricky. If you haven’t made it before, be prepared for a few attempts before you get it just right.

I was also surprised to discover that the tiramisù, far from being a recipe going back hundreds of years, was only ‘invented’ (can you use that word for a food?) in the 1960s. Indeed, the first reference to the word ‘tiramisù’ in a cookbook is in the early 80s.

Whether you’ve made it yourself or are enjoying it in a restaurant, a tiramisù is an excellent ending to a good meal. I can’t believe I didn’t try one in Sicily!

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