Super Simple, No Egg, Country Style Tiramisu

In March 1999, Will and I had the best tiramisu we’ve ever had—before and after that date so long ago.  It’s possible, yes, that our excitement about being in London together during our first year of dating might have contributed something to this rosy recollection.  But bathed in nostalgia as that memory might be, we can honestly say that other food we had in London that week didn’t compare nearly so well to what we could get in Chicago.  Perhaps there is something to be said for that tiramisu.

We don’t remember exactly where the restaurant was—though I vaguely recall that it might have been yet another rustic country Italian restaurant named Campagnola (aren’t there a frightful lot of them?)—nor even what we ate for the rest of the meal.  But we do remember that when we ordered tiramisu for our dessert, someone rolled up a cart next to our table.  A cart?  Yes, like a cheese cart, or when they need to carve up your duck or something like that.  But, of course, since we’d only ever had tiramisu delivered as a rectangular shape on a plate, Will and I were a bit mystified by the process.

We were further puzzled when we saw a huge half-filled punch-bowl in the middle of the cart.  A matronly-looking woman then took a large spoon, scooped up a portion, and plopped it into a bowl.  Then—well, this being England—she picked up a pitcher and poured Crème Anglaise all around the mound sitting inside the bowl.  Indeed, it turned out to be tiramisu.  Or rather, it smelled like it and tasted like it—though admittedly it didn’t resemble any tiramisu in our experience.  We loved it.  The casual appearance, the unceremonious plopping onto the bowl (as opposed to the much more ceremonious “plating” we were used to), the creamy texture that was more ice cream-like than the usually more cake-like tiramisu we’d had.  It is still our fondest tiramisu memory.

So, when I found in Gordon Ramsey’s Fast Food cookbook a recipe for “Easy Tiramisu” that could possibly be converted to approximate my memory of that London tiramisu, I got to work.  I use heavy cream instead of his light cream (for a little extra "body," for substance), only 12 ladyfingers, and I make a whole batch and serve it in scoops—to be more “country style.” 

Here is the recipe I’ve come up with, modified from Gordon Ramsey’s.

Ingredients to serve 4-6:

For the cream portion:
2/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
3 T powdered sugar
1 cup mascarpone
1 t vanilla extract
1 T Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur

To dip:
¾ cup strong coffee or espresso at room temperature
1 T powdered sugar
2 T Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur

12 ladyfingers

Unsweetened cocoa powder (no more than 1 teaspoon is needed)


Blend 3 T powdered sugar and the 2/3 cup cream just until evenly combined, and then add mascarpone, vanilla extract, and the 1 T liqueur.  Whip until you reach the consistency of a fairly stiff whipping cream.

In a shallow bowl, blend the 1 T powdered sugar into the cooled coffee, and then stir in the 2 T liqueur.

Dip 4 ladyfingers in the coffee mixture, turn to soak from the other side, and then layer vertically in a rectangular 6x6 container.  Spread about 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture over the top, being careful not to scrape the delicate dipped ladyfingers.

Dip another 4 ladyfingers in the coffee mixture and then lay down horizontally on top of the mascarpone layer (like the picture above).  Yes, you just want to layer in the opposite direction to reduce unevenness in layers.  Then layer another 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture.  Repeat with the third layer of ladyfingers, drizzle any remaining coffee mixture on top, and then cover with the remaining layer of mascarpone.

Dust the top evenly with cocoa powder.

Cover the container and refrigerate at least 1 hour. 

When ready to serve, bring out plates or bowls, take a large serving spoon (long enough to reach the bottom of the container) and scoop out a desired-sized portion.  Try to lay it down such that you would be presented with the layers of cream and ladyfingers.  (No need for any crème anglaise!)

Happy Valentines Day!--weekend, month. . .


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