- 100ml strong coffee (see step 1)
- 4 eggs
- 75g caster sugar
- 450g mascarpone
- 2 tbsp sweet marsala (optional)
- 2 tbsp dark rum (optional)
- 16-24 savoiardi biscuits (or boudoir), depending on the size of your dish
- Cocoa powder, to dust
1. Make the coffee
Espresso is ideal, because you want the coffee to have as intense a flavour as possible, but if you don’t have a machine at home, a strongly brewed cafetiere, or filter will do. For this recipe we recommend a coffee like the Guatemala Finca La Bolsa Natural or Brazil Montanari.
2. Separate the eggs
Separate the eggs into two large, clean bowls – you’ll be beating the whites into a foam, so it’s important they’re not contaminated with any yolk, which might interfere with the process. As such, we’d advise cracking each white into a small bowl first, so you can make sure of this before you add it to the larger bowl.
3. Whip the egg whites
Whisk the whites until they form stiff, rather than droopy peaks – you should be able to hold the bowl upside down with confidence, though be careful when testing this.
(Don’t be tempted to keep whisking after they reach this stage, because they’ll quickly start to break down into a watery mess, and you’ll need to whisk in a fresh white to get them back.) Set aside.
4. Mix the yolks with sugar
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until voluminous and pale yellow in colour; like whipping the egg whites, this is easiest done with a food mixer or electric beaters. Drain off any excess liquid from the mascarpone, if necessary, put it into a medium bowl and beat with a wooden spoon to loosen a little.
5. Mix the yolks and mascarpone
Beat the cheese into the egg yolks a little at a time, until you have a smooth mixture without any lumps – with such a simple dessert, it’s worth taking your time, but try not to be too violent or you’ll lose the air you’ve just whipped into the yolks and sugar.
6. Add the whisked whites
Using a large metal spoon, gently fold a third of the whisked whites into the cheese mixture, then, once that’s well combined, fold in the rest, again being careful to knock out as little air from the mix as possible. (The pudding will still be edible if it’s a bit flat, or indeed lumpy, but it won’t be as deliciously light.)
7. Now for the coffee (and booze)
Put the coffee and alcohol, if using, into a wide dish. Booze doesn’t appear in all versions of tiramisu, but it does make it a more interesting dish. Feel free to adjust to taste: we’d suggest combining something sweet and something strong – sweet sherry or a liqueur such as amaretto or triple sec instead of marsala, and brandy or grappa instead of rum).
8. Soak the biscuits
Dip each biscuit – savoiardi, available from larger supermarkets and Italian specialists, are best, because they’re drier and lighter than boudoir biscuits or trifle sponges, but use whatever you can find – into the coffee mixture until they’re a pale brown colour, and then use them to line the base of a medium serving bowl.
9. Layer, chill, then dust with cocoa
Spoon a third of the mascarpone mixture on top of the biscuits, followed by a generous sprinkle of cocoa.
Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with a layer of the cheese mix. Cover and refrigerate for four to six hours before serving, though you can make it a day ahead, if necessary, before ending with a final flourish of cocoa dusted on top.