One of my all-time favorite desserts to make when entertaining is Tiramisu. It's an impressive crowd pleaser that requires no baking, and it has booze in it; what more can you ask for? Although a traditional tiramisu generally requires only a handful of ingredients, some of these ingredients can really hike up your budget, and have you wondering if you should have gone to the bakery instead.
I have an awesome Tiramisu recipe that I've been relying on for years. So I figured if I use the same method, but either replace or eliminate some of the expensive candidates, we'd be in business. It was a risk, but whisk in hand, it was one I was ready to take. Probably the most expensive of these ingredients is Mascarpone Cheese, an Italian and more delicate version of cream cheese. Contemplating its replacement, I decided to go a little loco and eliminate the Mascarpone all together.
As for the booze portion of this dessert, which can also run you a good buck, I say when a recipe calls for a liquor, use what you got. Coffee liquor, rum, or even amaretto are the usual suspects for this particular dessert. But you know what, I didn't have any of those in my liquor cabinet. Not eager to shell out 20+ bucks for something that I would only use a few tablespoons of, I improvised and used coffee flavored tequila instead.
Even if all you have is some strongly flavored liquor like raspberry, coconut, or almond, go for it! Yeah it won't be a conventional tiramisu, but it will be your signature tiramisu. After all, rules are for people too scared to make their own.
Poor Man's Tiramisu
(yield: 12-14 servings)
5 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder2 tbsp instant coffee (or espresso)
1 pint heavy cream
4 tbsp coffee-flavored liquor (or whatever you have on hand)24 ladyfinger cookies (or any elongated cookies, whatever is cheaper)
Whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp cocoa powder in a large bowl. Place over water bath* and continue to whisk over low heat, until mixture thickens and increases in volume, about 8 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar to form stiff peaks; set aside.
Dissolve 1 tbsp of instant coffee in 2 tbsp of boiling water (this will be used to flavor the whipped cream). Set aside, and let cool.
Dissolve the remaining 3 tbsp of instant coffee in 2 cups boiling water. Stir in coffee liquor, and set aside to cool (this will be used to soak the ladyfingers).
Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream with 1/2 cup sugar and the reserved coffee (the first mixture - 1 tbsp) to form stiff peaks.
Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture in increments of 4. Now gently fold the whipped cream into the egg mixture in the same manner.
Spoon some of the cream into a trifle dish so that it reaches about 1-inch up the sides. Soak the ladyfingers in the reserved coffee mixture (the 2nd mixture with the liquor) for a few seconds, and arrange them to cover the surface of the cream (6 ladyfingers should do the trick if using a standard trifle dish). Top with another layer of cream, slightly thicker than the first. Continue with ladyfingers, another layer of cream, and repeat twice more, ending with a layer of cream.
Use a sieve or strainer to dust the remaining cocoa powder over the top.
If you're feeling extra fancy, place a spoon and fork in a cross pattern on top of the finished tiramisu before dusting with cocoa powder. After dusting, gently remove the utensils and you should have a beautiful little embellishment (not that this dessert really needs it). Refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours.
*To form a water bath, fill a medium saucepan 1/4 of the way up with water. Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low. Top with a bowl that is large enough to sit on top without falling through or touching the water.