Another regular feature? I guess this guy’s downhill too…
In my endless quest to find something akin to a talent within myself, I have found myself making a lot of desserts. I can’t put all of the blame on the hopeless desire for self-actualization. A slew of fellow interns from my company are heading back to school around this time and I would be remiss not to at least try my hand at making a dessert for the farewell festivities. Right?
Now, I want to be clear right here and now about one very important thing.
I can’t cook.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Why would you write about making food then?” Well, to answer the question that you never got the chance to explicitly ask, I want to write about my attempts to make really cool desserts. I achieved some marginal success, most likely from the high grade of ingredients in Japan, plus some amount of hard work on my part. My hope is that you can take my advice and ideas and attempt to improve upon my efforts.
Oh, I also don’t have an oven.
As a result, I have been forced to improvise wildly. This should increase the originality of this content at least.
Anyways, I have decided to start adding my kitchen escapades to my long list of regular blog entries. Today, I will be dealing with first major undertaking while here, Tiramisu.
I have always been enamored with Tiramisu ever since I at some at a neighbors house back when I was in grade school. I can’t even remember the second time I had Tiramisu, but it wasn’t until I made it a few months back that I was able to have that terrific taste in my mouth again.
So let’s get to the recipe. How did I make it?
Well, like all of my recipes, I made someone else’s recipe. xD
Here is a good place to start. Basically, tiramisu is your basic layer recipe. You have a “cake” layer, and then various other cream or custard layers, and you alternate between layers in a repeatable pattern until you run out of ingredients. Voila! Tiramisu.
You can do your own research for tiramisu recipes, and if you find a way to make a different custard, cream or “cake” layer, go with that! Improvise as much as you can, and it shouldn’t fail as long as you keep the structure the same. At the end, you want someone to be able to dig their spoon in and get a stratified layer of cake and custard. The exact compositions are a matter of taste, cost, availability of ingredients etc.
For my tiramisu, I used same recipe for the custard. The custard recipe you see in the link above is NOT easy. Take care because the egg will boil and cook when you least expect it. Keep and eye and make sure that it doesn’t burn or over cook. Otherwise, you will find yourself making omelette tiramisu, and while that might go over well in Osaka, any pattisier worth his or her weight in sugar would have you drawn and quartered. Also, don’t be worried after you start mixing the custard with the mascarpone cheese. It will still maintain a yellow-ish tinge from the yolk, and that’s fine.
One difference that I had with the above recipe is that I mixed the cream and custard together to form one layer, and I decreased the overall recipe to make less of both to have a thinner “custard cream” layer. This was because the pan I had on hand was not very tall at all, and the result was that I had to downscale my recipe to meet that requirement.
In addition, this recipe in particular calls for something called “ladyfinger” cakes. I have never had one, at least not to my knowledge, and I don’t really understand why so many of the recipes I found asked for this cake in particular. I know that many really good recipes will ask you to make a cake layer by baking, and with this option not available to me I had to look for alternatives. In the end, I landed upon castella cake, a type of tea or coffee time cake that is relatively common here in Japan. I also tried using pound cake, and that works as well. The key is that the cake should be relatively dry and preferably does not have any additional flavors or additives in it. Bascially, it should just act as a sponge for the coffee that you will be dipping the cake into. Since you can’t tailor bake the cake to taste of coffee, you need a plain cake and have the coffee be absorbed throughout. You can play with the taste of the cake if you like, but I suggest keeping it simple, so as to not complicate the tastes within this many layered cake, it is already complex enough as it is.
Speaking of the dipping, TAKE CARE! A fatal flaw of this improvised method is that the cake can get too wet. Make sure that when you dip, keep the dipping very short. It does not have to be dipped all the way, especially if you are using a cake that is not very dense. Like a porous sponge, the cake will easily spread the dilute coffee throughout. For a denser cake, you have a little more leeway if you dip for a little longer by mistake. In the case of this coffee-cake step, too little is marginally better than too much. Too much coffee means a soggy cake, which might end up falling apart easy. The nice thing about layer cakes is that in both cakes, the taste is just as good :). That is mostly due to the fact that the underlying layers will be smooshed by tasty cream and, in the fridge, everything will just solidify in position. Even if it has no proper structure, the bottom cake layer has nowhere to really go, so it doesn’t matter too much (it’s just not as pro :]).
Finally, there is the layering of the toppings, which is simple enough to do. Again, creativity can help. If you felt that you were not able to get enough of an ingredient you want, this is a good way to physically shoehorn it in at the last minute. For example, dusting some cocoa powder or espresso in between layers can be a nice little way to add an extra preferred flavor. It won’t completely overhaul the cake and its a near thing to try. Especially if you are making a larger cake, you can always choose one half or one quarter of the cake to try it on and that way if people don’t like it, you can always just give them the unmodified part.
And there you have it! A fun, easy to make tiramisu, no baking required. I will leave you with an extra tip about planning. In this recipe, I would recommend making the custard first and making the coffee-dipped cake last. The custard should be made first because it takes about an hour to chill before you can mix it with the mascarpone. As for the cake, you don’t want it to be covered in coffee and exposed to air for too long. Either it will have too little coffee and will just dry out and become boring, or it will be dipped too much and become too soggy to easily handle when assembling the cake. Therefore, don’t make the cake layer until you are ready for assembly and do both simultaneously.
That’s all for now folks! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you think, I will take requests for recipes as well, and feel free to share this with whoever you want. Thanks again for reading and have a great day!
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