Saturday, February 27, 2010

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Daring Bakers: Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I was so excited about this month's Daring Bakers challenge. Tiramisu is something I have long wanted to do. Alex loves this dessert and has asked me several times to make it and for some reason I have never made it. I think I was apprehensive because of one of the ingredients: Mascarpone cheese. Have you seen how much this cheese costs?? Luckily enough, the challenge included making your own mascarpone cheese and making the cheese is the simplest thing you will ever do. I will never turn away from a recipe that calls for mascarpone cheese now that I know how it make it from scratch.
This tiramisu has quite a few elements and requires some time because everything needs to rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. It's made up of zabaglione (an egg custard that reminded me of chewy caramel), vanilla pastry cream, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, ladyfingers, and a coffee dipping mixture. One of the signature flavors of tiramisu is coffee, but since I am not a huge coffee fan I substituted it with Kahlua. This little change made the dessert sweeter and more appealing to Alex.

When I assembled the tiramisu I was afraid that something wasn't right. The mascarpone mixture was a little thick and it didn't taste like what I thought it should. The next day, however, it was perfect. The tiramisu really needs that time overnight so that all the flavors can blend and settle. Even the mascarpone mixture changed consistency and flavor; it turned into a sweet and light cream whose flavor was enhanced by the Kahlua dipped ladyfingers and the chocolate topping.

Tiramisu is made up of several components which can be made separately and ahead of time and put together the day before serving.

Making tiramisu from scratch requires about 2 to 3 days (including refrigeration) from when you start making the mascarpone to the time the tiramisu is served.

Please read the instructions as you need to begin making the mascarpone at least a day in advance.

The zabaglione & pastry cream also need 4 hours to an overnight for chilling, as does the main dessert. The flavours mature after an overnight rest, and the dessert can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days.

Once assembled, the tiramisu can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.


  • A double boiler (a stainless steel bowl that fits inside a large saucepan/ pot without touching the bottom will do)
  • Two or three large mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • A medium sized heavy bottomed pan
  • Fine meshed strainer (to remove lumps from pastry cream, if any)
  • Electric mixer, hand held
  • Serving dish (or dishes) of choice (8" by 8" should be fine)
  • Spatula for folding and spoons as required
  • Plastic wrap/ clingfilm
  • Baking sheets
  • Parchment paper or nonstick liners
  • Pastry bag (can be disposable)
  • Plain 3/4" pastry bag tip or cut the end of pastry bag to this size (If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off)
  • Oven
  • Cooling rack
  • Thin-bladed spatula for removing ladyfinger biscuits from the baking sheets
  • Instant-read thermometer (optional)
  • Strainer
  • Cheesecloth or cotton napkin for draining mascarpone
  • Fine-mesh strainer for shaking cocoa powder on tiramisu


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.

Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.

Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.

Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.

Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.

Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.

Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Friday, February 26, 2010

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Little Ms. Catarina! This post is long overdue seeing as how Catarina was born on Valentine's Day. I can't believe she's already 12 days old. This new life with her has been everything but boring. I couldn't have asked for a better pregnancy and, truth be told, I kind of still wish I was pregnant because then I'd know the baby was always safe and developing well. Having her here, living in our world, is difficult because I am constantly worried about how much and how often she is eating, how many poopy and wet diapers she has a day. In short, I worry about things I didn't have to worry about when she was in my belly. Never again will I complain about pregnancy!
I started having contractions on the 12th, which was Alex's birthday. I was excited at the prospect of active labor being hours away. I was wrong. I had painful, irregular contractions for close to 2 days. This was not what I thought labor would be like. Once I was admitted to the hospital things moved quickly. I was dilating at a great pace and then things stopped. I was stuck at 8 cm for 3 hours and I could feel every single contraction despite the epidural. I had never felt such pain before. There really is no way to describe the pain other than saying it feels very primitive and animalistic. I ended up having a c-section, which is not what I wanted, but once concerns for your well-being and the baby's come up you don't have a choice because that maternal instinct kicks in and tells you to do whatever is best to make sure your baby is ok. At that point it's not longer about you, it's all about that tiny human being inside you. Consider this the first of many moments where your child comes before everything else.
Recovery has been great. I had no nasty side effects and I'm at my normal activity level. People were surprised by how quickly I bounced back. I blame it on motivation and determination. I am motivated and determined to live this new life as best as I can. I want to care for my daughter and still be self-sufficient and independent.
It's hard to really describe how parenthood changes you. It changes you to your core. If you were an impatient person, parenthood will automatically make you the most patient person in the world. If you used to stress out about little things, parenthood changes your priorities and makes you focus on the more important things. Parenthood is a HUGE emotional investment. Not only do you fall deeply and madly in love with a person you don't even know, but you also spend nearly all your waking hours thinking about your child's past, present, and future. You think about all your fears, hopes, and dreams. You cry, you laugh, and you spend hours upon hours just staring at the little human you helped create.
Parenthood is a rollercoaster. You have your good days and your bad days. I know I'm only 12 days in and my experience with parenthood is just a very small speck on the tip of the iceberg, but parenthood can be just as rewarding as it is upsetting. I had the joy of giving birth to a healthy baby girl but then I had the sadness of being discharged before her due to a case of jaundice. I had the joy of getting her to latch on for hour long breastfeeding sessions only to experience the sadness of seeing her weight quickly drop because she wasn't getting enough milk. So it's a rollercoaster. Things don't always go as planned, but parenthood isn't something you can plan for. You just have to go with it and try to enjoy each minute of it.
I love having a newborn despite the sleep deprivation. I am, however, looking forward to seeing Catarina grown and become an interactive infant. I'm also looking forward to becoming more confident in my parenting and enjoying Catarina more without all the worries I have now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

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TWD: My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

If I could only bake one thing for the rest of my life I would be completely content with baking chocolate chip cookies. There are so many variations on this cookie classic and I have yet to encounter one that doesn't satisfy. Sure, my preference is for a chewy cookie, but I will take a chocolate chip cookie in any form. I don't care if it's crispy, flat, or puffy.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when I saw that Kait of Kait's Plate selected Dorie's chocolate chip cookies for us TWD bakers to make. Alex loved this cookie. He even proclaimed it the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever made. He says he prefers crispy cookies but I think was he really prefers are nuts in the cookies because I found this cookies to be more on the chewy side. Even more proof of my theory is the fact that he liked them better the next day when the cookies were chewier (and that's that I left them out in the open!).
Thanks to Kait for a great selection! Don't forget to stop by TWD to see what everyone else thought about Dorie's take on this cookie classic.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

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TWD: Rick Katz’s Brownies for Julia

Before I say anything else, I must tell you that you absolutely have to make these brownies. Wow. At first I was skeptical because it seemed like too many steps and too many dirty dishes. Was I the only one that had to read the directions a few times to figure out what mixed into what? I even read the directions out loud because I just wasn't getting it; I felt like a baking idiot.
Once I figured it all out and got everything baked away I was blown away by the brownies. They were intensely chocolaty and oh so gooey. These brownies are perfect for serving up with some ice cream (and fudge and caramel), which is exactly what I did. Alex's first bite was the first bite every baker/cook wants to see: the closing of the eyes, the savoring of flavors, and the "mmmmmm that's amazing." I couldn't help but to react the same way and be thankful to Tanya of Chocolatechic for her incredible choice.Stop by Tanya's blog for the recipe. I promise you will not regret it. And while you're at it, stop by TWD to read about everyone else's thoughts on this week's selection.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

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I have been a bad blogger. I can't even blame it on being too busy with a newborn because the baby is still baking away and showing no signs of being ready to join us. I can't blame it on Alex either because he went back to work this week. The truth is that I have been lazy. All I've been doing is spending my days hanging around the house and resting. Sure, I have cleaned the house and done laundry but if it weren't for Alex's need for a real meal, I would probably be living off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I've been in the mood to do very little and resting during the day makes up for the lack of rest I get at night. Catarina isn't even really here yet, but she keeps me up at night with her painful and uncomfortable movements. Oh and my appetite sucks. I feel like I'm at the beginning of this pregnancy again because nothing appeals to me and the smallest meals fill me to the point where I think I am going to explode.

I hope Catarina decides to come out soon. There are lots of people who want to meet her and her parents are anxiously waiting to start spoiling her with kisses, hugs, nibbles, and love. Since I don't feel like I really shared anything interesting with you, here are some of the maternity pictures we took, courtesy of Yania from Breathtaking Memories:These are only a few of my favorites and I have over 200 pictures. I cannot wait to see what pictures Yania gets once Cati's here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I was in the mood for a sour cream cake. I hate when I get in the mood for something so specific because I know chances are greater that I will make something that doesn't hit the spot than making something that does. Luckily enough, I made this recipe and it was exactly what I wanted. I wanted a cake with sour cream in it because I love the flavor and texture sour cream gives desserts. Desserts just taste silkier to me when sour cream is an ingredient.

This cake is easy to put together and it fills your kitchen up with the most delightful of smells. The cake is delicious warm and at room temperature but I feel it's even better the next morning for breakfast.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Source: Carole Bloom's The Essential Baker
Yields one 9 1/2-inch round cake

For the cake
6 oz (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the topping
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 granulated sugar
1/4 firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 1/2-inch springform pan.

Place the butter in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until it is fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the sugar to the butter, and cream together well. Stop occasionally and scrape down the bottom and the sides with a rubber spatula.

Add the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add the sour cream and vanilla to the butter mixture and blend together thoroughly.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and toss together to blend.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 stages, blending thoroughly after each addition.

Combine all the ingredients for the topping in a bowl.

Transfer half the batter to the prepared pan. The batter is very thick, so use a rubber spatula to spread it evenly into the pan. Sprinkle half the topping over the batter. Transfer the remaining batter to the pan and spread it evenly over the topping. Sprinkle the remaining topping over the batter.

Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack. Remove the side of the springform pan and lift off the cake.

Slice the cake and enjoy!