I returned on Christmas Eve from three weeks of travel, so I didn’t have time this holiday season for baking and candy making. Just doesn’t seem like Christmas without tins of cookies and fudge.
No Christmas Eve dinner this year at my house either. We had a ribeye roast with garlic mashed potatoes on Christmas Day, followed by Tiramisù and dark chocolate mousse for dessert.
Tiramisù is a recent addition to our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. About 20 years ago, I started picking up small containers of Tiramisù at the Italian deli down the street (I’m sad to say that they’ve since closed). The cream was light and complimented the espresso dunked cookies and something else that I couldn’t make out. The owner told me one day that the “something else” was her special ingredient—sometimes it was Sambuca, other times it was brandy, and on other days it was Marsala, or whatever she felt like adding (gotta love her).
Tiramisù means pick me up in Italian. It’s made with savoiardi (ladyfingers) dunked in espresso and brandy or liqueur, layered with a Mascarpone filling, and topped with unsweetened chocolate cocoa powder or shaved chocolate.
In my version of Tiramisù, I make the Zabaglione with Strega (also known as witches brew), an herbal liqueur that’s made in Campania, Italy. I dip the savoiardi in a mixture of freshly brewed espresso, caffè espresso liqueur, and brandy. I dust the layers of Mascarpone with dark chocolate cocoa powder.
Next year, I promise to limit my travel during the holidays. Bottling Limoncello, and preparing tins of cookies and candy for friends and family the first weekend in December kicks off the Christmas season for us.
I do promise to make black-eyed peas, collard greens, a pork roast, skillet cornbread, and red velvet cake for New Year’s Day.
At least we’ll start the year with a lucky new year’s day dinner.
For the Zabaglione:
- 5 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons Strega or Marsala wine
For the Tiramisù:
- 1 recipe Zabaglione
- 1½ cups heavy whipping cream chilled
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pound Mascarpone cheese
- 2 cups brewed espresso
- ¼ cup caffè espresso liqueur
- ¼ cup brandy
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 48 savoiardi cookies
- 1½ tablespoons unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
To make the Zabaglione:
Mix eggs and sugar together, then bring water to a boil in the bottom part of a double boiler or a saucepan, and reduce to simmer. Add egg mixture to the top of the double boiler, or a stainless steel bowl that is placed over the pot of simmering water. Note: If the heat is too high, the egg mixture will thicken, curdle, or fry. Stir constantly and scrap the sides and bottom of the saucepan or bowl often. When mixture turns a pale yellow and is smooth, add Strega and beat until mixture thickens and forms soft peaks, about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer Zabaglione to bowl. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the cheese filling:
Whip cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in Mascarpone and chilled Zabaglione, and mix until blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
To assemble the Tiramisù:
Brew 2 cups of espresso. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, liqueur, and brandy; stir. Cool completely and set aside.
When espresso mixture is cool, quickly dip savoiardi cookies one at a time in the cooled espresso mixture until the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish is filled. (Note: Quickly dunk the cookies in the espresso mixture or they will become saturated and fall apart. You can also line the pan with dry cookies and drizzle the espresso mixture over the cookies.) Spoon half of the cheese filling over cookies and sprinkle with 2 or 3 teaspoons of cocoa. Repeat next layer ending with the cocoa. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 6 hours.