I think I just reached a new level of “daring” with this month’s challenge by actually offering to host a Daring Baker challenge! A few months back I suddenly thought it would be wonderful to choose and host a challenge. And when I asked Deeba if she would like to co-host the challenge she agreed.
So I wrote to Ivonne and Lis offering our services as DB hosts. They graciously accepted and the rest, as they say, is history! All I can say is that I’m really glad I did because it has been a great experience.
Deeba and I initially thought of choosing something Indian for the challenge but then decided against it. For one thing, Indian cuisine does not really call for much baking traditionally. We were also not sure that a lot of the ingredients would be available in other parts of the world.
So after a lot of thought, we both came up with Tiramisu. Before I go further, let me put in the mandatory “blog checking lines” required to ensure we’ve done the challenge and not get chucked out of the DB community. Seems a little silly since I’m hosting the challenge and would have definitely done the challenge, but try telling that to computer software!
BLOG-CHECKING LINES: 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.
Choosing a recipe to “challenge” the Daring Bakers is not easy because we have bakers there who range from “not experienced at baking” all the way through to “experts in the field”.
Of course, Deeba and I find a lot of the challenges more “challenging” than most because a lot of the ingredients/ bakeware that most people take for granted are just not available here.
So when other bakers are discussing silpat, we’re over the moon if we can find parchment paper!
When other bakers are busy discussing the merits of bread flour or cake flour, I don’t even join those because I have it easy choosing between all purpose flour and whole wheat flour!!
And when I hear names like Ghirardelli, Valrhona, Lindt, Guittard, Scharffen Berger and their cocoa percentages, I don’t lose any sleep over all that because what I get is here is just “chocolate”!!! You get the drift by now, I’m sure.
So am I complaining?
I used to, in the beginning, but haven’t for a long time. The fact that I have a limited variety of raw materials to start with, has made me more adventurous and daring in my cooking and baking.
I have explored the alternatives and discovered how many things are made from scratch. Apart from the fact that these are healthier, cheaper and tastier, many a time they don’t involve a whole lot of effort either.
You can find the detailed challenge and recipes here. There is also a recipe for the eggless ladyfingers as well as an eggless and alcohol-free Tiramisu.
The savoiardi/ ladysfinger biscuits:
I started off making the Savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits in both versions, with eggs and without eggs. Both versions kept in the fridge in an airtight container for a week.
I made approximately 2 1/2" – 3” long and 3/4” wide ladyfingers (the recipe gave me about 45 biscuits) as well as some heart shaped ones (I got about 12 of these from the recipe).
To make the heart shaped ones, just pipe the batter onto parchment paper with pre-drawn heart shapes on them (on the underside). My hearts were roughly 3” by 3” in size.
I used the heart shaped ladyfingers to make strawberry tiramisu hearts.
The ladyfinger biscuits without eggs were quite nice if rather buttery. They are really nothing more than almond shortbread fingers and so do not have the cakey lightness of the real ladyfingers. The recipe gave me 20 biscuits which were about 3” long and 3/4" wide.
The Mascarpone Cheese:
This is something I have been making for a while now, simply because we don’t get mascarpone cheese in our stores. I have previously blogged about mascarpone in my Apple-Mascarpone Parfait, Vol-au-Vents, Cannoli and Eggless Natural Red Velver Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting.
Even though the process of cream to mascarpone cheese takes about 1 1/2 days, the active time involved at the stove is under half an hour.
This creamy and delicious cheese is so easy to make that it’s almost unbelievable.
The Pastry cream and zabaglione:
This particular recipe is different from almost all other Tiramisu recipe in that apart from the zabaglione, it has a vanilla pastry cream component. While the pastry cream in itself isn’t all that spectacular, it makes the mascarpone-zabaglione-pastry cream mixture really light and adds in its own way to the finished Tiramisu.
I made two versions of the zabaglione. One the traditional version with coffee but replaced the marsala wine with dilute filter coffee decoction, as we don’t use alcohol. I also made a strawberry zabaglione to make a strawberry Tiramisu hearts.
I also made the eggless version of the Tiramisu, following the given recipe. Here I made the zabaglione-cream mixture and then divided into two. To one portion, I mixed in 2 tbsps of unsweetened cocoa powder.
I then lightly mixed both portions together to give my cream mixture a marbled look
And my three versions of Tiramisu!
The first one was round and cake-like in appearance simply because I did not have a square glass dish of appropriate size. So I lined my cake tin with clingwrap and made my Tiramisu. I followed the challenge recipe and made this in the traditional coffee flavour but used filter coffee decoction instead of espresso, and left out the marsala.
Both my husband and daughter were away from home, he on a work related trip and she for some school science project. So I froze the Tiramisu for a week before it was served.
Now, I had this brilliant idea of using chocolate ganache to decorate my tiramisu but what was in my mind didn’t quite translate well in reality. I ended up with a messy looking dessert and had to scrape it all off, which accounts for the brownish patches which you will see if you look at the Tiramsu carefully.
Of course, I like to tell myself those patches lend my Tiramisu a rather artistic look!!!
It was about half way through my Tiramisu trials that I remembered that February, the challenge month also celebrated Valentine’s Day. So I decided it would be nice to try a non-traditionally flavoured heart shaped free standing Tiramisu.
Unlike many parts of the world, winter is when we get the best of fruits and vegetables in India and its strawberry season now. For my strawberry Tiramisu, I didn’t follow a recipe as such.
I puréed about 2 cups strawberries with 2 tbsp sugar. Then I beat together 1 cup mascarpone cheese, 1/4 cup 25% cream, 1/4 cup sugar for about 2 minutes till it became thick.
I dipped the heart shaped ladyfingers in a mixture of milk, cocoa powder and sugar and placed them on a plate. Then I spooned the strawberry zabaglione on top of each and topped them with thinly sliced strawberry. After this, I topped each one with another dipped heart shaped ladyfinger biscuit.
It was at this point that I realized that the zabaglione was oozing out from below and no heart shaped tiramisu was visible, and everything was an awful mess. I was rather disheartened but decided to continue making a bigger mess!
So I topped it up with another layer of the zabaglione and then compounded the existing mess with a blob of whipped cream. My dream of a Tiramisu was turning out to be just that, a dream. I couldn’t bring myself to throw everything out, so I stuck the whole plate of 6 individual strawberry Tiramisu messes into the fridge!!
I spent the rest of the day mulling over how to save my Tiramisu (and my DB host face), when I got a brilliant idea. My strawberry messes had frozen and were no longer oozing.
I took my knife to them and carved out perfect heart shaped Tiramisu, dusted them with some cocoa, and some white chocolate curls.
Voila! My strawberry Tiramisu hearts………
I followed the challenge recipe but dipped my eggless ladyfingers in orange juice-orange extract mixture and my zabaglione was a marbled vanilla-chocolate cream. I wasn’t thinking very clearly when I put them together, or would have realized that I should have used straight sided glasses to show off my tiramisu to effect.
As it was, it tasted good so I didn’t bother too much that no one could see the ladyfingers in it.
Going by the response at the DB forum, I think the recipes were quite good though many had issues with making mascarpone due to various reasons.
Personally, I’m very happy to have discovered that I can make excellent Tiramisu at home. I might not get savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits or mascarpone at the stores here, but even if I did, I would make my own because they really do not take much time or effort.
Even though, all three were quite good, all of us here unanimously voted for the original coffee flavoured Tiramisu as the best.
I don’t think I shall ever order Tiramisu at a restaurant simply because the Tiramisu that even the best ones here serve, just don’t compare favourably!
If you do not believe me, please take a tour of the other Daring Baker blogs to see just how much better the Tiramisu can get.