Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Classic Italian Pick-Me-Up

There’s a good reason why you can almost always find tiramisu on a restaurant’s dessert menu. It’s really quite delicious. And it’s especially good on a hot summer night, at the end of a light meal – creamy mascarpone and rum-flavored mousse, paired with 

espresso-soaked sponge – it’s one of those indulgences that never feels too rich or too heavy as you’re enjoying it. Espresso and rum are certainly two of my favorite pick-me-ups. This recipe is based on a tirimusu cake I developed for The Cake Book; I turned the cake 

into a parfait, using layers of genoise to soak up the espresso syrup. If you’re pressed for time (or lazy, as I frequently am), feel free to use store-bought ladyfingers or sponge cake in place of the genoise. There’s a lot going on in this dessert, and I doubt your guests will  

be able to tell whether or not your sponge is homemade.

Tiramisu Parfaits

Makes 6 parfaits

Classic Genoise:
1 cup (3.5 oz/100 g) sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
¾ cup (5.2 oz/150 g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3 oz/85 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Espresso Syrup:
1 cup (240 ml) hot espresso or strongly brewed coffee
1/4 cup (1.7 oz/50 g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mascarpone Cream:
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (5.3 oz/150 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1 pound (454 g) mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons (45 ml) dark rum
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dutch-processed cocoa powder for dusting top of parfaits
Chocolate-covered espresso beans

Make the Classic Genoise:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of 2 9-inch round cake pans. Dust the pans with flour and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar by hand. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the eggs are warm. Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer stand and, using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume, about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
4. Resift one-third of the flour mixture over the batter and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula. In two more additions, sift in the remaining flour mixture, again folding in gently. Have the melted butter in a small bowl. Scoop about 3/4 cup of the cake batter into the bowl and stir until blended. Fold this mixture into the remaining cake batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.
5. Bake the cakes for 12 to 15 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans set on wire racks for 15 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack and cool.

Make the Espresso Syrup:
6. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the espresso and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the vanilla extract and set the syrup aside.

Make the Mascarpone Cream:
7. In a medium stainless steel bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and water. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and continue to whisk constantly, until the mixture thickens and is hot to the touch, about 7 minutes. Immediately scrape the mixture into a cold bowl. Cover and refrigerate the mixture until completely cool, about 15 minutes.
8. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone cheese at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the cooled egg yolk mixture and rum and mix until blended.
9. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and vanilla extract at high speed until it forms soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture.

Assemble the parfaits:
10. Using a cookie or biscuit cutter to fit the diameter of your parfait or verrine glasses, cut out 12 rounds from the cakes. Arrange one of the rounds in the bottom of a serving glass and brush it generously with Espresso Syrup. Top with a layer of the Mascarpone Cream. Top with another cake round and brush with more syrup. Fill the glass with more cream, smoothing the top. Repeat with remaining cake, syrup and cream to make 6 parfaits. Dust the top of each parfait with sifted cocoa powder. Garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans.