What do you get...

...when you blend cream cheese, whipped cream, cake, and coffee?
Possibly the most delicious dessert ever to come from that boot-shaped country, Italy.

Interestingly, tiramisu is a dish that actually originated in the country that it is associated with--Italy (Treviso, to be precise). (For examples of "impostor" dishes, see chicken parmesan, chicken tikka masala, and fortune cookies). The dessert is traditionally composed of a velvety custard layered with sponge cake soaked in espresso and alcohol, granting it the name "Tiramisu" or "pick me up."

One defining ingredient is mascarpone cheese. It is decadent in every way: buttery (it is a triple cream cheese), velvety smooth, delicately flavorful, and... expensive. One tub can set you back $10. I will be making a version that is a little more wallet and waistline friendly (if only marginally).

Since I have had a hankering for a big bowl of this creamy goodness all day, I highly doubt I will have the discipline to wait for it to sit in the fridge overnight. This express version I am making does not use whipped eggs for the zabaglione custard, and substitutes light cream cheese (boosted with good quality vanilla) for the mascarpone. I am not claiming that it will be identical to Italian restaurant quality ones, but once assembled and laced with espresso and Kahlua, no one would be the wiser...

Express Tiramisu

Serves: 8

  • 1/2 pound light cream cheese, softened (1 ~ 8 ounce packages)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 1/4 cup room temperature water
  • 3/4 cups Kahlua
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 7 ounces ladyfinger biscuits
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder

  1. Lightly spray 9 X 9 inch glass Pyrex baking dish with vegetable spray.
  2. Count the ladyfingers and divide in half.
  3. Spoon cocoa powder into a sugar shaker, or when ready, use a small strainer or sieve.
  4. Using beater attachment of a high-speed mixer, beat softened cream cheese and sugar on medium to high speed until smooth and creamy. Add milk, vanilla and brandy. Beat again until fluffy. Transfer to large mixing bowl and set aside.
  5. In a small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in room temperature water. Add Kahlua, stir and set aside.
  6. Whip heavy whipping cream on high speed until stiff. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture with spatula and blend well.
  7. One at a time, quickly dip only the bottoms of the ladyfingers into Kahlua. Place the soaked side down and line the entire bottom of the pan with ladyfingers. The ladyfingers soak up the Kahlua very quickly, so be careful not to dip them too long. Just the bottom half should be dipped in Kahlua.
  8. Spread half the cream cheese over the ladyfingers using an off-set spatula or plastic spatula.
  9. Sprinkle or dust with 1/4 cup cocoa.
  10. Repeat with the rest of the ladyfingers in Kahlua and place on top of the cream.
  11. Spread the remaining cream cheese mix evenly on top.
  12. Sprinkle remaining cocoa over the tiramisu.
  13. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill for 6 hours or overnight. You may need to use a few toothpicks to keep the plastic from sticking to the tiramisu.
  14. Use a sharp, thin knife to cut into pieces. Dive in.
  15. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Adapted from: http://bakingdesserts.suite101.com/article.cfm/easy_kahlua_tiramisu_recipe

Image: Property of beets and bites

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