Today we are celebrating the Italian dessert Tiramisu with a Twist. Tiramisu means “pick me up” in Italian and the combination of espresso and sugar will certainly do that. Today’s twist is the addition of a little bourbon adding a tantalizing flavor that is lovely.
Most of Italian cuisine evolved from the amazingly talented country home cooks, but the modern version of Tiramisu was created by pastry chefs in the town of Treviso, above Venice in the Veneto region of Italy as recently as the 1960s or 70s. There is some debate about exactly who was the first to think of putting the combination of ingredients together, but we are certainly grateful to them!
Unfortunately, many American restaurants serve a version that is a soggy mess with little to no flavor. Many people will go their entire lives not realizing that a “real” tiramisu has layers of slightly crunchy cookies enrobed in a rich mascarpone cream with a strong hit of espresso and, depending on the chef, some Marsala wine, rum or other alcohol.
I wanted to take the classic dessert that is usually dusted with cocoa powder and give it a Chocolate Monday boost, so I added cocoa powder to the mascarpone and bourbon to the espresso. The result is a wonderfully light and tender dessert. The combination of espresso, bourbon and chocolate is irresistible!
Lightening the mascarpone cream with a combination of egg whites and whipped cream gives you a dessert that is light enough to indulge in even after a heavy meal. I also love that you can assemble it a day in advance giving you more freedom to focus on the rest of the menu on the day of your party.
This is one recipe where having a stand mixer will be a huge benefit. There is a lot of whipping to be done and if you use a hand mixer your arm will get tired. And you would have a huge arm if you whisked everything by hand LOL.
Ladyfingers are the traditional cookie used in Tiramisu, and they are usually fairly easy to find in grocery stores. While sponge cake is usually listed as an alternative, I think you really need the crispness of a firmly baked cookie to hold up to the mascarpone. I was lucky to find a gluten-free version from Schar’s and they worked remarkably well.
I hope you love this treat as much as I do, and make sure you serve it with a steaming hot cup of espresso. It will transport you to a warm sunset-lit veranda overlooking the beautiful canals in Venice!!
Happy Chocolate Monday!
Key Ingredients for Tiramisu with a Twist:
- Heavy cream and large eggs
- Granulated sugar and mascarpone cheese
- Cocoa powder, bourbon, and brewed espresso
- Crunchy ladyfinger cookies (gluten-free if needed)
- Grated semisweet chocolate
How Do You Separate Eggs?
Set two bowls on the counter. Crack one egg and, holding it over one of the bowls, gently separate the two halves of the shell. Pour the contents into one hand. With your fingers slightly separated, move the egg yolk back and forth between your hands allowing the egg whites to drip into the bowl. Gently set the yolk in the second bowl. Continue working over the first bowl, distributing all the egg whites there, while gently placing the yolks in the second bowl until all the eggs have been separated.
When I got my KitchenAid mixer (over 20 years ago!) I decided to purchase an extra mixing bowl and beater blade so I wouldn’t have to be constantly washing the bowl when making recipes with multiple steps. When I started working on this recipe, I was extremely grateful for my second set. It is extremely helpful to have and makes my life a whole lot easier!
How to make Tiramisu with a Twist:
- Whip the cream to firm peaks; in another bowl beat the egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy; add the mascarpone, cocoa powder and bourbon, beating until light and smooth
- Fold some of the whipped cream into the beaten egg yolk mixture, then add rest of the cream folding until there are no streaks
- Beat egg whites until foamy then add a little cream of tartar, salt and sugar; beat on high to firm peaks; fold half the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture, then fold in the rest of the whites
- Dip half the cookies in espresso and arrange in the pan, spread with half the cream mixture, top with another layer of dipped cookies and finish with the remaining cream mixture, smoothing with an offset spatula
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight
- Before serving, sift the top with more cocoa powder; cut into squares and serve immediately
Kitchen Tools I Use to Make This Recipe (affiliate links):
- 8-inch square baking pan
- Mixing bowls
- Stand mixer or hand mixer
- Rubber spatula for folding
- Offset spatula
Use gluten-free ladyfingers if you can find them at the store or make your own from scratch. I loved Schar’s version and highly recommend them.
Though distilled spirits are gluten-free, if you are leery of the bourbon, you can substitute an equal amount of vodka and add 1 tsp brown sugar. If you want to avoid alcohol altogether, you can substitute espresso or heavy cream.
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, well chilled
- 2 large eggs (use pasteurized eggs if you are concerned about consuming raw eggs), separated
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
- 1 cup (8 oz) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp bourbon, Marsala wine, rum, coffee liqueur, espresso, or heavy cream
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
- 1 (5 to 7 oz) package of crunchy ladyfinger cookies (use gluten-free if needed)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- Grated semisweet chocolate, for garnish, optional
- Lightly butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish. Set aside.
- Prepare the Cream for Layers: In a well-chilled bowl, using the whisk attachment, whip the cream until you reach firm peaks. Set aside. Wash the whisk attachment in hot soapy water and dry.
- In the clean bowl, using the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved. Pinch a little of the mixture between your fingers to see if you can still feel the sugar granules; if you feel them, keep beating. Add the mascarpone, 3 tbsp of cocoa powder, and bourbon. Beat until light and smooth.
- Using a flexible spatula, fold half of the whipped cream into the beaten egg yolk mixture, lightening it. Add remaining whipped cream and fold in until completely blended and no streaks remain. Set aside.
- In a very clean bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high until foamy and peaks are just starting to develop. Add the pinch of cream of tartar, pinch of salt, and remaining 2 tbsp of granulated sugar. Continue beating on high speed until you reach firm peaks (the whites will stand up when the beaters are lifted and the tips of the peaks will bend over).
- Using a spatula, fold half of the beaten egg whites into the mascarpone-cream mixture until combined but a few streaks still remain. Fold in remaining egg whites and keep folding until fully incorporated and there are no streaks remaining.
- Assemble the Tiramisu: Pour the espresso into a shallow bowl. Dip half of the cookies into the espresso on both sides and arrange in prepared baking dish, covering the bottom. Spread half of the mascarpone-cream mixture over the top, smoothing into an even layer with an offset spatula. Dip the remaining cookies in the espresso on both sides and arrange them over the top of the mascarpone-cream mixture. Spread the remaining cream over the top and smooth.
- Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Remove the plastic and sift the remaining 1/4-cup of cocoa powder evenly over the top of the dish. Add a sprinkling of grated chocolate if desired. Cut into squares and serve immediately.
- Make Ahead: The Tiramisu can be held in the refrigerator, covered, up to 1 day ahead. It is best when it has been chilled overnight.
- NOTE: If you want to avoid using bourbon, you can substitute an equal amount of vodka and add 1 tsp brown sugar. If you want to avoid alcohol altogether, you can substitute one of the other listed options.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 281Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 140mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 6g
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This post was first shared in Sept 2013. The article was updated in 2020.