You probably know by now that I’m an Italophile (yes, I had to look that up), loving all things Italian. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Italy twice (once, as part of the ‘grand tour’ and the second time, on an invitation to exhibit one of my paintings at the Florence Biennale). In my dream life I’d live half the year (our winter) in Italy and the summer here in New Zealand. I’m just a Lotto win away.
While I’m waiting for Lady Luck to strike, I content myself with making Italian fare. And, it has to be said, I have a particular fondness for tiramisu. If it’s on a menu, I ALWAYS choose it. That dreamy creaminess with a shot of strong coffee just speaks to me. So, when I learned there was such a thing as Limoncello Tiramisu, of course I had to make it. It goes without saying. Is it authentic tiramisu though? Hmm, I’m not so sure about that. But if Lidia Bastianich, first lady of Italian cuisine, calls it that then who am I to argue?!
Lidia’s recipe is a real gem and, unlike so many other renditions, incorporates a genuine zabaglione rather than a lemon curd. And, as I’m prepared to go the extra mile for some authenticity in terms of taste, this was right up my alley. I made only slight adaptations to the recipe. I wanted to serve 6-8 people rather than 12 so made some small reductions here and there. I also based some of the ingredient amounts on the quantities they come in here in New Zealand, though the difference is minimal. Finally, having read many comments around there being too much dipping liquid, I omitted the water part of the syrup, which also ensured a gutsier taste. However, if you would prefer to go by the original recipe verbatim, refer to the link above.
The tiramisu received rave reviews from everyone. My brother cautiously suggested it tasted like trifle. I have to say that I totally agree and hasten to add that’s it’s not a bad thing. The difference between this fruit-based ‘tiramisu’ and a trifle is negligible. Perhaps it’s a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes – so long as everyone agrees it’s tiramisu, it’s tiramisu (Lol). Semantics aside, if you love the idea of tiramisu, but you’re not a coffee fan, this light and summery concoction is a delicioso alternative. Buon appetito!
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 5-6 lemons (to yield 2 Tbsp lemon zest and 3/4 cup lemon juice)
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 cups limoncello liqueur, divided
- 400g Mascarpone, at room temperature
- 24 lady fingers (preferably imported Italian savoiardi), or more as needed
- PREPARATION: Pour just enough water in a double-boiler pan so the water level is below (and not touching) the bottom of the mixing bowl when it is sitting in the pan. Separate the eggs, putting yolks into the large bowl of the double boiler and the whites into another stainless-steel bowl for whipping later. Remove the zest of two or more of the lemons, using a fine grater, to get 2 tablespoons of zest. Squeeze out and strain the juice of these and the other lemons to get 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.
- ZABAGLIONE: Heat the water in the double boiler to a steady simmer. Off the heat, beat the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1/2 cup of the limoncello until well blended. Set the bowl over the simmering water, and whisk constantly for about 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken. It’s done when it falls in a ribbon, briefly holding its shape on the surface. If using a thermometer, don’t cook it over 70°C (158°F) or it will curdle. Immediately take the bowl off the double-boiler pan and let the mixture cool.
- LIMONCELLO SYRUP: Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of limoncello, all of the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook for about 5 minutes, evaporating the alcohol. Let the syrup cool completely (you may want to pop it into the fridge to quicken the process).
- MASCARPONE & EGG WHITES: In another large bowl, stir the mascarpone with a wooden spoon to soften it, then drop in the grated lemon zest and beat until light and creamy. Whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, by hand or by machine, until it holds moderately firm peaks.
- When the zabaglione is cooled, add about a third of it over the mascarpone, and fold it in with a large rubber spatula. Fold in the rest of the zabaglione in two or three additions. Now fold in the whipped egg whites in several additions (carefully so as to not deflate the mixture), until the limoncello-mascarpone cream is light and evenly blended.
- ASSEMBLY: (You’ll need either a shallow casserole or baking dish with 3 litre (3-quart) capacity. Alternatively, you can use a deep trifle dish or separate dessert dishes/goblets. The following instructions are based on using a shallow casserole dish, as per the original recipe. However, simply adjust the layers and quantities depending on the type of dish/es you use, e.g. for the trifle dish I used, I created three layers, dividing the ingredients into thirds for each layer).
- Pour some of the cooled syrup, no deeper than 1/4 inch, into the shallow-rimmed pan to moisten the lady fingers (savoiardi). One at a time, roll a lady finger in the syrup and place it in the casserole or baking dish. Wet each cookie briefly (2-3 seconds) or else it will fall apart. Arrange half of the dipped lady fingers in neat, tight rows, filling the bottom of the dish completely. Spoon half of the limoncello-mascarpone cream over top of the lady fingers, and smooth it to fill the dish and cover them. Dip and arrange a second layer of lady fingers in the dish, and cover it completely with the remainder of the cream. Smooth the cream with the spatula, and seal the tiramisù airtight in plastic wrap.
- CHILL & SERVE: Refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 6 hours (but preferably 12-24 for the flavours to amalgamate). You can keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. If you’ve used a long, shallow dish for your tiramisu, slice pieces and serve on a flat plate. Or, if you’ve used a deep dish as I have, scoop portions out and serve in a dessert dish. Serve with fresh berries – strawberries, raspberries or blueberries are ideal.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting