Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge #4 - Just the pick-me-up I needed!

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.

This has been a hectic month - I just realized I haven't had the time to get around to updating my blog in between challenges! However, I was determined to participate, since I love tiramisu (Italian for pick-me-up) and had never made one before. The challenge involved quite a few steps. The mascarpone cheese and savoiardi (ladyfinger) cookies had to be made from scratch, and the cream layer had three other parts, zabaglione, pastry cream and whipped cream.

I initially had my doubts about the mascarpone, because it's made in exactly the same way as home-made ricotta or paneer, using cream instead of milk. However, you don't get the same dramatic curdling of milk once the lemon juice is added. It simply thickens slightly, like a custard, and the time spent in the refrigerator is what produces the finished product. It was really good, too, luscious and creamy! I'm planning to make some more during berry season.

The ladyfingers came together very easily, and if the process was a bit messy it's only because of my lack of skill with a piping bag! I figured no one would notice what they looked like once they were cleverly concealed between layers of tiramisu filling :) The leftovers were great with a cup of coffee too.

The other parts of the filling were zabaglione and pastry cream, which got mixed in with the mascarpone, and then the whipped cream got folded into it all. These were straightforward, if a little mixing-bowl-intensive ;)

As I mulled over flavor ideas, I knew I had to make a traditional one, since its mix of flavors is so perfect. But since this is a Daring Bakers' Challenge, I decided to do a mango tiramisu as well. I used the same cream filling, but dipped the ladyfingers in alphonso mango pulp diluted with rum. For the top, I swapped the traditional dusting of cocoa with a thin layer of mango puree set with gelatin.

The traditional one was delicious, and the mango one was surprisingly good too! I wouldn't attempt it with anything but alphonso mangoes, though, since I have never come across any other mango whose flavor profile is strong enough not to get buried under the weight of all the rich dairy ingredients. Freshly pureed ones if you're lucky enough to find them, otherwise the canned pulp (I use Ratna brand, available at Indian grocery stores) works fine.

This was a fun challenge! I'm pretty sure I would never have attempted making ladyfingers or mascarpone if it hadn't been for this. Looking forward to the next one!

Home-made Mascarpone Cheese
Savoiardi (Ladyfinger) biscuits
Carminantonio's Tiramisu