With a recipe forged from a happy memory, Hannah Gregory’s decadent tiramisu is bound to win you over
We aren’t over the festive period just yet and this is the perfect recipe to use up the rogue remnants of liqueurs that only ever see the light of day at Christmas. It’s time for over the top, ridiculously decadent, booze-laced desserts.
I fall in and out of love with tiramisu on the reg. Sometimes I crave it like nobody’s business, sometimes I turn my nose up at the mere thought of it. I think it comes from living above the cutest family-run Italian restaurant in South London which made the best version I’ve ever had outside of Italy, and then trying to recreate this food memory with other versions that just paled in comparison. No one could quite hit the mark of the lightest cream, the richest coffee-soaked sponge, a subtle hit of alcohol and lashings of freshly-grated dark chocolate.
It also helped that whenever I was hungover I could ring down and within ten minutes they would deliver me the best calzone I have ever eaten and a free slab of this gorgeous tiramisu to help me with the pain. To juxtapose this, I also have very vivid memories of living with a boyfriend’s parents and every Sunday his Mum would make her ‘famous’ tiramisu, which consisted of rich tea biscuits soaked in instant coffee (don’t ask), whipped cream to the point of claginess (I know) and hot chocolate powder instead of cocoa (give me strength). You can see where my love/hate relationship stems from.
As a whole, this is not a dessert I would instantly think of to make, but when a private dining client recently asked me to do one as it was her Mum’s favourite dessert, I accepted the challenge. And it was a challenge – I was determined to hit every perfect note that my beloved Caravaggios had. If that meant making, tasting and wading through 500 kilos of tiramisu components then so be it. For a week my house smelt of nothing but strong espresso and various Italian alcohols. Speaking to a chef recently, he said a good tiramisu is the ultimate skill and not something to be brushed off as a simple dessert. He validated my quest and I kept on trucking. . . stand mixers and percolators creating a symphony of sorts from the kitchen.
Finally I cracked it. I worked out which layers need to go where, how much booze is too much booze and whether a pâté à bombe trumps a mascarpone cream. This dessert works perfectly in individual glasses or in one big tray and then sliced as it sets beautifully – just make sure you use a sharp knife and run it under hot water first to ensure you see those layers.
You will also need two sheets of acetate (I get mine from a stationery shop) or you could swap out the choc layer for grated choc. . . but who doesn’t love a chocolate layer? You know that crunch you get in a Vienetta? That’s what I’m talking about.
Time! It takes six hours to set so either make in the morning, or the day before.
For the joconde sponge:
3 egg whites (keep the yolk for your pate a bombe)
15g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar sifted
30g plain flour
30g unsalted butter melted
35ml Tia Maria
For the sultana layer:
1 cup of sultanas
Marsala wine – enough to cover the sultanas
For the pâté à bombe cream mix:
2 egg yolks
150ml whipping cream
75g dark chocolate (reserve a few squares to grate over at the end)
100g sponge fingers, preferably Savoiardi
Heat the oven to 220C.
Place the sultanas and marsala in a small saucepan and allow to soak for an hour.
Make your thin chocolate layer – melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Place one sheet of acetate on the worktop. When the chocolate is thoroughly melted, pour it over the acetate, placing another layer on top. Gently move the chocolate around to create a thin layer between the sheets. Put a chopping board or something weighted on top to get the chocolate as thin as possible. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Remove from the freezer and trim to the size of the serving dish you are using. Do this by placing the dish on the chocolate, using a warm knife to run around the edge of the serving dish. Carefully discard (or eat) the trimmings and place the chocolate disc in the fridge till ready to use.
Pop the pan with the sultanas and marsala on a low heat and slowly bring to a simmer and reduce. You want to cook the bulk of the liquid out so when you blend it, it makes a sticky paste.
When the liquid has reduced, remove from the heat and allow it to cool.
Next up is the sponge. Grease and line a swiss roll tin or a shallow baking tray.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks.
Add in the caster sugar in increments ensuring all is incorporated and dissolved after each addition. Your egg whites should be thick and glossy.
In a separate bowl, whisk the ground almonds, icing sugar and whole eggs until doubled in volume.
Fold in the flour.
Fold in the whisked egg whites in increments, making sure each addition is fully incorporated.
Drizzle the melted butter down the side of the bowl and gently fold in.
Pour the batter into the prepared tray, tap on the side to help it along and use a pallet knife to smooth the top.
Bake in the oven for 7 minutes until golden and springy to touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Pâté à bombe – place the sugar and water in a small pan and bring to the boil.
Whilst that is doing its thing, whisk the egg yolks until thick and creamy in a stand mixer.
Slowly add in the sugar syrup in a steady stream and keep whisking on high until the mix is light, foamy and voluminous and the bowl of the mixer is completely cool.
In a separate bowl whisk the mascarpone and cream until combined.
Add the pâté à bombe half at a time, folding with a spatula to ensure combined.
Transfer the mix to a piping bag and chill in the fridge.
Your sultanas should be cool by now, using a stick blender blitz to a paste – it should be thick and sticky. If it seems a little wet, pop back on the heat to dry out.
Mix the hot espresso, Tia Maria and Amaretto together.
Lay your sponge fingers on a tray and drizzle over half of the coffee mix, turning your fingers to ensure even coverage. You don’t want them to go super soggy, so don’t let them swim.
Trim the jaconde sponge to the shape of your serving dish(es).
Place in the bottom and then using a pastry brush, paint over the remaining coffee mix.
Allow this to soak in and then spread over a thin layer of the sultana paste.
Pipe over the cream mix in a thick layer.
Top the cream with the soaked sponge fingers.
Next, place the disc of dark chocolate.
Pipe on the final layer of cream mix, smoothing with a palette knife.
Grate over the reserved dark chocolate and decorate with any boujee decoration you see fit.
Leave to set for at least 6 hours.
WanderSups: Food created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf
Find out about Hannah’s upcoming Supper Clubs and what she is currently cooking via Instagram @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com