Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Tour of Tiramisu

Next on my culinary tour of Italia, I couldn't wait to try out my go-to dessert, tiramisu, in its natural habitat.

While the origins of this trifle-like dessert are a bit cloudy (some even attributing its creation to a brothel where it was used to boost the energy of the clientel--the names does mean "pick me up" afterall...) the ingredients throughout the decades have remained the same: ladyfingers, eggs, marscarpone, coffee and liquor. Yes, please. 

My first taste was in Venice at the Ristorante al Teatro, adjacent to the Fenice Theater.  The food here was decent but I definitely recommend it on show nights for the added bonus of people-watching.  From their patio you have an excellent view of the local Venetians dolled up in their Italian finest for a night at the Fenice.  The first thing I noticed about the tiramisu (tiramisi?) in Italy was that it was typically served premade in individual dishes, rather than served in slab-like squares as if cut from a sheetcake a la the American style.  I found this particular version far too heavy on the coffee, leaving the bottom cake layers cold and soggy.  Otherwise I found the flavors to be well-balanced, if a little light on the liquor (No, I don't have a problem).

Unfortunately I don't have a photo, but my next tiramisu experience was in Florence, and was almost the exact opposite of my Venetian dessert.  I truly wish I had a picture, because the marscarpone filling was so heavy on egg yolks that it was in fact yellow.  Also served in an individual dish, this dessert came topped with about 1/2" of cocoa powder on top and, if you've ever had the unpleasant experience of eating plain cocoa powder, well, you can imagine the unplesant aftertaste.  Though I do remember that the cake wasn't soggy, I honestly can't remember tasting any hint of coffee or liquor as the eggy flavor was so overwhelming.  If you're a fan of custards, then this Florentine style tiramisu is definitely for you. 

While I'm glad I got to sample a taste of true Italian tiramisu, I think I'll be sticking to my own recipe for now.

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