When I start talking about food, my mother somehow always ends up in conversation, because her cooking made me love food in the first place. She wishes she had made me love making food too, but I guess you can’t have everything in life.
The reason I’m once again talking about my mom is that her desserts were (and still are!) out of this world. For a long time, when I was a kid, I didn’t even like chocolate or cakes or anything like that. Shocking, right? But mom finally won me over with her recipes, and one of my personal favorites will always be her tiramisu. It is simply ridiculous and, in my humble opinion, the best recipe for tiramisu.
I have tried tiramisu in many restaurants, but not even the best can compare to my mother’s. I think it’s partly because it always follows a traditional recipe, and more often than not, “traditional” means “the way it’s supposed to be.” But before we reluctantly share my mother’s step-by-step recipe for making tiramisu, let’s go over its history a bit and what exactly is at the heart of one of the most popular classic Italian desserts.
WHAT IS TIRAMISU?
One of Italy’s most popular desserts, tiramisu is an elegant and rich layer of bold espresso and cocoa, creamy mascarpone, sweet Marsala wine and delicate ladyfingers, a low-density cake biscuit. Ladyfingers, which are themselves classic Italian delicacies, are briefly soaked in a mixture of espresso and sugar to soften them.
These are layered with a mixture of mascarpone cheese and zabaione, also called zabaglione, a traditional cream made with Marsala wine, egg and sugar, all of which come together to create a creamy filling. Some people may use whipped cream instead of mascarpone, but the latter provides a more authentic flavor and texture.
Finally, cocoa powder sprinkles the top of these layers to give it extra flavor and to finish off the classic appearance of tiramisu. As a bonus, this delicious recipe is also an absolutely delicious dessert without baking!
WHAT DOES TIRAMISU MEAN?
You’ll be surprised that the history of this classic Italian dessert has a lot to do with… love. Tiramisu, in Italian, means “pick me up”, but its meaning takes several forms, since it can also be interpreted as “animate me”.
AND WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND IT?
Tiramisu is another one of those confusing recipes that we don’t know who to attribute to. One consensus seems to be that it was born in Treviso in 1970, starting first as a “sbatudin”, which is like tiramisu in its first undeveloped and unlayered form.
Eventually, sbatudin became the authentic Italian tiramisu recipe we all love, through influences from other Italian regions.
In the late 60s, a gastronome and actor named Giuseppe Maffioli published a book about the cuisine of Treviso. In the book, he talks about eating zabaione cream and cookies with the whole family and mentions that it is a Venetian tradition.
“Tiramesù,” as it was originally called, was first served at a restaurant called Le Beccherie by a pastry chef named Loly Linguanotto, who had just returned to Italy after honing her baking skills in Germany. The tiramesù was an instant success, and was not only served in the province of Treviso, but also throughout Veneto and even throughout Italy.
And as many good things do, it became famous all over the world and was developed in several variations, such as this pistachio tiramisu recipe.
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HOW IS TIRAMISU SERVED?
Tiramisu is a dessert served semi-fried, which means it’s not ice cream, but it’s not lava cake either. It’s perfect for eating just like you take it out of the fridge, and it actually tastes better if you let it sit overnight and even after a few days.
Although, honestly, when it comes to such a dessert, it is quite a challenge to let it sit for too long. I guess that’s the Italian charm of food, where anything as basic as a salad dressing or pasta will be eaten on the spot, with no leftovers.
Other traditional Italian desserts:
- Traditional Pizzelle from Abruzzese
- Italian Christmas cookies
- Sfogliatelle Napoletane