A History of Tiramisu
Most people when asked to name an Italian dessert will answer "tiramisu"! I was once in Italy with family and the waiter offered us "torta di mela," the Italian version of apple pie. We responded that we didn't come all the way from the U.S. for apple pie, and could we please have some tiramisu!
Tiramisu is actually quite easy to make, it is just a layering of lady's finger cookies (called "Savoiardi" in Italian), which are dipped in coffee and layered with a mixture of eggs, mascarpone cheese, and sugar. Each layer is often sprinkled with Marsala or vermouth, and the entire thing is topped with cocoa.
The dish is traditionally believed to be Venetian in origin, and was invented by all accounts in the 1960's, so it is hardly an ancient recipe! Now of course there are different versions of the dessert, especially for those who do not like coffee, as indeed the lady fingers can be soaked in just about any liquid during preparation.
I always say there are two main types of Tiramisu: the pudding kind and the cake kind. The first comes served in a bowl and is heavy on the egg/mascarpone filling. The second is sliceable, like a cake, and comes served on a plate. I've had long discussions with my Italian friends about which is better (I prefer the "cake" kind!).
One interesting note: the name means "pick me up," but the coffee property might not be how the name originated, as some report that the original version was made by a Venetian baker and his apprentice, whose last name was Tiramisu.
Most of our chefs in Italy have a Tiramisu recipe they can and will share with you on a cooking vacation with The International Kitchen, and here's one in our recipe archive!
By Peg Kern
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