Last Updated on July 17, 2023 by Barry Gray
Although I wouldn’t consider myself a seasoned traveler, I have had the opportunity to explore a few different places in my lifetime. However, one of the most unforgettable vacations I experienced was in Italy.
Probably because I was 16 years old. But more about this experience shortly.
To make a tiramisu, you should use a classic Italian espresso blend. It delivers the depth of flavor you want for this dessert, but a dark roast will also work. The aim is to use a coffee that has some bitter flavors and low acidity to get the perfect tiramisu.
For some reason, the food we remember and how it made us feel makes a holiday unforgettable.
My family, also excited about our short stint in the Veneto Region, were biting at the bit to get out into the sunshine after a brutal winter. You have probably been there, where winter feels like it will never give way to spring.
One night at the local restaurant near where we were staying, all five of us, including Gran and Gramps, were knuckling down to some exquisite Italian fare, and I settled on a tiramisu for dessert.
I’d never heard of it before, of course, but it certainly sounded exotic.
It was one of the most delicious desserts I had ever eaten. There I was, munching away unnoticed amid the lively conversation at the table.
I’ve eaten tiramisu a few times in my life after, and whenever I do, the memories of that holiday return vividly. I was an impressionable kid, but that is what growing up is all about.
I have always experienced tiramisu in the same way. If you have yet to try it, let me introduce you to your new favorite dessert!
What is Tiramisu?
The first bite of tiramisu is always the best. The ladyfingers, soaked in a rich espresso and coffee liqueur mixture, are soft and spongy yet slightly crisp.
The mascarpone filling is creamy and smooth, with a subtle sweetness balanced by the bitterness of the coffee. The chocolate powder on top adds a touch of richness and depth.
As you take a bite, the flavors of the tiramisu dance around your taste buds taking them by surprise.
The coffee and liqueur hit you first, followed by the sweetness of the mascarpone. At 16, I didn’t understand liqueur, but I loved the feeling of it on my tongue.
The chocolate powder on top provides a hint of bitterness that helps to balance out the sweetness, and the textures of the ladyfingers and the mascarpone are also in perfect harmony.
The ladyfingers are soft and spongy, which is a delight, while the mascarpone is creamy and smooth. The combination of textures is simply mouth-watering.
Also, tiramisu highlights the coffee taste, but the coffee must have a punch. If it lacks a punch, the entire dessert becomes a flop.
As you continue to eat, the tiramisu flavors become more complex. The coffee and liqueur start to mellow out while the sweetness of the mascarpone becomes more pronounced.
It’s a satisfying dessert on so many levels, and I felt thoroughly stuffed and happy after it.
What Coffee is Best to Make Tiramisu?
Tiramisu is a decadent dessert that is easy to make too. Your start-up point should be selecting the proper coffee for the job.
Thankfully, that’s something I know quite a bit about. Honestly, the difference a good coffee makes to this dessert is massive.
The best coffee to use would be an excellent dark smokey roasted espresso. This help adds to the abundant interplay of flavors.
I see this as key. You need to have this taste explosion from the very first bite with the tiramisu dancing across your taste buds.
It’s the coffee that really does this for the dessert, and the only coffee capable of hitting the right notes has to be an espresso, so get out your espresso machine as you will need it.
Espresso has a robust and bold flavor that plays to the other ingredients in the dessert. It also has a high concentration of coffee oils, which gives tiramisu its characteristic richness and aroma.
You can smell the espresso in the cake long before eating it.
If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can use a strong brewed coffee; it should be strong enough to pack a punch. Correctly brewed coffee is often just as good as espresso.
The aroma should be out there, and the visuals thick and dark.
A light or medium roast will have a different flavor profile than espresso, and it may need to be stronger to stand up to the other ingredients in the dessert. You will land up with a watery coffee cake if you fall down on the coffee preparation.
Tips on Finding the Best Coffee for Tiramisu
The world of coffee is wide and varied, and that can pose problems thanks to the multitude of options.
But don’t stress, as I know of several different types of coffee that will take your tiramisu to a whole new level. Actually, there are four that I feel stand out from the crowd.
- Espresso: This is the classic choice for tiramisu, giving you the best flavor.
- Italian Roast: This is another good option, as it has a similar flavor profile to espresso.
- French Roast: This dark roast has a rich, full-bodied flavor.
- Colombian: This coffee has a smooth, chocolatey flavor that would be a good match for tiramisu. This is my favorite if I had to choose.
No matter what coffee you choose, ensure it is freshly brewed. The flavor of tiramisu will be much better if you use fresh coffee. Now that I have enticed you, here is a recipe.
How to Make Tiramisu
I admit I’m not the best person in the kitchen. Yet, even I have been able to attempt to make tiramisu at home in the past.
For me, the important thing is the relatively few ingredients you need to make this dessert. Also, I promise it takes less time than you expect.
The Ingredients for Making Tiramisu
This isn’t the only recipe out there regarding tiramisu, but I do feel it’s the easiest recipe to follow. So, you will need just six different ingredients.
- 1 (8-ounce) package of ladyfingers
- 1 cup strong espresso or brewed coffee cooled
- 1/2 cup coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua)
- 1 (8-ounce) container of mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
With so few ingredients comes relatively few steps to make the dessert, which certainly comes as a relief to me. I’m certainly better at brewing coffee compared to the cooking part.
But here are those simple steps that should lead to a tasty and delightful dessert at the end.
- Brew the espresso and let it cool completely.
- In a small bowl, combine the coffee liqueur and espresso.
- Beat the mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar in a large bowl until smooth. It should look creamy.
- Dip the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture one at a time, coating both sides. Don’t oversoak.
- Arrange a single layer of ladyfingers in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers.
- Repeat layers, ending with a layer of mascarpone.
- Dust the top of the tiramisu with cocoa powder.
- Cover the tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
The ingredients and process are pretty simple, but the result is impressive. Each element is essential, which is why you want the best ingredients for each stage of the cake-making process.
Also, you are not restricted to a coffee liqueur either. Instead, other options are out there depending on your own personal preferences.
You can substitute liqueur for brandy, rum, or another liqueur you have on hand. It really is up to you.
And a tip on the coffee part, which is my specialty.
Avoid weak or mild roasts when brewing your coffee; other than that, try a few different coffees. You simply need to focus on that dark coffee with rich aroma and flavor bursting through to get the perfect tiramisu.
The History Of Tiramisu
The history of tiramisu is murky, with several different cities and regions claiming to be the birthplace of the sweet treat. I’m not surprised; it’s a sophisticated and heavenly dessert unique in flavor and presentation.
However, the most widely accepted story is that tiramisu was invented in Treviso, Italy, in the late 1960s.
The name “tiramisu” comes from the Italian word “tira mi su,” which means “pick me up.” This is likely a reference to the fact that tiramisu is often served as a dessert after a long meal, and the caffeine in the coffee is said to help to revive the diner.
The strong espresso would undoubtedly give you a kick if you were feeling sleepy.
The original tiramisu recipe was made with ladyfingers soaked in espresso, coffee liqueur, and a filling of mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar. The dessert was then dusted with cocoa powder.
You can play around with the type of liquor you use, as I mentioned earlier.
Tiramisu quickly became popular in Italy and soon spread to other countries worldwide. Today, it is one of the most popular desserts in the world, and there are many variations of the recipe.
But this idea of it being invented in Treviso is only one of the stories surrounding the development of this dessert.
Here are some of the different claims to the invention of tiramisu:
- Treviso, Italy: This is the most widely accepted story, and it is said that tiramisu was invented in the late 1960s by a pastry chef named Roberto Linguanotto.
- Siena, Italy: There is a legend that tiramisu was invented in Siena in the 17th century, and it was initially called “zuppa del duca” (the Duke’s soup).
- Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy: A handwritten recipe for tiramisu from 1959 was found in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. This recipe is said to be the earliest known recipe for tiramisu.
- Austria: There is a theory that tiramisu was invented in Austria, and it was initially called “Tiroler Eistörtchen” (Tyrolean egg tart).
Ultimately, the true history of tiramisu is still being determined, but it certainly makes for interesting reading if you look it up.
Changing Your Tiramisu
You can also change up the recipe by adding fruit, for example. I have enjoyed a few tiramisu desserts with added citrus and berries. Experiment with the different flavors to get the effect you like best.
Personally, I like to try a range of fruits, and the ones I’ve listed below do still work well with the coffee flavor that bursts through with every mouthful.
- Berries: Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
- Citrus fruits: Oranges, lemons, and grapefruits.
- Tropical fruits: Mangoes, pineapples, and bananas.
- Stone fruits: Peaches, plums, and cherries.
The sweeter fruits will soften the taste and add sweetness, while the citrus fruits will add interest.
When adding fruit to tiramisu, it is essential to choose fruits that are ripe and in season. This will ensure that the fruit has the best flavor and texture.
If you add fruit to tiramisu, you should also adjust the amount of sugar in the recipe. You want to do the sweetness sparingly. It is a delicate balance of flavors.
I know some people don’t like the idea of a coffee-flavored dessert, but tiramisu has the potential to change everything. However, you need a good, dark espresso to really pull it all off.
Play around with different beans from various parts of the world and the flavors they bring to the dessert. Also, I do recommend sticking primarily to the coffee theme rather than introducing rum or any other spirit.