bad egg tiramisu

One of the many casualties of Reagonomics was the system of regulatory agencies protecting the American public. Among which is the one charged with safeguarding our food supply. A minor component of which are the eggs found in every supermarket and convenience store. Eggs which though usually safe, are showing an increasingly significant and dangerous trend towards being occasionally unsafe. Better to err on the side of safety. Uncooked beaten egg whites are out for now. Uncooked egg yokes are out for now. Tiramisu calls for both. What to do. What to do.

The drbob cooking team has hands on experience with this dish dating back to the year the Gipper himself took office (that's 1980 for you history nonbuffs) while bob was out of the country. Meanwhile it has become very trendy in the States. And naturally the team smugly prides itself in having been way ahead of the times. [At least once.] But one detail we never got straight was the alcohol component. The real thing is hard to get even in Italy according to one of our reliable Italian mom sources. Our original instructor (the daughter) [see the dedication to this book] substituted blackberry brandy. And we've used rum. Both are suggested by various official recipes. The other route is dry Marsala wine in the zabaione variation ("zaa-ba-yo-nay" as in bad-bob-yo!-nay, see below), apparently the route taken by the packaged single serving frozen portions one often finds in Italy, as we have observed with our obsessive adult American habit of reading the packaging of everything we eat. This cooks the egg yolks, solving half the egg problem. Replacing the beaten egg whites with whipped cream solves the other half. [Although with some effort, one can do the egg white thing safely.]

The upside of trendiness is more widespread availability of the key ingredient—mascarpone cheese (not!)—compared to our early days trying to recreate this on the western side of the Atlantic. It is flown in from Italy at great expense (though domestic production is growing) so for most of us, this is still just an occasional homemade dessert. But beware of aging mascarpone. It leads to a grainy textured mousse instead of the silk-like smoothness only fresh mascarpone can give. In the interests of truth in advertising, mascarpone, a full fat dairy product in the cream cheese creme fraiche family, is richer in fat than almost any other comparable dairy product. So don't get addicted.

Here's the revisited version of tiramisu, previously spelled as tiramesu  (in some Italian dialect) from the original ladyfinger back of the package recipe in Italian.


4 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
2 - 4 T rum or blackberry brandy or tiramisu liqueur or even dry Marsala wine
1 lb or 500g fresh mascarpone
1/2 - 1 c whipping cream
300g ladyfingers
1 "cup" freshly brewed espresso coffee diluted by 1 c warm water
2 - 4 T same liqueur here (optional)
2-3 T high quality cocoa or grated bittersweet chocolate (fine)


[Aside: First we fire up our super cappuccino machine given as a wedding gift by dr bob's Rome research group. In the early days of tiramisu making we used one of those couple of bucks priced espresso pots we kept for Italian visitors. But then a colleague took advantage of the dr bob nonprofit importing service to get his own high class Pavoni Europiccolo, rather overpriced here in the States, somewhat at a bargain when purchased in Italy for US export, relatively speaking of course. So when the request for a wedding gift suggestion came soon after from the group in espresso land, the answer was ready, complete with model and store purchasing information. Suddenly espresso supremacy at not cost (to us). Though bob was not a coffee drinker at the time.]

  1. One big dose of espresso is required. We press through more water to dilute it for the dunking activity. Any route to an extra "long" espresso that works is acceptable.
  2. Next we do a tiramisu liqueur substituted zabaglione. You beat together the egg yolks and sugar a few minutes till it turns from the ordinary dark yellow yolk color to a very light shade. This is done in the top half of a double boiler, which is then placed in the bottom half of the double boiler already boiling away. Add your choice of liqueur and keep beating for about 10 minutes till it thickens and you are convinced all possible freeloading bacteria are well done. [It should read at least 160 if you have a thermometer.] Then put in the freezer for rapid cool-down.
  3. The whipping cream replaces the uncooked beaten egg whites. Put a bowl and the beaters in the freezer to chill for at least 10 minutes. This may or may not help whipping the cream, but we read it somewhere and figure it can't hurt. Then whip the cream. Half a cup is probably enough—no need to overdo the killer ingredients. Then beat the mascarpone a bit and mix in the cooled zabaglione. Fold in the whipped cream so you don't lose the fluff.
  4. Assembly time. Now you need three 100g plastic wrapped ladyfinger packages. We like to use a spring-form pan since our collection of such pans is not seeing many cheesecakes lately. The 10 1/4 in (26cm) diameter pan works well. Take each ladyfinger and dip in a shallow bowl with the diluted espresso with or without extra booze. Roll it around quickly, then remove it and place in the pan. Make one layer. Cover with half the mascarpone mousse mixture. Repeat.
  5. Leave in the refrigerator at least 24 hours but preferably 48. It takes time for the flavors to mix between the mousse and espresso soaked ladyfingers, which really takes longer than a day. Sure it's hard to wait that long but the sacrifice is worth making.
  6. Before serving, remove from the refrigerator and dust lightly with some high quality cocoa or finely grated bittersweet chocolate. The ideal texture of the dessert when ingested is "soft".


  1. Booze components: too much or not enough? This is a controversial question. dr bob likes the light delicate touch. ms_ani wants more. Some recipes advise excessive amounts. Others omit it entirely, probably prohibition holdouts. Remember that the power of this dish is in its subtle balanced blend of flavors. Few desserts can compete with this one when done properly.
  2. Tiramisu liqueur? The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, not usually known for its taste in alcohol, scored a one time buy of "tiramisu" liqueur imported from Italy from some obscure producer. We had some in one of the few Italian restaurants in Philly that we trust, where it was offered free as an after dinner drink when the new owners were fresh out of Rome. Now this Italian custom has disappeared like the tiramisu liqueur has from the state liquor stores. But we jealously guard our one bottle, which is sort of like Bailey's but tastes like tiramisu. Good stuff but not available to the general public. Sorry. [48 proof Italian specialty liqueur produced by G.M. Sommacompagna (VR) Italy and imported to the USA by Winebow, Inc, NY, NY or Shaw Ross Importers, Miami, FL; can be ordered from PA State Specialty Stores]
  3. bob, a coffee drinker? For most of his life he never touched the stuff. Not even coffee ice cream. Approaching middle age, he decided maybe it wouldn't hurt to try it in Italy. After years of waiting for friends while they had theirs. Only cappuccino. At first. Then Armenian coffee. Thought it might help those evenings when bob's eyes started glazing over too early. After a while, those Italian cappuccino's actually started tasting good, though it was hard to find a decent one in the US. Then the coffee revolution occurred here, and decent coffee was much more accessible. And those chilled mocha summer drinks! How things change.
  4. Then bob got addicted to Starbucks' bottled mocha frappuccinos. Fortunately he found them for a dollar a  pop by the case at Costco's warehouse store. He tries to be a moderate user. [As years went by, he kicked the habit.]
  5. Perugina bittersweet chocolate has become our favorite topping. [Now there are lots of good dark chocolate bars available.]
  6. We have done two variations pumpkin tiramisu and strawberry tiramisu, and have seen limoncello tiramisu which we will eventually try our hand at. Our original inspiration from the early eighties has a cute dr bob sketch.
  7. Illustrations available. [See also big pan tiramisu.]
bdeggtms.htm: 17-apr-2010 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]