Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Strawberry tiramisù

This might surprise some of you, but shopping and cooking are not the only things that eat up all my time. I also read - and not just cookbooks. When lovely, poetic Lucy invited readers to turn to page 123 of our current reading, count five sentences and post the following three, I came up with this:
"Look at the sky," she said quickly. The sky had grown darker. "I think it will thunder again."
It seems fitting that the haunting novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters explores the theme of greed, as today's recipe is for greedy people only (which means anyone who might be reading this blog, I hope). I first spotted this summery variation on classic tiramisù at the bakery Bread & Roses in Paris, and had been wanting to recreate their recipe for months.
A little research led me to a recipe by Alsatian Christophe Felder, former pastry chef at the Hôtel Crillon in Paris and a prolific author of pastry books. Felder uses ladyfingers, but I followed the advice of the pastry chef at Bread & Roses and replaced these with pavesini biscuits. He showed me the little packets of thin, airy biscuits and said, "This is the true tiramisù biscuit." Authentic or not - there seems to be some debate on the subject - the pavesini turned out to be just the right size for my tapas glasses, also known as verrines.
Another change I made was to add a splash of Baume de Framboise, a raspberry liqueur from Burgundy which I keep on hand for making kirs with white wine. I might have used more, but I knew that Sam would be testing this dessert. Finally, I replaced Felder's red-tinted sugar with crumbled amaretto biscuits, which added a touch of almond that complements the fruit.
By the way, if you think it sounds a bit technical to pipe the mascarpone cream with a pastry bag, consider that Sam was bouncing around at my side throughout the making of this dessert, and yet it still turned out fairly presentable. A spoon would do fine, too.
I don't think I need to tell you that you'll want soft, sweet strawberries for this - nothing that would bounce if you dropped it on the floor. Lately I've been flirting with bankruptcy by indulging in daily baskets of ciflorettes and gariguettes, early strawberry varieties for the impatient (and greedy).

Strawberry tiramisù
Serves 6-7

1 lb 2 oz strawberries (500 g)
1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)
2 tbsp cold water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp strawberry or raspberry liqueur or syrup (optional)
3 eggs
4 oz sugar (100 g)
14 oz mascarpone (375 g)
7 ladyfinger biscuits or 14 pavesini biscuits (small Italian biscuits)
A few amaretto biscuits, for the garnish

Take 200 g (7 1/2 oz) of the strawberries, choosing the least pretty ones. Place these in a blender or food processor with the confectioner’s sugar, cold water, lemon juice and raspberry liqueur or syrup, if using. Blend until smooth and strain into a shallow bowl. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. In a mixer, beat the egg yolks and half the sugar (50 g/2 oz) until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the mascarpone and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, starting off on low speed and gradually increasing the speed. As they increase in volume, slowly pour in the remaining sugar (50 g/2 oz). Beat until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, starting off with 1/3 of the whites to lighten the mixture.

Soak the biscuits in the strawberry juice as you assemble the ingredients for the tiramisu. Cut the tops off the strawberries, then cut them in half lengthwise and place them upside-down around the bottom of the glasses. Using a pastry bag or a small spoon, place a dollop of mascarpone cream in the bottom of the glass. Top with a soaked biscuit (or 1/2 a ladyfinger). Cover with more cream, then place a biscuit on top of this and cover with a spoonful of the strawberry purée. Cover with cream to the top of the glass, then smooth off the surface with a palette knife.

Repeat this procedure for each of the individual desserts and chill for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, sprinkle the top with crumbled amaretto biscuits.


Eileen said...

Just lovely! Do you think pavasini biscuits are available in the U.S.?


Lucy said...

You know, Rosa, I think that's why this 123 thing really appealed to me - 'cos we do all do other things!

Fingersmith is a book I sold loads of based on a collegue's (sp?) recommendation, but everytime I tried to get a copy for myself, it had sold out! So pleased you're loving it.

As for strawberry tiramisù and Baume de Framboise...suffice to say that I cannot wait to see such unbounceable berries again!

Rosa said...

Eileen, there is a link in my article to Amazon, which sells the pavesini biscuits if you can't find them at an italian deli.

Lucy, Fingersmith was a fantastic book (I've now finished it). You must get your hands on a copy someday!