1. COMBINE milk and vanilla in a heavy saucepan. Bring just to boiling over medium heat.
2. WHISK egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until blended. Add milk mixture gradually, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes or until the custard barely coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly. Do not boil. Remove from heat. Stir in espresso granules.
3. ADD mascarpone gradually and mix well. Chill, covered, for 2 hours.
4. POUR cooled mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Stir in liqueur and chocolate after 20 minutes. Before placing in freezer, stir in diced ladyfingers, sprinkled liqueur if desired (we desire it!). Freeze for 4 hours or longer before serving.
5. DUST with cocoa powder and/or chocolate curls and garnish each serving with a ladyfinger.
Tiramisu means “pick me up,” a reference to the espresso flavoring. While there are many variations of the recipe, tiramisu is typically composed of layers of sponge cake or ladyfingers, soaked in espresso liqueur, coffee syrup or marsala, and layered with a mascarpone cheese and custard mixture. It is dusted with cocoa or shaved chocolate.
For what is a classic Italian dessert, tiramisu is a relatively recent creation. The recipe was invented in the 1960s at the restaurant, Alle Beccherie in Treviso, Italy by pastry chef Loly Linguanotto. The restaurant’s matriarch, Alba Campeol, got the idea for the dessert after the birth of one of her children.
Weak in bed, she was brought a zabaglione spiked with coffee, to give her energy. When she returned to work, she and her pastry chef worked on the “pick me up” layered dessert.
The original Becchiere recipe did not contain alcohol because it was served to children as well as adults. Today, a good tiramisu is redolent of liqueur or marsala. You can read the full story, plus competing claims to the invention, in this Washington Post article.
Tiramisu Cupcakes Recipe, yellow cupcakes with a tiramisu filling.
Cherry Tiramisu Recipe, which adds layers of cherry pie filling.
MORE VARIATIONS ON TIRAMISU