I often wonder how we acquire our sweet tooth (sweet teeth?). I never doubted but that mine is a genetic trait, passed down through the women of the family. My grandma and my mom, her daughter, could both live on ice cream, and I truly think that my mom does! After a dinner fit for a bird – nibble nibble – she’ll sit on the sofa in front of a good English mystery on tv, half gallon tub of coffee ice cream on her lap, spoon in hand, and savor the rest of the evening, cozy and scrumptious and work her way through the ice cream, one spoonful at a time. And she hates to share!
Like mother, like daughter. Coffee ice cream runs through our veins. She started me off well before I even drank coffee, mixing up tall, gorgeous, icy cold glasses of sweetened iced coffee. I would dash up and steal sips, loving the creamy, sugary goodness, the iciness of her drink, coffee yet tasting so much like dessert. Now I can eat coffee ice cream almost as well as she. Although I do alternate mine with meals…
And mother and daughter are the perfect partners in crime. When I visit, she takes me to the Russian Diner for lunch, sandwiches or a hot meal. Empty plates cleared away (or, more often than not, leftovers scraped into take-home containers for later) and the waitress asks “Dessert?” We look at each other and grin. Our only dilemma is the flavor of the cream pie to order, but always with two forks. Huge monster slabs of chocolate or coconut cream pie, towering ever so high under mounds of whipped cream. We have absolutely no problem cleaning this baby up! We are dessert girls!
Trips to the mall with mom always end up with icy mocha shakes and a stop at Grimaldi’s Homemade Chocolates on the way home to pick up my yearly fix of chocolate-covered potato chips and a small box of Coconut Patties (dipped in chocolate, thank you very much!).
And sister Sue can join in, the more the merrier, as she has the same genetic leaning. When I’m visiting mom’s, Sue drives over for the weekend and what a blast we have. We immediately jump in her car and drive to the donut place, picking up a dozen of our favorite flavors, Boston Cream and raspberry jelly filled, chocolate glazed and cinnamon-sugar. And we eat them all ourselves. A weekend together, no matter how brief, always includes a trip to the grocery store (heaven is an American grocery store!) and we never hesitate to pile our shopping cart high with sweets, boxed cakes and more donuts, ice cream by the gallon and throw in a box of Fudgsicles, and we end with a detour through the bakery section, taking one of those and one of these, and maybe we should even try this. We roll out of the place laughing hysterically, excited by our stash and thrilled with the sweet weekend that lies ahead of us, the plans to loll around the house and eat together, laughing, always laughing!
The menfolk can turn down dessert with a wave of their hand, a shrug of the shoulders, merely because they are full from their meal. I never understood this insouciance where dessert was concerned. Okay, I have been known to turn it down, but usually when no one else was taking (oh, those Friday nights out with husband and sons!), too embarrassed to be the only one. But happily do I eat with mom and sister. At any restaurant, dessert menus handed round, the men rub their tummies and push themselves away from the table and say “No, thanks. Not for me.” Mom may hem and haw a bit for the show of it, but always orders something, straight-faced, as a matter of course, no excuses. Sue and I giggle and elbow each other like teen girls laughing over their first crush, “Go on! I will if you will!” and the deal is done. At home, we women rifle through the fridge or freezer whenever the call comes, whenever the Sweet Fairy taps us on the shoulder and whispers in our ear “Darling daughter, aren’t you craving something sweet right about now?”
JP never was much of sweet tooth, didn’t grow up with tubs of ice cream in the freezer or boxes of cookies on the countertop. No sheet pans of marble cake or bowls of chocolate pudding piled high with whipped cream. He, like his sons, will turn down dessert or that four o’clock snack regularly. JP rarely eats boxed cookies and our boys have particular tastes. But my homemade cakes and cookies are more often than not quite welcome, and something rich and creamy and decadent is manna from heaven. Clem taught me how to make the perfect Tiramisu and he is often requested to throw one together. But I have taken his recipe and fooled around with it a bit, though sticking religiously to the basics; something so heavenly, so incredibly perfect shouldn’t be toyed with! And this is perfect for anyone’s sweet tooth. Even those with less of a sweet tooth than mine can’t resist, and a fabulous, dreamy, smooth Tiramisu doesn’t stay around our kitchen for long.
I have decided to send this over to Anna of London Foodie in New York who is hosting this week’s Blogger Secret Ingredient. A woman after my own heart – and sweet tooth – Anna has chosen Chocolate as this week’s BSI!
A STUNNING CHOCOLATE CHERRY TIRAMISU
Let’s start with the CHOCOLATE LADYFINGERS
These ladyfingers are best eaten fresh if they aren’t to be used in a dessert. Try and fit them all in the oven in one batch, at most two, because they tend to flatten and get too dense if left waiting. Perfect for this Tiramisu.
5 large eggs, separated
2/3 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
4 Tbs cocoa powder
½ tsp cinnamon
Confectioner’s or powdered sugar to top
Preheat oven to 350°F (160°C). Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Fit a pastry bag with a ½” wide plain tube. Place the egg whites in a large bowl, preferably plastic, and add a couple of grains of salt and a drop or two of lemon juice to stabilize them.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs yolks, 1/3 cup of the sugar and the vanilla with an electric mixer until very thick and creamy; when the beaters are lifted up, the ribbon of batter that falls should maintain a pattern for about 10 seconds. This may take up to 5 minutes of beating.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder and cinnamon together. Add this to the yolks a tablespoon at a time while beating on low speed. Mixture becomes very dry.
In a separate bowl with very clean beaters, beat the whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar while beating and continue until stiff peaks form, firm and glossy, not dry.
Spoon ¼ of the whites into the yolk/cocoa mixture and beat on low speed until blended. Fold in the remaining whites by hand until smooth.
Place the batter into the pastry bag and pipe out fingers about 3” long (if using these for a charlotte, pipe them the height of the mold). Leave room between the fingers to allow for spreading.
Generously sieve the powdered sugar onto the chocolate fingers. Bake for about 20 minutes until the fingers are puffed and firm but not browned.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool briefly on the baking sheet before removing to cooling racks to cool completely before using in the Tiramisu.
CHOCOLATE CHERRY TIRAMISU
About 36 chocolate ladyfingers
1 jar of cherries, drained over a bowl, juice reserved
2 Tbs Kirsch
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups (500 g) mascarpone (I had extra as my pots were 300 g each instead of 250 g)
½ cup (100 g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Stir the Kirsch into the cherry juice and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale and very thick. Beat in the sugar. Beat the mascarpone quickly with the same beaters just to make it creamy before folding or beating it into the yolks. Stir in the vanilla.
Stabilize the whites by adding a couple of grains of salt and a drop or two of lemon juice. In a very clean bowl with very clean beaters, beat the whites until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Gently fold the whites into the yolk/mascarpone mixture until completely smooth.
In one large glass serving dish or several small (I used two 3-inch ring molds, 2 single-serving glass bowls and 1 small glass serving dish), place a small amount of the mascarpone cream and smear evenly along the bottom.
Dunk ladyfinger by ladyfinger in the cherry juice/Kirsch blend until just soaked through but before it is too soggy and falls apart. Line the bottom of the molds completely with the fingers, cutting them to fit if need be and pressing them together.
Layer half of the remaining mascarpone cream on top of the first layer of ladyfingers and spread evenly all the way to the edges. Line with cherries, as many or as few as you like.
Dunk and lay another layer of ladyfingers over the mascarpone/cherries, then complete with the rest of the mascarpone cream on top of the ladyfingers.
You should have: A dab of cream, drenched ladyfingers, mascarpone cream, cherries, ladyfingers, mascarpone up to the top of your mold/dish.
Sieve a heavy coat of cocoa powder all over the top of the Tiramisu. Decorate with more cherries if you like.
Refrigerate a few hours before serving. If using metal rings, gently slide a knife around the rim then gently lift the mold straight up off of the Tiramisu.