St. Patrick’s Italian Escapade: Irish Tiramisu Trifle

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I hope the leprechauns behaved and rainbows shone bright for everyone last week on St. Paddy’s Day! As an Irish-adjacent wife, I wanted to make something festive and green to celebrate the occasion, but despite the bounty of mint, pistachio, and lime St. Patrick’s Day treats on the internets, none of those flavors are truly Irish. What better way to make something more Irish? Naturally– BOOZE. Check out the fabulous Brooklyn Blackout Cake from Ovenly that I made in the Fall for a staggeringly delicious chocolate-stout cake—I thought about doing another chocolate-stout something-or-other, but I can’t beat that one right now. While I love stout beer in my chocolate cake, I do not love beer on its own– all I taste is bitter, bitter, bitter. So I turned to my favorite Irish adult beverage, Bailey’s Irish Cream, which I’m happy to drink on its own, or splash into any number of baked goods! I’ve had tiramisu on the brain because of the delicious Blood Orange Tiramisu that I made in honor of the Ides of March for Baked Sunday Mornings, and then I thought, why not make an Irish version of tiramisu– how is that NOT a good idea?? I planned to post this before St. Patrick’s Day, but it needed some tweaking, so let’s celebrate the beginning of Spring with Irish goodness instead!

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The staple components of tiramisu are mascarpone cheese, ladyfinger biscuits, espresso, egg yolks, and cocoa powder. I’ve seen some versions with beaten egg whites folded into the mascarpone cream to create that beautifully fluffy texture, such as the orange version that I made, and other versions that use freshly whipped cream instead. I wanted to try the latter for this version, and rumor has it that cream makes the tiramisu richer. (And let’s be honest, when left to my own devices, I will always choose richer.) I wasn’t sure how authentic it would be to use cream, but I looked at I-don’t-know-how-many recipes, including some in cookbooks written by Italians, and whipping cream is indeed a thing in tiramisu sometimes, so I decided to go with it. The mascarpone cream was, indeed, creamier and more luxurious. (Such intensive, science-based research is necessary in recipe testing— I consider it my sacrifice in making the world a better place.)

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When I made the orange tiramisu, I tried two different versions, one with the traditional Savoiardi ladyfingers, and one with Pavesini, which I learned about when I was in Italy last summer. I was lucky to have the Pavesini on hand because an Italian friend brought me some a few months ago, but I needed more for a giant trifle like this. I had no idea how hard it would be to find them locally, even with a decent number of allegedly-Italian markets around. Fortunately you can order them online from a number of places (Amazon, Supermarket Italy, Gran Caffe Vuotto, Capri Flavors), but this requires some planning ahead. (Or if you live in New York City, check out these resources for Italian products. You lucky bastards.)

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I assure you that it would be well worth the effort and extra money—I see now why the Italians rave about these for tiramisu. You can also make your own, but I have not tried this myself. The Savoiardi are fine, but they take many hours to soften completely and they have a tendency to get mushy if you soak them too long. The advantages of Pavesini are that they soften more quickly and they maintain their structural integrity, so you end up with beautiful, distinct, spongy layers that meld together perfectly and stay that way. Still, if you’re not able to acquire the magical little biscuits, Savoiardi will do the job— For the love of Ireland, do not dismiss this recipe for lack of Pavesini! In fact, I was not able to get more Pavesini in time, so I made it with Savoiardi for my second attempt— I can safely report that both versions are pretty luscious. Just make sure to soak them lightly to avoid a mushy tiramisu texture.

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Since Bailey’s pairs so lovingly with chocolate, I decided to make a chocolate mascarpone cream. While a lot of tiramisu recipes contain raw egg yolks, I made the chocolate mixture by cooking the yolks with sugar, then folding in melted chocolate ganache, something like a chocolate zabaglione, except with Bailey’s instead of the traditional marsala wine. This mixture needs to be chilled before proceeding, so you can make it up to a day ahead.

If you wish to make this tiramisu in a traditional flat pan rather than a trifle dish, simply layer the soaked ladyfingers, chocolate mascarpone cream, and cocoa powder in a 9×13” glass baking dish. (You may have some cream left over.) You can also make it in mini trifle dishes, which works especially well with Pavesini because they fit perfectly.

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Irish Tiramisu Trifle
Yields 12-16 servings

This recipe makes a lot of the cream mixture. You can adjust the thickness of the layers, use a large trifle bowl, or use any extra for smaller trifles. Alternatively, cut back the zabaglione and mascarpone ingredients by ⅓. But a little extra chocolate cream never hurt anyone…

For chocolate-Irish Cream zabaglione:

  • 4 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate (around 60%), chopped
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons Irish Cream liqueur, such as Bailey’s, at room temperature
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Scant ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

For mascarpone cream:

  • 16 ounces mascarpone cheese, sitting at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

For tiramisu assembly:

  • About 100 Pavesini or 36 Savoiardi ladyfingers
  • 1 ½ cups cooled espresso or strong coffee, or cold-brew coffee (I used Stumptown)
  • ¾ cup Irish Cream liqueur, such as Bailey’s, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup grated or shaved milk or bittersweet chocolate (optional)

Make the chocolate-Irish Cream zabaglione several hours or the day before you plan to assemble the tiramisu, as it needs time to cool and thicken in the fridge. Melt the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) a pot of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally with a spatula, then completely stir together once all the chocolate has melted. Remove the bowl from the pot of water, being careful not get any water or steam in the bowl. Gradually stir in the room-temperature Irish Cream until the mixture is homogenous. Set aside.

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Place the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a heatproof bowl and whisk to combine. Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisk constantly and vigorously for 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is light in color with a thick, ribbony consistency. (Make sure the water is not boiling, because you may end up with bits of cooked egg yolk in your mixture if the water is too hot.) Remove from the heat and fold in the chocolate mixture.

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Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the zabaglione. Let it cool to room temperature and chill in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

Place a medium-sized metal bowl and your mixer’s whisk attachment in the fridge or freezer to chill.

Place the slightly softened mascarpone in a large mixing bowl. Beat the cheese on medium-low speed with an electric mixer for just a few seconds, or just until the lumps are smoothed out. Take care not to overmix, as the mascarpone will “break” and lose its structure.

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Retrieve the chilled bowl and whisk from the fridge, as well as the chocolate zabaglione. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl. Whip the cream for about 1 minute on medium speed (it will be slightly thickened), then sprinkle the sugar over it and continue beating until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.

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Gently fold the cream into the mascarpone in two additions with a rubber spatula, then fold in the zabaglione until the mixture is homogenous. Both times that I made this, I had some lumps of mascarpone left in the mixture– it’s hard to see them when folding in the whipped cream. Try to smooth out any lumps as best you can, but take care not to overwork the mixture.

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You are now ready to assemble the tiramisu. Stir together the espresso/coffee and Irish Cream in a shallow dish. (You are free to adjust the ratio depending on whether you want a stronger coffee or Irish Cream flavor; this ratio favors a more prominent Irish Cream presence.)

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One by one, quickly soak both sides of the ladyfingers and place side-by-side in a single layer in the bottom of a medium (7-8”) trifle bowl. Only soak 1-2 seconds to avoid soggy sponge cake. You can arrange the biscuits in any configuration that works to cover as much area as possible; cut/break some ladyfingers in order to fill in larger gaps.

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Dollop about 1 cup chocolate mascarpone on top of the ladyfingers and smooth it out to the edges of the bowl in an even layer. Sift cocoa powder evenly over the mixture—try to get it all the way to the edge of the bowl so the dark line of cocoa shows through the glass. Repeat the layers of soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone cream, and cocoa powder as many times as you can fit in the dish, usually about 4-6 times if using Savoiardi biscuits. Dust the very top with a liberal covering of cocoa powder.

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Special instructions for Pavesini ladyfingers: If you’re lucky enough to have these available, you’ll use the same layering method, but you’ll have many more thinner layers in your tiramisu. You’ll want to have biscuit and cream layers of roughly equal thickness, which means you can either create very thin cream layers to match the thin profile of the Pavesini (which I think would be very pretty, though tedious to assemble), or you can double up on the biscuits (stack them 2-high) and spread thicker layers of cream, like you would with Savoiardi.

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If using Savoiardi biscuits, chill the assembled tiramisu in the fridge for at least 12 hours, preferably closer to 24 hours to allow the ladyfingers to soften all the way through. If using Pavesini, it can be served after just a few hours.

Once you’re ready to remove it from the fridge, sprinkle the grated or shaved chocolate over the top.

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The tiramisu can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, as there are no raw eggs in this recipe. It will maintain its structure best if you use Pavesini. (Have I mentioned how much I recommend Pavesini??)

Dig in with a spoon! 🙂

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2015.

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