Tiramisu: my Italy on a plate.

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I left Italy 12 and a half years ago, in a very turbulent period of my life, sometimes it felt more like escaping than simply moving, and I have never really looked back in the strict sense of the words. I left without really knowing what I was going to find, but with the certainty, somewhere inside of me, that I would have not come back. I have been visiting a countless number of times, but not as if I was going home; for some reason, for me, from that very moment, Italy became my “former” home.

Maybe because I never really felt I fit there, because I am so not Italian from many regards and somehow I always felt a bit like a foreigner. But that does not mean I have ever gone through a single day without missing something or somebody in Italy. And it’s when I miss Italy the most that I am drawn to cook all things Italian. I love Italian food because it is not just the taste, it’s the love that one puts into it, the passion that one channels to make something special, the ingenuity to always come up with something slightly different and surprising. It’s the ultimate comfort food without being ever dull. There aren’t really many Italian dishes that I do not enjoy to make or eat, but there is one dessert in particular that it’s my Italy on a plate: Tiramisu.

Just like Italy is a country full contrasts, Tiramisu is a dish of juxtapositions: the mellow sweetness of the mascarpone mousse against the stout bitterness of the coffee, the simplicity of the sponge fingers on the complex mix of flavours. It’s, at the same time, a gentle motherly hug, and a friendly slap on the shoulder; a whispered rhymed poem and a joyous song sung out loud.

I never stopped considering Italy a part of myself. It is my childhood and my roots, my family of origin, my teenage years, and my lifelong friends. Italy is my irrational half, my emotional, noisy self, my spurs of impatience and my generosity; my bad temper and loving caring nature. And that’s why you can take a girl out of Italy, but you cannot take Italy out of a girl. Cheesy, I know, but true.

Recipe

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Ingredients:

8 eggs

750gr Mascarpone

200gr sugar (+ some extra for the coffee)

200ml Italian coffee cold (espresso or from a moka coffee machine)

A couple of splashes of rhum (or marsala)

Cocoa to sprinkle

Separate the egg yolks from the whites, keep 4 whites and put them aside. Whip very well the yolks with the sugar to obtain a fluffy and light foam, start adding the mascarpone and keep whipping do not add the mascarpone too fast but be careful to not over-whip as otherwise the mascarpone will lose its structure and the mousse will become more liquid when the mousse is whipped a stiff, set aside in the fridge.

Whip the egg whites to stiff peak. Combine slowly the whites with the mascarpone mousse using a metallic spoon or a silicone spatula with gentle movements from the bottom to the top. Add a couple of spoons of rhum and set aside in a fridge.

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Take the coffee add 100 ml of water, sugar and rhum to taste. Line a deep medium size dish with half of the sponge fingers and pour gently half of the coffee mixture, you can use a spoon or a brush (if you are very patient!) or simply pour it from a jug just be careful to cover the biscuits homogeneously. Cover with half of the mascarpone mousse and repeat the whole process.

Leave the tiramisu to set for at least 3 hours in the fridge (I normally make it the night before) and just before eating sprinkle generously with cocoa powder.

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