We had the good fortune to take a terrific cooking class at the New School in Culver City, CA a few weeks ago. The class we took was focused on Tuscan cooking. One of the things we learned was how much the Tuscans focus on local, seasonal ingredients and how frugal they are with leftovers. They have seventeen different ways of turning day-old bread into something new and fabulous. I love that resourcefulness and commitment to not letting good food go to waste. My maternal grandmother, daughter of Swedish immigrants, raised in the early part of the 20th Century in the American West, had that same razor focus on never, ever letting food go to waste. Many Americans toss away perfectly good food at every meal, turn up their noses at leftovers and have little concept about how to work creatively with yesterday’s food. We need to return to the frugal practices of our grandparents – quit throwing out perfectly good food, and develop the kitchen skills necessary to create new and novel meals out of what was left behind the prior day. Now, after you’ve eaten a frugal meal of leftovers, what could be better than some authentic Tuscan Tiramisu. This is a slight adaptation of the recipe we were given in class. It’s quite a lot of work, but worth the effort.
Tuscan Tiramisu (9 servings)
- 1 ¼ cups flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 5 tablespoons boiling water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottom of a jelly roll pan with parchment paper (these are also called half sheet pans – they look like a cookie sheet with sides).
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Put the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip on high speed until thick and pale yellow. Reduce your mixer to medium speed and gradually add the water and the vanilla. Turn your mixer back to high speed and beat for five minutes, until the mixture is thick and ribbony.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Wash your mixer. Beat the egg whites using a clean bowl and clean beaters until soft peaks form. Fold half of the egg whites into the batter and then add the remaining whites. Spread the batter in the jelly roll pan. Use a large, flat spatula to gently even out the batter in the pan. Bake the cake for 10-15 minutes until it is a golden brown color. Set aside.
- 2-3 cups espresso (you don’t want to brew espresso too long before you plan to use it or it will become bitter – you can use instant espresso powder if you don’t own an espresso machine)
- 18 ounces fresh mascarpone
- 3 cups cold heavy cream
- ¾ cup plus two tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Place the powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour the heavy cream on top. Using a hand mixer or the bowl of your stand mixer beat the heavy cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the mascarpone and the vanilla.
Invert the cake onto a large cutting board or your kitchen counter. Slowly pull back and then discard the parchment paper. Cut the cake in half crosswise. Place half of the cake in the bottom of a 9×12 pan. Using a basting brush, gently brush half of the espresso onto the cake. Scoop half of the mascarpone mixture on top of the cake. You’ll want to put it in a big pile in the center. Then, using a flat spatula gently smooth out the cream until it covers the whole cake. If you spread the cream from a large pile in the center of the cake you are less likely to pull the cake apart as you even out the cream. Place the second half of the cake on top. Baste with the remaining coffee. Spread the remaining cream mixture on top. Dust with the cocoa. This is best done by placing the cocoa in a sifter and sifting it over the top. Refrigerate a minimum of four hours before serving. Can be done overnight. If you aren’t serving it until the next day, wait until just before serving to sift the cocoa over the top.