Food lab: Tiramisu taste off

Here are the recipes I used for the “Tiramisu taste off” taste test:

Tir-riffic Tiramisu Trifle (10 servings)
from Looneyspoons Collection Cookbook

½ cup pure maple syrup
1 pkg (1/4 oz / 7 g) unflavoured gelatin
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 pkgs (8 oz/250 g each) light cream cheese
1 ½ cups extra rich and thick vanilla flavoured yogurt (they recommend a 7% M.F yogurt vs. Greek yogurt which is a little too tart)
4 Tbsp (2 oz) coffee-flavoured liqueur (such as Kahlua), divided
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
36-40 ladyfinger cookies
1 cup extra-strong brewed coffee, cooled or 1 cup boiling water mixed with 1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
1 oz (28 g) semi-sweet chocolate (chunk)

To make filling, warm the maple syrup in a very small saucepan (or in microwave) and sprinkle gelatin to soften. Set aside. Add ricotta, cream cheese and yogurt to the bowl of a food processor and whirl until completely smooth.

Stir warm, syrup-gelatin mixture and add to cheese mixture along with 2 Tbsp coffee liqueur, vanilla and cinnamon. Whirl until smooth.

Combine cooled coffee and remaining 2 Tbsp liqueur in a shallow bowl. Working one at a time, quickly dip ladyfingers in coffee mixture and shake off excess. You don’t want to soak them, just a very quick dunk. Line the side of trifle dish with ladyfingers (stand them up). Cover bottom of trifle dish with more dunked ladyfingers, cutting or breaking them as necessary to fit bottom.

Spoon ¼ cheese filling over ladyfingers. Grate ¼ chocolate directly over filling (use finest holes of grater). Repeat layering: dunked ladyfingers, ¼ filling, ¼ grated chocolate, dunked ladyfingers, ¼ filling, ¼ grated chocolate, dunked ladyfingers, ¼ filling, ¼ grated chocolate.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.


I decided to do this recipe first because I (naively) thought that it would be the more complicated recipe to do between the two (due to the number of ingredients required to replace mascarpone). I was wrong (but more about that later). This recipe version doesn’t use mascarpone cheese or heavy cream which makes it a lot lower in fat and uses the following ingredients instead: Part-skim ricotta, light cream cheese, vanilla yogurt and gelatin. Four ingredients to mimic mascarpone cheese? I have to admit that I had my doubts.

However, it was a pretty easy recipe to do. No cooking! Just mix and assemble. Definitely my kind of dessert. Plus it tasted great (although you could definitely detect the taste of cream cheese).

Tiramisu (10 – 12 servings)
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

24 ladyfingers, homemade* or store-bought
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar + 2 to 3 Tbsp
1/3 cup sweet Marsala
12 -14 oz mascarpone, softened
½ cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups cooled espresso or extra-strong coffee
2 to 3 Tbsp rum or brandy
4 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, grated
2 Tbsp cocoa powder

*I didn’t make the ladyfingers from scratch (are you kidding me? I’m already making tiramisu for the first time which is a feat in itself).

Combine the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar together and beat at high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the Marsala and 1 Tbsp water.

Set the mixture in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Continue to beat on low speed until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F (the mixture will become thick (like whipping cream,) pale yellow and double its volume. It also might just start to bubble). Remove from heat and let cool, around 15 minutes.

Combine the mascarpone, heavy cream and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat until soft peaks form. Fold in the cooled egg yolk mixture.

Combine the cooled espresso/coffee, rum/brandy and 2 to 3 Tbsp sugar in a shallow dish. Dip half the ladyfingers into the espresso mixture and arrange in a 2- to 3-quart serving bowl, leaving a little space between them. Spread half of the mascarpone filling over and between the ladyfingers. Sprinkle with half of the grated chocolate. Dip the remaining ladyfingers into the espresso mixture and arrange on top. Spread the remaining filling over and between them, and sprinkle with remaining chocolate.

Sift cocoa powder on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours before serving.


I was surprised that despite appearing to be quite simple, this recipe required quite a bit of technique (e.g. beat the egg yolks and sugar into a pale ribbon and heat the mixture over a hot water bath (also called a sabayon)). It brought back memories of my French cuisine class where the chef showed us this technique while making Bavarian cream. I have to admit, had it not been for my cooking class that this step in the process would have been quite intimidating (and I more than likely would have messed it up).

This recipe requires elbow grease because you have to whisk the egg yolks and sugar at a high speed to get them to a ribbon stage, you have to whisk the marscapone and heavy cream together until it forms soft peaks and you also have  to constantly whisk the sabayon (egg yolk, sugar and Marsala mixture) over a hot water bath so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. Thank goodness I have an electric whisk!

Although this recipe requires a lot more work, you get to use mascarpone cheese which, for me, is a total treat. It is thick and rich (similar to the thickness of soft serve ice cream before it melts) and tastes slightly sweet. I love it! I would choose to eat light throughout the day, go for a longer run or whip the ingredients by hand just so I could have mascarpone. For me, some things are just worth it. But hey, the lower fat version does put up a good fight. It’s easier to make and uses lower fat ingredients, less chocolate, less alcohol and no eggs so it’s really curbing the amount of fat and cholesterol.

No matter which version you decide to use, both make a delicious dessert.

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