Tiramisu is easily the most exported Italian dessert. Many don’t know that it was first devised in Treviso, at the restaurant Le Becchiere. A recent dispute between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia has put a question mark on its actual authorship, stating that there are actually four original versions: two Venetian (from the Treviso area), and two from the neighbouring region, and that all are legit.
Whatever the answer, a few crucial points should be borne in mind when attempting tiramisu at home. Good mascarpone is the first. Fresh handmade artisan mascarpone does make a difference, but it’s also hard to find, so any mascarpone is better than none. In case you can’t find it at all, you can easily make it at home (see Note). Substituting it with ricotta, cream cheese or similar, on the other hand, is not appropriate.
Another crucial point is the presence or absence of liqueur: purists say no booze, but it’s ultimately up to you. If you like a drop of brandy in your coffee, go ahead. Biscuits: ladyfingers, nothing else. Finally, a word on the coffee: for tiramisu, Italian-style percolated (Moka pot) coffee is best. A concentrated cafetière brew works, too, while filter or instant coffee won’t stand up to the task.
The recipe I’m sharing is for Mum’s signature tiramisu — a version that has always met with everybody’s approval. With time and practice (she pulls it off pretty much any time pudding is required), she seems to have found a way to achieve the perfect ratio of cream to biscuits, with just enough coffee to make the biscuits soft but never stodgy. Her mascarpone cream, however heretical, is quite remarkable, too: whipped egg whites make it light, while a small dose of fresh whipped cream cuts through the egg flavour and gives freshness and a subtle milky note.