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SUGAR & SPICE

Ladyfingers, Schmadyfingers!

Tiramisu: The Low-Down on Your Favorite Sticky Dessert

By Marissa A. Cheng

The last time I made tiramisu for a menu, one of my friends ended up eating the two-day-old leftovers when the layers had all mixed together into tiramisu sludge, and practically licking the one-foot-by-two-foot pan to boot.

I am a tiramisu purist. I do not believe that one should make tiramisu with ladyfingers. It's cheating. You have to make the sponge from scratch, and that's the only way your tiramisu is going to blow people away. Mine did, much to my genuine surprise ... although it may have been the rather large amount of alcohol in the recipe I used.

Tiramisu, which means “pick me up” (“tirami-su”), is a dessert that was created in a restaurant in Treviso, near Venice, called Le Beccherie. The women who worked in a nearby brothel used to eat the tiramisu for a refresher between visitors, which is supposedly where the name came from.

A dessert similar to tiramisu is zuppa inglese, which was created in Siena for a visit by the Grand Duke Cosimo de Medici III. It was named zuppa del duca, or “duke’s soup.” The duke liked the dessert and brought the recipe back with him to Florence, where it was pounced upon by English courtesans living there, since it was similar to their version -- the English trifle.

I was lucky enough to find a recipe that I loved right off the bat. It’s absolutely the most wonderful tiramisu recipe I’ve had, second only to tiramisu made fresh in the motherland (Italy). While looking for recipes, I found one by Emeril Lagasse -- his recipe is, quite simply, perfect. Make sure you use real mascarpone cheese, good rum, and Grand Marnier (unless you’re under 21, of course). I promise there won’t be any leftovers.