Tiramisu: Folklore and Fun Recipes for a Fantastic Italian Dessert
Who Created Tiramisu?
I did a Google search on “history of tiramisu” and within 0.55 seconds had 16 million results. Of course, there aren’t quite that many stories, but there is no one “for certain” account of who first conceived of tiramisu.
What Is It?
Perhaps I should rewind a bit and introduce you to tiramisu. First, it’s an Italian phrase which loosely translated means “pick me up” or “cheer me up.” The original is a coffee-flavored layered dessert somewhat like the English trifle. Crisp ladyfingers stand in for the pound cake of the English treat, and custard is replaced with a fluffy mixture of whipped eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese.
So, Back to the History Lesson
Most references on the internet say that the dessert was created in the 1960s in the Veneto region of Italy. In fact, some say that “Le Beccherie” in Treviso is ground zero for this miracle. But there are other stories too. I’ll present them below, in no particular order, and let you decide.
- Roberto Linguanotto was the owner/operator of Le Beccherie, a bakery in the Piazza Ancillotto in the center of Treviso. On Christmas Eve 1969 he assembled and sold the first tiramisu.
- In the 17th century, the Grand Duke of Cosimo de’ Medici III (a guy who’s level of importance was almost at big as his title) visited Sienna, northwestern province of Tuscany. In his honor “Zuppa del Duca (the duke’s soup) was created. He loved it so much that he took the recipe home with him to Florence.
- Lidia Bastianich, famous TV personality and restauranteur remembers a dessert that her Istrian grandma would make; frothy zabaglione made of eggs freshly laid and still warm, drizzled with a bit of espresso and served with stale cookies.
Speranza Garatti is credited with serving a custard and cookie dessert in goblets in the 1960s, giving it the name coppa Imperiale.
And then, I found a September 17, 2019, article on the website La Cucina Italiana. They shared this tidbit:
In 1955 when the then-owner of the restaurant, Alba Campeol, was pregnant with her son Carlo . . . Alba’s mother-in-law would prepare her a hearty breakfast of zabaglione and coffee to fill her with energy to face the many commitments of the day. As soon as she had weaned her son and returned to the restaurant’s kitchen, Alba decided to propose a new dessert inspired by that delicious breakfast. Together with the restaurant’s pastry chef Roberto Linguanotto, began a long trial which ended 1972.
Do You Have a Favorite?
I don't know how you feel about it, but I'm strongly leaning toward Story #1. Which one do you think is true?
How to Make a Traditional Tiramisu
- 6 ounces boiling water
- 2 rounded teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 50 ml Kahlua (optional)
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 2 boxes crisp ladyfingers
- unsweetened cocoa powder for garnish
Listen to the above video.
When my family and I visited Italy, we were introduced to limoncello, a lemon liqueur made from simple syrup and the zest of Sorrento lemons. Every family has its own cherished recipe, and every restaurant that we visited was certain that theirs was the very best. In fact, they were so supremely proud of their citrus beverages that samples were dispensed free of charge, the owners hovering in the background awaiting our smiles and nods of approval.
Yes, limoncello is reminiscent of Italy, so making tiramisu with the flavor of lemon makes perfect sense. There's something about the flavor of lemon that makes me think of springtime. This limoncello tiramisu pops with fresh citrus flavor and would be a perfect addition to a Mothers' Day brunch or bridal shower.
In this light and airy dessert, the traditional flavors of chocolate and coffee are replaced with the bright taste of fresh raspberries and orange liqueur to create a summertime raspberry tiramisu. Mixologists will tell you that the combination of orange and berries is a match made in Heaven.
Pumpkin Spice Tiramisu
Imagine that a coffee/chocolate tiramisu and a pumpkin pie met and fell in love and had a baby. This pumpkin spice tiramisu would be the result. All of the creamy, pillowy softness of a traditional tiramisu has the comforting warm spicy flavors of pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon spice.
No Eggs, No Alcohol Tiramisu
There is no denying that tiramisu is rich and indulgent, and because of the alcohol and raw eggs might not be a good choice for kids, moms-to-be, or those who abstain from alcohol. This no eggs, no alcohol tiramisu is light and fluffy with all the luxurious flavor of the original.
Tiramisu is made of eggs, cheese, and heavy whipping cream. How can one possibly make a vegan (no animal protein) version? Sophie and Paul have found the key, creating a vegan tiramisu with all of the creamy texture and none of the guilt. (Do you want to know the secret? It's silken tofu and coconut cream. And no, it won't taste like tofu.)
© 2020 Linda Lum