The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I’m probably going to get shot for saying this, but I’m not a fan of tiramisu. So, needless to say, I wasn’t totally thrilled about this challenge. But I was determined to make it and enjoy eating it…and I succeeded at both! I was thrilled that everything (well, almost everything — more on that later) worked out and that I actually enjoyed eating the fruits of my labor. That’s right, that’s two challenges in a row that I’ve felt good about!

The challenge was comprised of three parts: the mascarpone cheese, the lady fingers and the tiramisu itself — including the pastry cream and zabaglione. It sounds like a real challenge (that’s the point, right?), and it was. But this time around, I didn’t feel like it was difficult, it was just a lot of components that all had to be done separately. I think I was working on this stupid thing for about four or five days straight before we could even eat it!

The first part of the challenge I decided to tackle was the lady fingers. When it comes to classic New York bakery cookies, these are my absolute favorite. Anytime I’m back east visiting my family or they come out our way, one huge box of lady fingers is all mine. So I was definitely going into this with mixed emotions. I didn’t know if my lady fingers would be anything like the ones I’m used to or if they would be a total failure. I stress out when it comes to “gently folding” things together because I always think I’m over mixing and will loose all the air that I so carefully beat into the thing. Anyway…the lady fingers turned out awesome. They were so easy, I couldn’t believe it! They came out pretty darn good, but not as good as anything I’ll ever get in NY.

Lady Fingers

A few days after the lady fingers were done (it was a task for me to leave them on the counter without eating any of them) I decided to tackle the mascarpone cheese. What a disaster. If it weren’t for all the other Daring Bakers’ posting their horror stories about this stupid cheese on the forums, I probably would have gotten even more discouraged than I was at the point that my “cheese” completely separated and looked like a pile of disgustingness that no one should have to look at or eat. So, as you can probably guess, I ended up using store bought mascarpone cheese like some of the other bakers because I just didn’t have the time or energy to try to make it again. (By the way, I really don’t know what I did wrong. I heated the cream over a double boiler — using a stainless steel bowl — and it never got above 165 degrees. I stood there for at least an hour, stirring, letting it sit, checking the temperature. If anyone knows what could have gone wrong, please let me know!)

The day after the mascarpone disaster, I made the pastry cream and the zabaglione. Both of these were really easy and turned out perfect (at least I think). They chilled in the fridge overnight, and the next day I was finally ready to assemble the whole thing. I combined the mascarpone cheese, pastry cream and zabaglione then folded it all into freshly made whipped cream. Next, I dipped the cookies in espresso for like two seconds (so they didn’t get too soggy) and began layering — cookies, cream, cookies, cream, cookies, cream. The (almost) finished product chilled overnight and we were finally ready to eat!

Tiramisu

I didn’t do much in the way of decorating the finished product, but I did sprinkle a little coco powder on top (which was the perfect final touch, by the way). I wanted to do something a little different for the presentation, so that’s how I ended up with wine glasses. I was pretty satisfied with the way they turned out. Nothing professional, that’s for sure, but not too bad for a novice!

Coco Dusted Tiramisu

Like I said before, I’m really not a fan of tiramisu. But seriously…this was awesome. It’s not something I would eat every day, but the taste was totally spot on. The custard layers were so flavorful and the lady fingers were the perfect texture. Aparna and Deeba did their research for this challenge, and it really showed! Thanks for a great challenge, ladies!

Recipe link: Tiramisu

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