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May 19, 2007

Tiramisu & Stinky Accusations


Emboldened by freely wandering the antique byways of Rome, Little Henry’s friend Stinky launched an accusation that Mr. Henry will not permit to stand uncontested in this or any other forum:

“Mr. Henry talks a lot about cooking but never does any!”

Ha! Only weeks ago Mr. Henry prepared a tiramisu at home that even the skeptical Stinky admitted was a bona fide, authentic, and glorious tiramisu.

It wasn’t exactly cooking, mind you, because no heat was applied. But it greatly impressed the crowd. Here for his gentle reading public so long ignored because he has been re-arranging his life, his office, and his books, Mr. Henry offers up a recipe of sorts, or rather recipe guidelines, for la vera tiramisu di Signor Henry.

Don’t worry. The thing is failproof. You can fudge any proportion and it turns out just fine.

Mr. Henry’s Tiramisu

6 eggs
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
splash of scotch
1 large tub mascarpone (500g)
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 package ladyfinger cookies (200g)

First brew some coffee quadruple strength (In deference to the children Mr. H. chose decaffeinated.) and let it cool to room temperature or colder. Grate some good chocolate like Scharffenberger, mixing half a bar of bittersweet withScharffen.jpg a modicum of unsweetened to intensify the flavor. Have close at hand, as well, a bottle of single malt scotch whiskey. (Mr. Henry believes this to be sound advice for any recipe.) For this recipe, Mr. Henry chose The Macallan.

Separate six eggs. Whip the whites until stiff. Cream the yokes together with a cup (or more) of confectioners’ sugar, beating until the color becomes pale. You raw-egg worry-worts at home, please relax. The sugar preserves the egg. In the fridge the concoction will stay perfectly fresh far longer than it will survive repeated servings to you and yours.

Finally to the creamed yokes whip in a splash of scotch, dark rum, or any other spirit appropriate for a coffee, chocolate, and mascarpone confection. This last touch brings a perfume to the dish that separates it from a quotidian custard.

With big gestures and a big rubber spatula, lightly fold in the mascarpone and then the egg whites. Ecco! Mascarpone custard cream. Now you build.

Slice the ladyfingers in half lengthwise if you like. (This is a decision more of style than of taste.) Spread half of them loosely in a deep dish pan. Using a pastry brush soak them – yes, soak them – with coffee. [A Mr. Henry Dictum: Italian desserts must be either soggy or hard as brick.] Cover with a layer of mascarpone custard cream. Then cover the cream thoroughly with half the grated chocolate. Repeat the procedure to create a second story. Chill until set, at least three hours.

Mr. Henry is reminded of an equally false accusation hurled his way by his diminutive and opinionated life-long consort, Mrs. Henry, namely, that whenever he gets an idea for a new dish he feels compelled to purchase a new kitchen utensil. This is falseness itself! Mr. Henry always makes do with whatever is at hand. (A recent purchase of a Le Creuset oval enameled gratin pan was NOT an indulgence. Someday soon she will thank him for it, and mean it sincerely.)

As an example of his resourcefulness, on the morning after returning late from JFK he prepared a fine breakfast of marmalade and crackers borrowed from several of Italy’s nicer hotel breakfast baskets and conveyed trans-Atlantic in Aunt Bev’s backpack. Although there are grocery stores within walking distance of his apartment, Mr. Henry prefers not to conduct his marketing at 3:30 a.m., an hour when he receives stares from street strays and riff-raffy youth.

He prefers the adoring glances he believes he got in Florence from American college students envious of his casual insouciance and his fluency in Italian. He did not actually witness these glances, mind you, being too polite to stare slack-jawed at breathtakingly beautiful young women. Mr. Henry, you see, has faith in the unseen.



  1. Don’t worry. The thing is failproof. You can fudge any proportion and it turns out just fine.

    I find myself in the uncomfortable position of disagreeing, somewhat vehemently, with Mr. Henry.

    Mr. Henry’s faith in the absolute inability to screw up tiramisu is charming but, alas, misplaced. With tiramisu, it’s all about the balance.

    This is one of my absolute most favorite desserts, but no one else in my family will eat it, which prevents me from making it at all. The consequences would be quite dire if I had to eat it all myself!

    Comment by Joan — May 21, 2007 @ 11:15 am

  2. Ooh deliciousness. I’ve never had actual tiramisu, but I simply adore tiramisu gellato.

    Comment by la petite chou chou — May 21, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  3. Actually, it IS possible to ruin tiramisu following this recipe. An article in The Washington Post several years ago was written by someone who came from someplace (alas, I forget which) where “ladyfingers” refers to okra. As a result, she sliced okra, soaked it in coffee, and proceeded from there. It was not a pretty sight and, seemingly, tasted worse than it looked.

    Comment by Toddson — May 22, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  4. what!! no rum? a very delectable recipe, nonetheless, mr henry.

    Comment by lorraine — May 31, 2007 @ 9:02 am

  5. Being as we are the college students taking a cooking class, and not actual gourmands possessed of things like espresso machines, we recently set out to buy a full thirty ounces of espresso in order to make tiramisu.

    (if only we had known we could just make very strong coffee, all this trouble could have been avoided)

    Being as we live in a small town which prides itself on keeping an eye on the young’uns, we had to promise both counter staff and coffeehouse manager that 1) it was a cooking experiment, not a fraternity prank and 2) under no circumstances were we going to let someone chug thirty ounces of espresso.

    The tiramisu was delicious.

    Comment by sapote — May 31, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

  6. All things coffee deserve grand and delicious worship, if but only a step away from being a diety.

    I have yet to make tiramisu, and this recipe might be my first try.

    Comment by Brockeim — June 30, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  7. Tiramisu is my most ever favourite dessert. In my experience, any combination of sponge cake, strong esspresso, cream cheese (or ricotta, or Mascarpone or even quark), alcohol (rum, coffee liqueuer, congac, etc), cream, vanilla, and just a soupcon of cinnamon, can do the trick. I once made a low fat Tiramisu from angel food cake mix and low fat ricotta cheese which was enormously successful.

    When I see, read ot hear Tiramisu, my mind immediately leaps to Seattle. Not because of the mandatory coffee content in the dessert, but because of this tiramisu of a movie,

    Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

    “Sam Baldwin: What is “tiramisu”?
    Jay: You’ll find out.
    Sam Baldwin: Well, what is it?
    Jay: You’ll see!
    Sam Baldwin: Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I’m not gonna know what it is! “

    Comment by Noga — July 5, 2007 @ 8:51 am

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