Tackling Tiramisu

There are very few non-chocolate desserts that I will give the time of day.  My absolute favorite non-chocolate dessert is butterscotch brownies, which continue to baffle me with their non-chocolaty deliciousness.  There are some things that cannot be rationally explained and I believe this is one of them.  Next on my list of acceptable non-chocolate desserts is tiramisu, but only a handful that I have tasted in my life are up to snuff.  One absolute deal-breaker is any trace of almond.  In my opinion, it does not belong in tiramisu.

I tried to make tiramisu once before in my life.  It was not a success.  I went a little overboard on the coffee and put in about twice what the recipe called for because those lady fingers just didn’t look saturated enough as I was assembling the dessert.  The next day, my tiramisu was sitting in a puddle.  The taste wasn’t bad, but I definitely had a texture issue to work out.  Unfortunately, I had volunteered to make this dessert because my mom’s boss and his family were coming over for dinner.  They were sports and cleaned their plates.   It was on that fateful day that I learned firsthand the valuable lesson that one should never prepare an unfamiliar dish for the first time when company is coming over, particularly company you would like to remain in good standing with.  Instead, I would highly recommend preparing something that you have perfected.

My mother did not get fired in case you were wondering.

Since my tiramisu had knocked me down instead of picking me up, it was a while before I was emotionally ready to tackle it again.  My neighbor Anna is Italian and a wonderful cook and baker, so I decided it was safe to try to make tiramisu again with her.

I only allowed myself to measure the dry ingredients and did not deviate from the recipe in the slightest.

For the most part.

When Anna and I were discussing the ingredients for the dessert, I offered to pick up the lady fingers.  She informed me that that would not be necessary as we would be making the cake portion ourselves because it would be a better texture and flavor.  Boy was she right on about that.

This recipe is a long one, but it’s not difficult.  It originates from Southern Living magazine, circa 1988. Heregoes:

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a half-sheet pan with wax paper and then butter and flour the wax paper so the cake does not stick.

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Separate 4 eggs and let them come to room temperature.

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Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and let it cool.

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Brew some potent coffee and put 1 cup of it aside to cool. (I would recommend drinking the rest of it if you’re sleepy because this is going to take a while.)  Add ¼ cup of sugar and a miniature of Kahlua to the coffee.

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Sift together 1 cup of all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt.

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In another bowl, beat together the egg yolks and ¾ cup of sugar until light and thick.  This will take about 5 minutes so I would recommend stretching beforehand if using a handheld mixer.

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It will look something like this when it’s ready.

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Then pour in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of water, and 1 teaspoon of ‘niller extract.

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I love vanilla extract.

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I also really like this nifty little gadget that allows one to dust cocoa powder on things.

Sorry, I got sidetracked by the idea of something chocolate.

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In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until they are frothy and then add in ¼ cup of sugar.  Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and beat the egg whites until they are stiff but don’t overbeat.

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Add half of the egg white mixture and half of the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture.  Fold the mixtures together until combined.  Repeat with the remaining half of the mixtures.

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Pour the batter onto the sheet pan.

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Spread the batter evenly across the sheet pan using a spatula.

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Then pop it in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and the center springs back.

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Let it cool for a few minutes in the pan and then turn it out onto wax paper and let it cool completely.

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Carefully remove the wax paper from the bottom of the cake as that is not a texture you want in your tiramisu.

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Then, cut off the edges of the sponge cake so no one has to experience a crunchy/stiff bite of tiramisu. Remember, it’s all about texture.

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For the filling, beat 1 cup of heavy cream until it forms peaks.

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Then beat together ½ cup sugar and 1 pound of mascarpone cheese.

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Fold together the mascarpone mixture and the heavy cream.  If you’re feeling rebellious, add a few drops of vanilla extract into the mixture.  In my experience, a little extra vanilla extract never hurt anything.

It was Anna’s idea.

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Next, cut the cake in half and place one half on a serving dish.

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Brush half of the coffee mixture onto the cake using a pastry brush.

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It should look something like this.

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Dust the cake generously with cocoa powder.

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Then sprinkle on some chocolate shavings.

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Spread half of the filling mixture over the first layer of cake.

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Easier said than done. Don’t be alarmed if some of the chocolate shavings get mixed in.  No one will ever know and it will still taste good.

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Repeat this process with the second layer of cake and filling.

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Coffee mixture…

Cocoa powder and chocolate shavings.

Filling…

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Some more cocoa powder…

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Smooth the sides with a knife.

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Decorate the top with dark and white chocolate shavings.

Then let the cake sit overnight in the refrigerator and enjoy the next day (preferably not with your mom’s boss unless this is at least the second time you’re making this recipe).

Here are the recipe cards:

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(We deviated from the recipe a little bit by adding Kahlua instead of sherry or Marsala.  Don’t tell anyone.)

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

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Lemon Hummus

I like lemon hummus.   My mom got me hooked on it years back.  No other hummus seems to measure up to the fresh, savory taste of lemon hummus.  Trust me, I’ve tried them all.  Since moving to the South, I have been unable to find lemon hummus available for purchase.   Not that I’ve been able to find it unavailable for purchase.  I haven’t been able to find it at all.

So I got the bright idea to make my own lemon hummus.  I looked up several recipes for a basic hummus and realized that I would need to get myself some tahini paste, which all recipes assured me was available at any grocery store these days.  I headed out to Kroger on my lunch break and placed my bet on the international food isle.  No tahini paste to be found among the other 439 pastes/sauces, some of which were made from a) things I had never heard of and/or b) things I would not like a paste/sauce made out of.  But that’s another discussion for another time/never.

I must have looked perplexed because a nice man who worked at Kroger came over to see if he could help me.  I asked him for tahini paste.  He thought about it for a minute and then remembered that another lady had been in earlier that day looking for the same thing.  He motioned for me to follow him to the organic food isle, where he presented me two tahini paste options, which I had no way of discerning a difference in as they were the same size and price.  I thanked him, picked up the jar that had cuter packaging and walked to the register.

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The cashier scanned the jar and said, “That will be $9.67,” and held up the jar in disbelief.  Tahini paste will set you back a pretty penny, let me tell you.  I said to him, “Yeah that stuff isn’t cheap.  I guess it’s so high because it’s organic.”  He said, “Did you want the organic specifically? Because there are two or three other options in isle 2 and isle 5.”  Now you tell me.  I decided that if I were making my own hummus, which is about as granola crunchy as I get, it might as well be organic.  So I sucked it up and spent a month’s pay on that silly tahini paste.  Feeling a little too natural, I went straight to Chick-fil-a for a 6 count nugget kids’ meal.  It really hit the spot.

After work, I came home and turned on the Alabama -Notre Dame game.  What a nailbiter. About 10 minutes into the game, I determined it was probably safe for me to go get started on my hummus.  I pulled out my food processer, which weighs more than a small child and has more attachments than I can find space for in my cabinets.

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Here’s what you will need for the hummus:

·         1 can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed

·         2-3 cloves Garlic, chopped

·         1 lemon, zested and juiced

·         2 tbsp. Tahini paste

·         Salt to taste

·         ½ tbsp. Olive oil

·         1-2 tbsp. water

·         You might add a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it a little kick.  I haven’t verified yet whether or not that’s a good move.

Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas.  Chop up several cloves of garlic.  I would go for 3, but I really like garlic. I also happen to dislike vampires, so that works out really well for me.

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Throw the chick peas, garlic, tahini paste,  juice and zest of a lemon, a few dashes of salt and 1 tablespoon of water into the food processor.  Pulse until the ingredients are combined and fairly smooth, adding more water as needed to help the ingredients blend.  Drizzle in olive oil while pulsing at the end.

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Now, do yourself a favor and start spreading this hummus on wheat bread with honey maple turkey, a few slices of red onion and lettuce.  You don’t know what you’re missing.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Mugged

Yesterday, I was mugged at Homegoods.  Mugged by coffee mugs, that is. I have been mugless since I moved to Tennessee.  The set of dishes I inherited came with teacups, but no coffee mugs.  I knew I wanted something interesting … Continue reading

60th Anniversary Party

This year marks my Granny and Papa’s 80th birthdays and 60th wedding anniversary.  A celebration was most definitely in order.  We put together an “open house” type party at their church and served cake and punch.

The happy couple in front of the treats.

Aunt Vickie had the cake and cupcakes made.  They were beautiful and delicious.

As we were setting up for the party, we had a bit of an incident.  I was in the kitchen with Lauren and Aunt Vickie and I was looking for a lighter to light candles in the function hall.  I opened the drawer on the left to find a lighter for the candles.  As I opened the drawer, a mouse popped out and ran into the back of the cabinet.  Cousin Lauren, Aunt Vickie and I shrieked as I nearly jumped out of my skin and back about 5 feet.  I don’t remember how it happened in my state of shock, but the drawer was then somehow closed.   Aunt Vickie, Cousin Lauren and I agreed that we had not hallucinated, that the tissue paper in the drawer had been shredded by the little creature, and that we would pull it together and carry on with the festivities after this traumatic event.  That is all I would like to say about that.

All we could find to light the candles was a box of small matches.  I wasn’t about to open any more drawers in the kitchen.   I already said enough about that.

We nominated Uncle Brian to light the candles since he seemed to have more of a handle on how not to burn himself instead of the candle.

Caramelized mums.   Approximately 9 minutes after poor Uncle Brian lit all 24 candles, we had to blow them out so we didn’t burn the place down.  So much for the ambiance.

Aunt Vickie had a beautiful throw made with pictures of Granny and Papa when they were first “courting” and married.  I know they will treasure it.

Nobody wanted to sit at the tables until cake was served.  We had a full perimeter.

Before we served the cake, my dad thanked everyone for coming and decided to ask Granny and Papa a few questions about getting married.  My Mom had been asking them about it before everyone arrived and we all thought the stories were worth sharing because my grandparents actually eloped.

The Wedding/Elopement:

The story goes that Granny and Papa were out and about in Burkesville on a Saturday night as was typical.  Granny’s parents had even seen them around town and were pleased to see that they were having a good time (little did they know what was cooking…).  Granny and Papa knew of a minister in the county who would marry them so they took two of their friends as witnesses and had the minister marry them that evening.

My dad asked Granny to talk about what the minister said at the wedding and Granny said she can’t remember because she was just focused on saying “I do.”

My dad then asked how much the wedding cost, to which Papa replied that it was “very expensive.”  The minister didn’t officially charge anything to marry them but apparently would take $10.  Papa has decided that that $10 was “money well spent.”

Given that my Papa was such an obedient son and respectful person, it’s still hard for all of us to believe that they eloped.  When asked whose idea it was to elope, Papa pointed at Granny and everybody just laughed. 

The story gets even more interesting because they kept their marriage a secret for 6 weeks.  One day my Papa walked into Granny’s parent’s house to see Granny and Mammie, Granny’s mother, confronted him, saying she knew he would put off telling them as long as he could (evidently, Granny had spilled the beans but neglected to let Papa know that the secret was out).  Papa said he didn’t know if he should “faint or go blind.”

It was great to hear them tell those stories.  I hadn’t even heard some of the details before. 

And then it was time to eat and visit!

Quite a turnout as you can tell by the cake.  And Granny was worried no one would come.

I was in charge of cutting this cake.  Didn’t I do a beautiful job?

(Not.)

Granny and Papa and their boys, Uncle Brian and my dad.

Granny and Papa and the full squad: sons, daughters-in-law, and grandbabies (3 out of 4).

Only 3 of the 4 grandchildren have been at each their 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries.  At the 40th, Kristen wasn’t born yet, at the 50th, I had just started high school and couldn’t miss that much school to travel from Boston to Kentucky.  And during the 60th, my sister, Eugene, was missing because she is currently studying abroad. Let the record show that cousin Lauren has perfect attendance.

Apparently, we were in need of some bossing.  It was her party after all.

She realized I had caught her in the act.

This is so adorable, I can’t stand it.

This is equally adorable.  Clearly, if there’s one thing my family knows how to do, it’s how to laugh.

The party was full of reunion of old friends and extended family, storytelling, and laughter.   Granny and Papa seemed to have a great time and really enjoyed seeing everybody who came. 

Congratulations on 80 years of life and 60 years of life together, Granny and Papa!  We all love you very much.

Y’all give each other some sugar,

Sugarlump

Black Bean Soup

I love soup.  And I LOVE beans.  Therefore, I love LOVE bean soup. I have a great recipe for white bean soup, which is lovely in the fall and winter.  I’ll share it when the temperature drops below 70 degrees … Continue reading

Peach Jam

I made and canned peach jam last week.  My kitchen is still recovering from the mess I made.  I’m finding little globs of stickiness everywhere.    I got the peaches at the Nashville Farmer’s Market downtown.  I have to say … Continue reading

One Lovely Blog Award: Take II

To Amber at http://wordsbecomesuperfluous.com/, thank you for sharing the love and nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award!

In accepting this award, it is my pleasure to complete the following:

  1. Write a post linking back to the person that nominated me.
  2. Tell seven things about myself.
  3. Pass on this award to some wonderful blogs by linking their sites to this post and notifying them of their nominations.

Seven things about me:

  1. When I am interested in something new, I become obsessed and want to know everything about that something and/or be good at that something immediately.
  2. I can make a horrific mess in the kitchen.  My dad says I must be a good cook if I can make such a big mess.
  3. I learn best by observation.
  4. I have an overactive imagination.  This is very helpful in my profession as I need to be creative and able to visualize spaces.   This is very unhelpful if I am home alone, have just read a murder mystery, and my house is making settling noises.
  5. I love fall.
  6. For the past 10 years, I have vacillated between wanting short hair and long hair.  Every couple of years, after growing my hair out, I chop off a solid 10 inches or so.  I’ve done this 3 or 4 times now. When I was younger, I did the same thing with bangs.  Every year or 2, I would grow out my bangs (not a good look) and then, when they had finally grown to the length of my hair, I would chop them off.  And then I would cry about it.  I’m sure my mother was not pleased with this pattern.
  7. Siri freaks me out a little bit.

To my lovely nominees: thank you for sharing your passions, talents, wisdom, and adventures.

  1. http://threelittlewildflowers.com/
  2. http://simplyomblog.wordpress.com/
  3. http://photophilian.wordpress.com/
  4. http://nebraskawheatie.com/
  5. http://futurefarmerslivehere.wordpress.com/

Y’all hurry back!

Sugarlump

Heirlooms

Having recently moved to my first big-girl apartment, I needed a lot of stuff.   I needed dishes and glasses and living room furniture and a cake stand and a compote dish. Who doesn’t need a compote dish, right? Many of my … Continue reading

The First Supper

After a tearful goodbye with my parents at the airport, I decided I needed something to cheer myself up.  Food usually does the trick (because to me a good meal = home), but the only problem was there wasn’t any food in my apartment other than cheerios, so I decided to go grocery shopping.

When I arrived at the store, I browsed at my leisure for a while and then walked out with a very random assortment of items, such as herbs de provence, granola, polenta, and dried pinto beans.  I can’t explain these choices except to say that it was an emotional afternoon.

Thankfully, I had the sense to purchase frozen macaroni and cheese because I was busy all day and still unpacking and was not up for cooking a full meal.

I got home and took that sucker out of the box and went to put it in the microwave.

Oh wait, I don’t have a microwave.

Undeterred, I searched the box for oven directions because I do, in fact, have an oven.  And people must have made frozen macaroni and cheese before there were microwaves, right? ……..No? ……..Frozen macaroni and cheese was invented for the microwave? Oh….…. Well, anyway, there were oven directions on the side of the box.

The oven directions said to unwrap the plastic and place the container on a tinfoil-lined baking sheet.

Oh wait, I don’t have any tin foil.  Bummer.

Not to worry, I actually bought stovetop macaroni and cheese because I found it before I got to the frozen section.  It was a long day of unpacking and I was tired and too lazy to take the stovetop macaroni back to its isle so I left it in my cart and purchased it.  Good thing, because I was ill-equipped to prepare for myself what seemed to be the impossibly easy dinner of microwave macaroni and cheese.

So then I got out one of my new pots, filled it with water and set it on the stove to boil.

Then I smelled something similar to what a hair-dryer that’s about to burn out smells like.   I turned the stove off momentarily and immediately called my cousin Lauren who I thought might have a similar stove at her apartment.   Luckily she answered and told me that that had happened to her before if it had been a while since she turned on the stove and that it was likely the cleaning solution burning off from when my apartment was prepared for my arrival.  Phew.

Confident that I was going to be eating dinner, I got the water back up to boiling and threw in the pasta.

Then I realized I didn’t have a strainer, but that was fine.  I would just use the lid to the pot to drain the water.   I only lost a few past shells down the drain.

As I was pulling out a bowl to put my pasta in, I saw that I actually did have a strainer.

Oh well.

I then made bake-and-break cookies without incident.  These are normally against my religion, but judging by the chain of events I just described, do you really think I had the ingredients, equipment or mental capacity to make cookies from scratch?  Ah, no.

The cookies weren’t terrible but they didn’t quite taste like home sweet home either.

Full of sub-par macaroni and cheese and square cookies, I continued to unpack and the cats watched, exhausted from tracking my quest for dinner.

Just as I was worried about the drive and hotel stay with the cats, I thought they might take a while to adjust to my new apartment.  As you can see, Gus is barely managing to hold it together on the sectional.

While things are going well in the living room, I think there is only room for improvement here in the kitchen.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump