Do you need a dessert that feeds at least 18 people? Do you have a stand mixer (preferably with an extra bowl and paddle) and a handheld mixer? Do you have at least five mixing bowls – six if your white chocolate seizes like mine did? Then have I got the dessert for you!
Saturday was our seasonal yoga retreat and to change things up a bit, Jen decided to do an afternoon session followed by dinner. It seemed like the right thing to do. Winter is dark and gray here and hunkering down for a cozy dinner with friends after an invigorating yoga session – what could be better? In past yoga retreats (this was our eighth!), we have always felt a bit of let down at the end of the day. It has felt like all participants, Jen and I included, were not ready for the party to end. Re-entry into chaotic lives was difficult. So, having a dinner with wine and no real end to the evening sounded wonderful.
I was challenged to find a meal that would serve 24 people without a lot of last minute prep. My mind went in many different directions but ultimately settled on an Italian theme. I made two different kinds of pasta, Caesar salad and a roasted tomato caprese. I made garlic bread and an antipasto platter starring these peppers. And I made 2 desserts – White Chocolate Tiramisù and some cannoli.
The first and only other time I made this Tiramisù (or any Tiramisù for that matter) was years ago, soon after Randy and I were first married. We went to a party and the hosts requested that I make dessert. I was never a big fan of Tiramisù but this recipe caught my eye because it said that it served 18 and I knew the party would be on the large side. This dessert is always at the back of my mind because of that fact, that it serves a lot of people, and because one of our hosts absolutely fell in love with the dessert. We see him only about once a year now but he always asks me, “Hey, have you made that amazing Tiramisù lately?”
Now, if you are going to follow my suggestion to K.I.S.S., then don’t make this recipe. There are others which are much simpler, that take fewer bowls, that don’t make your kitchen look like a tornado touched down. I was hating hating this dessert as I was making it. When I have plenty of time to get things done, I am very Zen in the kitchen. I work methodically and smoothly and things seem to fall into place easily. When I am crunched for time, as I was in the case of this Tiramisù, I start getting sloppy and making stupid mistakes. Lesson learned: leaving the somewhat time consuming, dish heavy, and multiple steps dessert until the end of a cooking day is not a good idea.
But as I started to assemble it, tasting each piece as I went, I was pretty happy that I endured the mess. This is a very impressive dessert. The pan itself weighed more than the lasagne I made. Three layers of coffee and booze soaked ladyfingers and an incredibly rich white chocolate and ricotta cheese custard is pretty hard to beat.
I made this, as the recipe suggests, in a 13×9-inch Pyrex pan. The filling extends well beyond the pan and kind of sticks to the foil that you use to cover it. It turns out fine, but I thought next time I would add another 6 ounces of ladyfingers and make the whole dessert in a bigger pan. I used my hand mixer for the egg yolks, my stand mixer for the cream cheese, then my hand mixer again for the egg whites and also for the cream.
2½ cups hot water plus 2 tbsp. water
¼ cup instant espresso powder
6 tbsp. dark rum
8 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
8 large egg yolks
1¼ pounds cream cheese (two and a half 8-ounce packages), room temperature
4 large egg whites
¾ cups sugar
1½ cups chilled whipping cream
90 soft ladyfingers from four 3-ounce packages
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
Pour 2½ cups hot water into medium bowl. Add espresso powder; stir to dissolve. Stir in rum. Cool espresso mixture. Place chocolate in medium bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth.
Combine egg yolks, powdered sugar, and remaining two tablespoons of water in medium bowl. Set over saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and reaches 160ºF, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolk mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth. Beat barely lukewarm melted chocolate into cream cheese. Fold egg yolk mixture into cream cheese mixture.
Using electric mixer fitted with clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually add ¾ cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of beaten egg white mixture into cream cheese mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining egg white mixture. Beat whipping cream in medium bowl to medium-stiff peaks. Gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture, creating mousse.
Lightly dip 1/3 of ladyfingers 1 at a time in espresso-rum mixture and place in single layer in bottom of 13-9-2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1/3 of mousse over ladyfingers, spreading evenly. Dip next 1/3 of ladyfingers in espresso mixture and place atop mousse. Top ladyfingers with another 1/3 of mousse. Repeat with remaining ladyfingers, espresso mixture and mousse. Sift cocoa powder over top of tiramisù. Cover; chill overnight.