It was my birthday a few weeks back. A big one, or so I anticipated. I passed the dreaded halfway point of my 30s. This was a big deal when I turned 26, but it didn’t faze me much 10 years later. Maybe because I’m more mature, and I’m beginning to embrace aging more gracefully. Maybe because I’m at a secure place in my life, happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. Or maybe because so many people keep telling me that their late 30s and 40s were the best years of their lives. While all of these things are true, I still have to give at least some of the props to this tiramisu—a very special indulgence that I successfully transformed into a slightly healthier dish than its classic counterpart.
Going completely outside my usual realm of health-conscious eating, I had a large piece of tiramisu on the evening of my birthday and ate some for breakfast the following morning. I then froze the remaining portions and savored them in small, frosty slices throughout the week. This tiramisu made the transition into my 40s palatable and welcome. Justifiable gluttony. Win!
Ladyfingers are an integral component of tiramisu. Because these small, hard, cookie-like “cakes” are typically prepackaged and made with refined flours, sweeteners, and preservatives, I knew I’d have to make my own. I devised a whole grain version of ladyfingers for Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation by Phyllis Quinn (check out her “Ask Chef Phyllis” blog) that are nothing like their store-bought counterparts. Barely sweet and soft rather than hard and dry, they may not be traditional—but they make a delicious substitute nonetheless. I’d say they’re even better. The filling is made with sweet Italian wine and egg yolks, then lightened with velvety mascarpone cheese and heavy cream. You can also make a batch of ladyfingers separately and serve them in cups with fresh fruit or chocolate.
Tiramisu, Revamped, with Whole Wheat Ladyfingers
Tiramisu fares best if let to chill for some time. Because of this, I suggest making it the day before you plan to serve it.
Prep time: 1½ hours, plus 6 hours of chilling
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yields one 9×13-inch pan
Whole Wheat Ladyfingers
Makes approximately 3 dozen
¾ cup coconut sugar
8 eggs, separated
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour, sifted
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Special equipment: piping bag fitted with 1½-inch tip or a large Ziploc plastic bag.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Grind coconut sugar in food processor until fine. Set aside
- Place egg yolks in a stainless steel mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add half the ground sugar. Set over a double-boiler. Heat yolks until warm to the touch, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to overheat, or you could end up with scrambled eggs.
- Using the stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer, whip the warmed egg yolks until very thick and tripled in volume. Set aside.
- Using a clean bowl and beaters, whip egg whites until soft. Gradually add remaining sugar and cream of tartar, along with a pinch of salt. Beat to thick peaks.
- Fold about a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture. Next, gently fold in sifted flour and baking powder. Fold in remaining egg whites, being careful not to over mix or deflate them.
- Spoon mixture into prepared piping bag or Ziploc bag. If using Ziploc bag, snip off the corner tip to create a ½-inch opening. Pipe fingers 1-inch wide by 3-inches long onto prepared pans. Bake until puffed and golden, about 6–8 minutes.
- Cool on tray for a minute or two, then transfer to a cooling rack. Continue piping and baking fingers until no batter is left. Cool completely before assembling tiramisu.
2 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons instant espresso or 2 cups brewed espresso
3 tablespoons coffee liqueur
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup dry Marsala wine
1/3 cup coconut sugar or honey
1 lb. mascarpone
1 cup heavy cream
1 recipe ladyfingers
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
- Stir together water, instant espresso, and coffee liqueur. Set aside to cool.
- Beat egg yolks, Marsala, and sugar or honey in a stainless steel bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Set over a double boiler and heat until warm to the touch, whisking frequently.
- Whip egg yolk mixture with a handheld or stand mixer until thick and tripled in volume. Beat in mascarpone until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, beat cream to stiff peaks. Gently but thoroughly fold cream into mascarpone mixture.
- One by one, dip both sides of each ladyfinger in the espresso mixture. Place in a 9×13-inch pan. Repeat until entire base of pan is lined with ladyfingers.
- Spread half the mascarpone filling atop ladyfingers. Repeat with another layer of ladyfingers, then spread remaining mascarpone filling on top. Dust with cocoa powder. Chill, covered, at least 6 hours.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products