Cork and Knife
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Layers of lemon syrup-soaked lady fingers, silky smooth mascarpone cream, and perfectly-ripe summer strawberries. It may not be a traditional tiramisu, but it just might become your new favorite. Edible flowers optional but oh so pretty.
We always like to do something a little special for July 4th, and true to form, this year we thought we’d celebrate America by rolling into a ball and sobbing uncontrollably. Nah, that’s not really true, the world may be broken in a number of new and interesting ways, but the sun is shining, the garden is lush, the dog’s whipworms are healing up nicely, and we can happily get behind some patriotically-colored foodstuffs.
Previously, on “Nerds with Knives Do July Fourth”, you might have caught such episodes as:
In 2015! Blueberry, Oat and Almond Crumb Bars
In 2013! We appear not to have celebrated the birth of the nation in amusing blog form in 2013. The first of our readers to invent a time machine may feel free to go back to that era and kick the past versions of us squarely in the pants for squandering the opportunity, if you think that’s really the best use of your time machine, Nigel.
Summer here in Beacon is bookmarked with two festivals – the Strawberry Festival in June, and the Corn Festival at the end of the season, in August. More than anything, the arrival of local strawberries heralds the weeks when people’s vegetable gardens start to explode with fecundity, the weather gets its game on, and the universe just seems, perhaps, a little more welcoming than it might have seemed just a couple of months earlier. We’re knocked out on an annual basis by just how delicious the local fruit is – it’s grown for taste, not for longevity, and you’re guaranteed to get great strawberries. Because the festival is such a huge deal, though, it often seems to suck in all the available local bounty, and many weeks you have to camp out at the farmers’ market all night just to be assured of a punnet or two.
Fortunately, this year we sourced enough to make one of our favorite desserts (which has, amazingly, gone un-blogged these last few years): tiramisu. Now, I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering “When you make a pot of tea and add an extra spoonful of tea for the pot, but then drink ALL the tea, what’s up with that?”. Oh, you weren’t? Just me then. You were ACTUALLY wondering “But Matt, tiramisu is surely flavored with rum and espresso” and you would be quite right, well done you. We adore traditional tiramisu, but wanted to switch out the usual combination with the fruity delights of the aforementioned strawberries, as well as one of our absolute top flavorings: lemon.
You might have noticed we can be a little obsessive about lemons. In this strawberry lemon tiramisu recipe, the lemons create a rich flavor base that the ladyfingers (sponge fingers / savoiardi depending on your location) get soaked in, and limoncello adds an extra kick of sweet citrus. While you don’t see the lemons, you certainly taste them; on the other hand, it’s really the strawberries that are the visual crowd-pleaser. The third (and, let’s face it, everyone’s favorite) layer is the mascarpone cream, which is a combination of mascarpone, whipped cream, egg yolks, sugar, and a little vanilla flavoring. If halfway through reading that list you jumped in your car to go to the grocery store to buy all the ingredients to make this dessert, we don’t blame you.
The process is actually quite straightforward. Prepare the lemon syrup and let it fully cool. This is important because you don’t want the sponge fingers to completely dissolve before assembly. Make the mascarpone cream and keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to use it. Slice your strawberries. All the details are in the recipe at the bottom of the post. OK, ready for the assembly? Here we go.
Depending on what brand of ladyfingers you buy, they will absorb the syrup at different rates, so use your first one as a test to see what the optimal length of time is. You want the syrup to soften the sponge and soak into it, but not to such an extent that the biscuit falls apart and you can’t pick it up. (You can also spoon a little syrup over the fingers once they’re laid in the dish if they seem too dry.) We found that dipping them in the syrup for around 5-7 seconds was about right. You may have a little syrup leftover at the end, that’s fine. You can do a few in one batch, and position them in a single layer in the dish. Pour over about half of the cream, and smooth it flat with a spatula (an offset spatula is good for this kind of work). Carefully layer half the strawberries on top. Add one more layer of syrup-dipped ladyfingers and one more layer of cream. We recommend you chill the tiramisu for a few hours in the fridge before decorating the top with fruit, so it will set as much as possible. You can use strawberries or any other ripe seasonal berry.
The inspiration for our strawberry and flowers decoration is from this fantastic and beautiful tiramisu recipe by Spoon Fork Bacon. We scattered a few borage flowers on top of our version, since we have them growing in our herb garden, and they’re edible and delicious!
Want to know how easy the process is? Would you like to watch a super quick video? I bet you would. Knock yourselves out:
And there you go. A rich, decadent slice of heaven, perfect for a summer evening treat with friends. Oh and hey, while we were making lemon syrup, we cooked up a little sugar solution (4 water: 1 sugar) to fill our hummingbird feeder which has been merrily attracting pretty local ruby-throated hummingbirds since we put it up. Four or five times an hour, one or other of them (and occasionally, a baby) will flit over and drink in a few sips before buzzing off to their abode.
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I guess everyone likes to go for a little sweet treat on a hot summer’s day.
- 1½ cup (120ml) water
- 1½ cup (300g) sugar
- 2 large lemons, peeled with a sharp vegetable peeler to avoid the white pith (about 10 strips)
- ¾ cup (180ml) fresh lemon juice (juice of 2 large lemons)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) Limoncello (optional)
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) water
- 2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 16 ounces (2 cups, 340g) mascarpone cheese, cold
- ¾ cup (100g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
- 1 cup (250ml) heavy cream, cold
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 quarts (about 2.5 lbs) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (or other berry of your choice)
- 1½ packages of ladyfingers (about 36 cookies)
- Borage flowers or other edible flowers, optional
- Make the lemon syrup: Add water, sugar and lemon peel to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 1 minute, or until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, stir in lemon juice and Limoncello, if using, and set aside. Allow to cool and remove peels.
- Make the cream: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer until sugar dissolves, 1 minute. Place egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk on medium-low. With the mixer running, slowly and very carefully drizzle in the hot sugar syrup. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium-high and beat until the bowl is no longer hot to the touch and the mixture has tripled in size, about 5 minutes. Turn mixer to medium speed and add mascarpone in a few large dollops, letting each incorporate before adding the next. Add confectioners sugar and beat until just combined and smooth.
- In a separate clean and chilled bowl, beat cream and vanilla to stiff peaks. Using a spatula, gently fold whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until fully incorporated. Set aside.
- Pour lemon syrup into a shallow bowl and dip ladyfingers, turning once to coat for a few seconds, allowing them to absorb some of the syrup. Line the bottom of the 9x13 baking dish with a single layer of the ladyfingers. If you have a lot more than half the syrup left, drizzle an extra two or three tablespoons syrup over the ladyfingers in the dish.
- Top ladyfingers with half of the mascarpone mixture and smooth the surface with an offset spatula or butter knife. Place a layer of sliced strawberries all over the mascarpone mixture, reserving the remaining strawberries for the top.
- Repeat with the second layer of dipped ladyfingers, and top with the remaining mascarpone mixture. Smooth the top.
- Decorate the top with the remaining strawberries. For a flower pattern, work from the center-out and angle the strawberries slices, continuing around the dish until you have a flower-like pattern. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours and up to 1 day. Top with a sprinkle of edible flowers, if desired, then slice and serve.