I’ve many favourite desserts; depending on the time of day that you ask me the answer could be different every time. But one of my favourite favourites is tiramisu, that heavenly Italian dessert which never fails to pick me up. That’s probably got a lot to do with the strong coffee, dusting of chocolate and pillowy gorgeousness of a mascarpone cheese and fluffed up egg white mixture. When done right, tiramisu is like a gift from the heavens. The only problem with said dessert is that it contains an impressive amount of sinful ingredients and yet inexplicably gets away with it and tastes light as a feather. I can’t order tiramisu in a restaurant because the calorific sliver presented is never enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and yet I know just how bad that tiny piece is for me. I once ordered tiramisu at Jamie’s Italian and was almost inconsolable at the tiny smear on a plate that was supposed to constitute dessert. I guess this is what happens when chefs who campaign against unhealthy eating and obesity serve dessert – judgement on your lifestyle choices. “Sure, you can have dessert but you did have a big bowl of pasta and some polenta chips, so this tiny portion is all you’re getting for dessert. You greedy pig”. Never mind the fact I’M OUT FOR DINNER AND TREATING MYSELF, Jamie knows best. Regular readers know about my mixed feelings towards Mr Oliver, and safe to say recalling this unfortunate run in with his tiramisu has put him back in my bad books.
So I save tiramisu for when I can eat lots of it, preferably behind closed doors and with the curtains fully drawn (the Waitrose Essential tiramisu is a favourite of mine, and yes, it does qualify as an essential item in my eyes). I’m not proud of it, but it’s the only way I can satisfy the craving for it without ordering four portions in a restaurant and feeling thoroughly judged (as I rightly should be).
But hold on a second there Hayles, I might have come across a solution, for I have found a tiramisu recipe that not only contains sinful amounts of everything but also tastes as if it does too. Problem solved! The recipe I found was for tiramisu brownies and combines two great loves of mine. A warm, gooey brownie topped with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle of chocolate sauce is another favourite favourite dessert of mine after all, so how could this combination let me down? Well, as it turns out it did a little, although with a bit of tweaking it has the potential to be stunning.
It’s a fairly simple recipe, you throw together a basic brownie recipe, top it with coffee soaked sponge fingers then smother it with a mascarpone, cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and egg white mixture. Bake in the oven and then voila, tiramisu brownies at your service. I should warn you now that the cheese and egg white mixture was absolutely divine raw and would be perfect simply on its own as a milkshake with only a straw to accessorise. Of course, the problem with this advice is that were you to take it up, your arteries would fur up instantaneously and your trouser buttons would pop off within seconds, but taste wise you can’t really knock it. Tis the way with mascarpone, it’s insanely good in a dessert but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s cheese and therefore loaded with saturated fat. Decadent. And before you ‘tsk’ me at the notion of a pregnant woman eating a mixture containing raw egg, let me tell you I’ve done my research. When someone tells me I can’t eat something, believe you me I want to know why. So I’m definitely keeping away from the pate, the stilton and the wine, but when it comes to raw eggs I’m a little more cavalier. The reason pregnant women are advised not to eat raw or undercooked eggs is because of the risk of salmonella (which by the way does not harm the baby but can make the woman very ill), which it turns out has practically been eradicated from eggs in the past decade. Check your box of eggs and if you see a red lion stamp on the box or the eggs, it means the chickens have been vaccinated against salmonella and the risk of catching it is extremely small. Turns out the UK has the safest eggs in the world (but don’t take my word for it, get the lowdown here: http://www.egginfo.co.uk/great-british-success-story) and you are more likely to get food poisoning from your local takeaway or imported eggs, yet no one tells pregnant women to avoid a chicken chow mein. Obviously don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with doing, but if you buy British eggs with the red lion stamp on them, you’re probably not going to get salmonella. I’ve been eating cake mix and dipping soldiers into runny yolks since I was tiny and I’m still here!
These brownies once out of the oven are just OK. The brownie itself is more cakey than it should be, and the lack of chocolate chunks that I’d normally throw in a brownie are really noticeable for their absence. The cream cheese mixture loses a lot of taste once baked (I was gutted, the raw mixture promised so much more) and I needed a much stronger and better quality coffee to soak the sponge fingers in. Saying all that, I think with a bit of tweaking I could really improve these. The brownies need to be cooked for a lot less time to ensure they’re gooey not dry, as well as needing some white chocolate buttons to give it a bit more texture and complement the creamy cheese topping. In fact, I’d probably use a completely different brownie recipe for the base next time, a Nigella one. I definitely need to be more generous with the coffee as well as possibly adding a splash more vanilla extract to the cheese mixture to really boost the flavours. Whether I will actually ever make these again I can’t say, all these brownies made me want to do was eat a really good tiramisu followed by a warm brownie and ice cream. Perhaps there is something to be said for sticking with the classics and leaving well alone. Still, there was no danger of me eating four portions, these are heavy little things, so if you also have willpower issues these will nip that in the bud. Like I said earlier, problem solved!
If you’d like to give these a go, you can find the recipe here, hopefully you’ll do a better job than I did: http://eat-drink-love.com/2013/09/tiramisu-brownies/