Candied Kumquat Tiramisu

This month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was Italian tiramisu. Deeba from Passionate About Baking and Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen, the hosts of the challenge, chose Carminantonio’s tiramisu recipe from the “The Washington Post”, July 11, 2007. The whole thing was supposed to be made completely from scratch, including the savoiardi/ladyfingers biscuits (the chosen recipe is from the “Le Cordon Bleu at Home”) and mascarpone cheese (thank you for choosing my recipe here).

Frankly, it was quite a surprise for me to read through the tiramisu ingredients list. The recipe is somewhat unusual. It calls for only 75g of mascarpone (it’s a rarity a tiramisu recipe requires less than a pound of cheese) and some pastry cream (my first thought was a cheaper substitute). The recipe creator, probably, was using what he had on hand (there’s always some crème patisserie stash in a commercial fridge). I’ve encountered many different recipes of the Italian classic and mostly everywhere Zabaglione is a must, folded whipped egg whites are quite common, pastry cream…? Really unusual…

I changed a few things here and there (couldn’t help myself, sorry). I tripled the cheese amount (I still made the required pastry cream, don’t disqualify me, please) and reduced the sugar. I used a different technique for mixing the savoiardi batter (I’m a strong believer in the power of well-whipped egg yolks) and higher temperature for baking: it is really a full-proof method that never fails me. I also added a touch of gelatin to the cream filling mixture, just a tiny bit to stabilize the whole thing, so the dessert could be presented free-standing and sliced neatly without freezing in advance. And since there was no need to chill the zabaglione and pastry cream, the addition of gelatin also allowed me to speed up the assembly (as usual, I procrastinated until the 27th and had to rush). I actually was able to unmold and slice it just after 3 hours of refrigerating (although, no doubt, the flavor does improve after overnight chilling).

As for the flavor I stepped out of the tradition (we were allowed to). I used the kumquats – wonderful citrus fruits with a very short season. I flavored the pastry cream and zabaglione with the kumquat zest, and used Grand Marnier instead of Marsala. I dipped the ladyfingers into a mixture of orange juice, Grand Marnier and candied kumquat syrup. The candied kumquats themselves became a topping and a layer at the bottom. Extra syrup was passed around to dribble over the plated slices.

Deeba, Aparna, thank you for hosting! It’s a great idea to master the ladyfingers; they are so versatile!

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Baklava Fingers

Maybe not as fabulous as the real thing, not as overloaded with nuts and oversaturated with aromatic syrup, still, these are pretty good for what they are – little sweet treats made of some phyllo leftovers (there’s always something left unless the baklava itself was made). The fingers also keep better, stay crisp longer.

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Dried Fruit and Nut Cake

These are basically fruit and nuts with a bit of flour and eggs to bind them together. Exceptionally easy to make, delicious and nutritious, this cake makes not just a fantastic snack, but also a perfect addition to the cheese platter. The fruits sure can be varied, and as long as they are natural, unsulfured and of a good quality, the end result will be terrific.

The recipe is from “Pure Dessert”

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Double Chocolate and Cherry Scones with Crème Fraiche and Cherry Preserves

These chubby hearts, bumpy with chocolate and dry cherries, although very suitable for Valentines Day breakfast in bed, were made for my poor kiddo who had to stay at home with sore throat and missed all Valentines Day fun in school. I noticed his throat didn’t bother him much while he was downing the scones; I guess they made him feel better.

Happy Valentines Day, everyone!

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Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

I had almost started making these when I realized I was out of praline paste. I did want the frosting to be caramel, but I didn’t have neither intention nor time for making praline at that moment. Instead, I quickly fixed caramel crème anglaise and then turned it into the buttercream. I liked the outcome. The caramel flavor was there, and the texture was perfect for piping – soft, but also very stable.

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