Picture this: a shirtless Italian man in your kitchen whipping egg whites, making tiramisu. For me, that’s a long life dream come true. While ladies fantasize about firemen with suspenders strapped over their bare pecks and six packs, I find nothing sexier than a man in an apron.
I don’t bake. I’ll occasionally make a pan of delectably indulgent brownies (I have a secret ingredient that I’ll come around to revealing- eventually), but I typically don’t do well with precise measurements or entrusting things to the oven. And while I am admittedly more of a savory person (I could eat a third helping of pasta for dessert after a pasta supper), if I were to say I lack a sweet tooth entirely, that would be a monumental lie (after all, I’m one of those who will go off real food every 28 days and luxuriate in chocolate and chocolate goods).
I remember a conversation with a professor this summer, concluding that I am left with no choice but to marry a man who can make creme brulee. That ultimate life goal of mine has not yet been achieved, but at least my fantasy of having a man in pants and exposed chest hair making me dessert is no longer just a pie in the sky.
I did not learn, or even bother to learn how to make a tiramisu. I did learn, however, that “tiramisu” can be broken down into “tirami su” to deservedly mean “pick me up”- lift my spirit when I’m down, and make me happy again. Instead, hungry from the chore of shopping, hopping from one grocery store to the next, tailing the Italian in his search of the better brand of lady fingers, I made a sandwich, artfully layering a spread of mayo, parsley, and mustard with two slices of roast beef, two of lean pastrami, pesto (always homemade and never store bought), swiss cheese, dill pickle slices, and again mayo but this time paired with just a tad of spicy pickled mango nicely mashed (it can overpower, plus guinea pig doesn’t like things too spicy), between a couple of slices of toasted wheat bread, which we cut in half and snacked on after the Italian had the components of his cream made and in the refrigerator resting, before the time came for layering the pick-me-up-to-be.
After we had our sandwich halves and the Italian guinea pig‘s little sounds of satisfaction ceased, I sat back and watched as he took out the bowl of egg yolks and sugar (8 yolks and 10 tablespoons of sugar to be exact), beaten on high speed to a dense consistency. He added 500 grams of mascarpone to the mixture, and called me over, handing me over the responsibility of the beater, with the order to go low and slow, making sure not to raise the temperature- the mascarpone fragile and vulnerable to melting. As my eyes followed the rippling cream with my wrist circling the bowl at lento speed, the Italian added a couple capfuls of rum to the espresso he had cooling in a pan. One minute later, he took back over, and added the egg whites, two of which he had separated from the yolks, beaten swiftly and popped into the fridge. He continued with the beater, on minimum speed, low and slow, and put the composed cream back into the fridge. Freeing the whisk attachments, he let me lick them off before adding them to the cumulating dishes in the kitchen sink, giving me a taste of nostalgia, taking me back to the early 90s in my mother’s kitchen, when I was 6 or 7, and she would make the most delicious rollettes, her version of a sponge cake roll, and reward me with the whisk of her from-scratch-made whipped cream and later the creamy spatula she used to coat the cake.
Back to 2012, I could say the most attractive scene was when the time came to stack the tiramisu; his wrist dancing as he brushed each lady finger, gently and swiftly into the cooled espresso, not too deep of a dip, like Christ gliding on water. Tightly packing the bottom of the pyrex with the biscuits, that they call Savoiardi (I don’t know what it translates into if anything rather than merely a name, but I sure do hope it’s something more appetizing and pleasing than the unsightly “lady finger”), he followed with a layer of cream, then biscuits, cream again, and a snowfall of unsweetened cocoa powder.
The most strenuous of the process, at least from my bystander point of view, is the wait; trying to resist at least 6 hours, or preferably over night, for the drunken Savoiardis to digest the espresso-rum cocktail and soften from their originally dry and crusty nature, seduced by the sultry cream slathering them.
But all is well that ends well, and my share of tiramisu did tirami su.