Tiramisu, the rich northern Italian dessert that took over American restaurant menus for decades, came into my life more than three decades ago when studying in Tuscany. Tiramisu and the mascarpone used for this delectable dessert were not in our vocabulary at the time. The dessert is now, still, a popular restaurant offering and mascarpone, the Italian sweet cream cheese is available in just about every supermarket and specialty food market.
I taught the dessert in numerous cooking classes over time with the original idea of shaved bittersweet chocolate layered with Savoiardi ladyfingers and the creamy mixture of beaten eggs and mascarpone. I recently received a wonderful gift of handpicked orchard cherries. The dark red fruit were plump and juicy. No doubt, eating them out of hand is always a cooling and delicious treat. As their refrigerator time is limited I decided to substitute seasonal cherries for the chocolate to prepare a cherry tiramisu. Since the eggs in the mascarpone mixture are not cooked, it is necessary to use organic eggs, which are now available at just about every farmstand or farmers market on the East End.
Select plump, deep glossy cherries with their stems attached and avoid soft, split or cracked stems. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days, loosely wrapped.
Tiramisu in Italian, means, “Lift me up.” This inspired interpretation will indeed give one a “lift.”
Serves 8 to 10
1 pint (2 cups) fresh pitted cherries*
6 large local eggs, separated when cold
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (8 oz.) mascarpone
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons Medaglia D’Oro
Instant Espresso or strong coffee
1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
18 to 24 ladyfingers (packaged Italian Savoiardi)
1. Rinse cherries, stem and pit them and set aside.
2. Separate eggs and whites and place egg yolks in bowl of electric mixer or in bowl with hand electric mixer. Beat egg yolks and sugar for 6 to 8 minutes until mixture is light and mixture falls into “ribbons.” Add mascarpone and stir gently to mix.
3. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl with clean beaters until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating until firm peaks form, about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Fold one-fourth of the whites into the egg yolk mixture to soften then carefully fold in remaining egg whites.
4. Place boiling water in a bowl, add the instant coffee and stir to mix. Allow to cool and stir in the Marsala. In a large, shallow serving dish using about half the ladyfingers, dip each one into the cooled coffee mixture on both sides and cover the bottom of the dish. Spoon half the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers, then place a layer of pitted cherries over. Repeat procedure of dipping the remaining ladyfingers and make a second layer spreading the “cream” and another layer of cherries. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Can be prepared up to two days ahead.
CHERRIES STEWED IN RED WINE
Use large, juicy and ripe sweet cherries for this simply fabulous fruit dessert.
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound dark sweet cherries, pitted*
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup full-bodied dry red wine
1/4 cup black currant or black cherry jam
1-inch stick cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Wash the cherries and pit them, leaving them whole. Combine them in a saucepan with the sugar, wine, jam, cinnamon and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the cinnamon, place the cherries together with their juice in individual serving bowls, and chill.
2. Just before serving, whip the cream and place a dollop on top of the cherries in each bowl. Serve cold.
*A cherry pitter is a small vertical plunge-like gadget available in kitchen and housewares shops.