Have you ever taken a bite of a tiramisu just to discover it brought you to a magical, fluffy, heavenly place? If not, I am so sorry. Try to experience this at least once in your life. If yes, then you know what I am talking about... I had this "out of body" experience when I tried a tiramisu from a specific restaurant in Italy. It was a simple restaurant down the street where I was staying at the time, and it has probably been made there since the beginning of their time with the same chef, in the same dishes, and same ingredients... To me, I don't know if it was because I was in a different environment, but this tiramisu seemed like a piece of a cloud with chocolate on top, which is pretty much the definition of perfection.
So, being the way I am with food, I researched ways to make my own chocolate topped cloud! The key to a good tiramisu is to have the lady fingers be fluffy and moist, but not too soaked, or they will pass from fluffy cloud state, to the state of damp, heavy, mushy cloud. With this recipe (pictured), I tried to keep in mind that the dessert would sit in the fridge overnight and that it wouldn't only have absorbed the coffee, but the custard that was layered with it as well. I had great success with coffee made out of a mock pot, or a machianetta. Coffee made with this pot creates something stronger than regular espresso, which in turn gives off very strong coffee flavor even after a few days. After living in Italy, I developed a solid appreciation for bold, strong, black coffee, and the machianetta allows me to recreate that same intensity here in the U.S. For those who don't know what this coffee maker is, it is a stove-top pot that produces coffee by passing boiling water pressurized by steam through ground coffee (from the bottom-up).
What I really liked about this recipe too was the fact it called for orange and lime zest, to soften out the egg yolk flavor, since the eggs in this recipe are uncooked. Additionally, although many tiramisu recipes call for only egg yolks and no egg whites, this one I made called for whipped egg whites to be incorporated with the mascarpone cheese and egg yolks to form the custard. Which, I found to turn the custard very fluffy and airy and reminded me of that tiramisu I had in Florence.
Did you know the word tiramisu means "pick me up?" This is for the fact it has strong espresso inside along with the heavy mix of eggs and sugar, which all add up to give you an instant "pick me up" boost of caffeine and sugar... what else can you ask for in a dessert? This is also why this recipe was turned into dessert... Italians wanted to find a way to eat their coffee along with their dessert. After eating the 5 course meals in Italy, there must be a way to skip the food coma, so here it is!