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Giada's Essential Italian Dishes: Tiramisu

Everything you need to know to master the ultimate after-dinner pick-me-up


Every cuisine has its core recipes, the fundamental dishes and techniques that set it apart from the rest of the world. I'm breaking down my 10 essential Italian dishes, sharing everything you need to know to master them and become a superstar Italian cook.
Easy Tiramisu Recipes
What It Is: With a name that means "pick-me-up," you know this dessert is going to have a potent kick. Tiramisu's one-two punch comes from a syrup made of espresso and rum in which cookies (traditionally ladyfingers) are soaked, then topped with a custard made from whipped mascarpone and eggs and finished off with a layer of bittersweet cocoa. 
Tiramisu is a relative baby in the Italian culinary hall of fame; it was invented in the 1960s at a restaurant called Le Beccherie in Treviso, and quickly became famous across the country. Now, it can be found in all shapes and sizes, from individual cups to industrial sheet pans, but I find a standard baking dish is the perfect size to serve a dinner party (with a little left over for a decadent breakfast the next day).
Why I Love It: Tiramisu can be assembled and left to soak in the fridge for up to three days - in fact, the longer it sits, the better it gets, giving all of the flavors time to mingle - making it the absolute perfect make-ahead dessert for entertaining. The combination of cool, creamy mascarpone and potent espresso and rum is irresistible after a big meal. Somehow, you can always find room for a little tiramisu, no matter how full you are! 
How It's Done: Classic recipes call for Marsala wine as tiramisu's boozy boost, but I like to use dark rum, whose rich sugarcane flavor compliments the sweet, eggy custard. Take the time to find ladyfinger cookies to use as your base; while you could use biscotti or another super-crunchy plain cookie, they won't soak up the espresso-rum syrup as well, affecting the finished dish's silky texture. Dip each ladyfinger in the espresso mix for just five seconds - any longer and they'll fall apart before you can get them in the dish! And while my nonno always topped his tiramisu with bitter cocoa powder, I'll take any excuse to add more chocolate to my life! I shower the finished pan with dark chocolate shavings, adding a little crunch to the creamy treat.
 

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