28 February 2010
Mamma Mia! - A Daring Bakers' Challenge
Once upon a time, there was a restaurateur, "Tony," who dreamed of making it big in Manhattan. He worked hard and was able to make a name for himself -- soon he was operating one of the hottest, trendiest Italian ristorantes in the city. Although Tony told acquaintances and customers he had been living in the US for over two decades, his accent was so heavy, you'd think he had just stepped off the boat from Napoli yesterday. He prided himself on rustic, home-style cooking and claimed that many of his dishes were made with loving care from recipes handed to down to him from his great, great grandmother or "Nona Lucia" as he called her. One of these was a tiramisu that was billed as the house specialty on the menu.
He was a kind man and did well by his employees. But if you happened upon him in the kitchen after-hours as clean-up continued well into the night, you'd notice his accent start to waver and gone were the slick Italian custom-made suits in favor of a cotton polo and ripped jeans. For Tony had been born the child of Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe. There was no family estate in Napoli, or a kind, loving grandmother named Lucia who loved to cook. No, just Ed...from Brooklyn....a regular schmo who had a good business sense. He had found a niche in the market and then created the perfect fairy-tale to go along with it. And, his customers couldn't help but eat it up (pun intended). His secret: he had perfected his act to the point where he actually started to believe it himself.
I worked for "Tony" one summer, first as a hostess in the front room and later on as an assistant in the kitchen. Thanks to a real live Italian behind the stove, the food frankly wasn't all that bad. There was nothing authentic about the tiramisu though, which came pre-packaged in huge vats from a food service company in Jersey. I never once had seen one made from scratch in-person. Which is one of the reasons why I was so excited about this month's Daring Bakers. The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.
This is a fantastic recipe; it yielded one of the best tiramisus I have ever eaten. I literally could not believe I (with no Italian heritage either) made it myself. Of course, we had to make our own ladyfingers and mascarpone from scratch which was a challenge in itself. But the instructions were easy to follow, and the whole thing came together with patience and time. If you want to make it at home, you'll find the recipe here. Thanks to Deeba and Aparna for a really challenging dessert but one worth its weight in gold! I made mine almost identical to their recipe with lots of grated chocolate in-between the layers in Margarita glasses (sorry for the poor quality of photos here; I made mine the day after the challenge reveal and didn't have enough time to set up a nice photo shoot!). But the possibilities are endless; see some of the other Daring Bakers' take on this recipe by visiting the blogroll.