30 Italian ladyfingers (savoiardi)
4 cups cold coffee
1 (2.75-ounce) box chocolate pudding (not instant)
1 quart whole milk
1 (2.75-ounce) box vanilla pudding (not instant)
1 cup heavy cream (optional)
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar (optional)
Pastry bag fitted with a star tip (optional)
Fine sieve or sugar shaker
America is long past its original infatuation with this coffee-flavored sweet, but Italians continue to love it, and so do my students. The name means “pick-me-up”—in Italy, we say that eating tiramisu gives you energy. The traditional version is made with a creamy mascarpone cheese cream made with raw or lightly cooked egg and layered with a type of Italian ladyfinger cookies called savoiardi that have been soaked in espresso. My mom, who has an aversion to raw egg, came up with this twist on the original many years ago, substituting chocolate and vanilla puddings for the mascarpone cream.
The whipped cream is optional, but I usually serve a dollop on the side.My meticulous mother uses a piping bag and ruler to draw lines of whipped cream, first all around the edge of the pan, then down the center, and then crosswise to mark off twelve, precisely even, pieces.
Get yourself set up with an 8 ¼-by-11½-inch baking dish(preferably Pyrex) and the ladyfingers. You’ll use 15 ladyfingers per layer. Pour the coffee into a wide, shallow bowl or an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a saucepan, make the chocolate pudding with 2 cups of the milk according to the package instructions. Set it aside off the heat. Place a ladyfinger in the bowl or baking dish with the coffee and, working quickly so that it doesn’t absorb too much coffee, roll the ladyfinger twice in the coffee: from one side over to the other side, and then over again. Place the soaked ladyfinger along one long side of the dish. Roll another ladyfinger in the coffee and place it next to the first. Continue soaking the ladyfingers in the coffee and arranging them in the pan until you have 2 rows of 6 ladyfingers and only the very end of the baking dish has not been filled. Soak 2 more ladyfingers and lay them next to,but perpendicular to the others, the short ends of the cookies flush with one long side of the baking dish. There will just be one corner of the dish empty; cut one last ladyfinger in half widthwise, soak it, and use the halves to fill the dish. Pour the hot chocolate pudding into the baking dish and smooth it with a rubber spatula to completely cover the ladyfingers.
Photos By: Ellen Silverman
Photo By: Ellen Silverman