Updated: Jan 18, 2022
Traditional Italian comfort food becomes extra exquisite with these homemade ladyfingers.
Tiramisu is one of those desserts that I always thought was incredibly difficult to make. That only true Italians who work in real restaurants can actually make this incredibly spongy, creamy, succulent dessert. This traditional dessert is a perfect blend of sweetness with just a hint of bitterness from the coffee; allowing it to pair perfectly with a cappuccino or an after dinner espresso.
What is Tiramisu? I got to be honest, I kind of think of it as the lasagna of desserts! And in a sense it is. It is a family style dessert made in a casserole dish or a lasagna pan that layers ladyfingers (small, hard biscuit type cookies soaked in espresso) with a mascarpone egg cream. Finally it is topped with a dusting of cocoa powder. That's it!
Tiramisu is one of those traditional desserts where each family says, 'well I make it the true authentic way'. And even when you research online you will find dozens of different recipes. Which one is the REAL one??? Just like lasagna, there is no true one way to create a real authentic tiramisu. However, while there are many variations on this classic dish, a few components must be followed to really keep it legitimately traditionally authentic.
I have to be honest, I knew about the first 3, but I was convinced authentic tiramisu had alcohol in it. I thought people put rum or some sort of coffee liquor in it. The answer is yes you can and many do this. However, the traditional kind does not use any alcohol, but you can absolutely add it in if you prefer. This dish is already not kid friendly or for pregnant mothers, so why not toss some booze in? I think I will try adding alcohol to my second go around, but for my first try, I want to stay as close to authenticity as possible. I hadn't had tiramisu in over a decade since I discovered that I had Celiac and needed to eat gluten free. And finding gluten free tiramisu at a restaurant is like finding a needle in a haystack.
During this baking journey of mine, I had my mind set to make a gluten free authentic tiramisu that would rival 'normal-gluten filled' tiramisus that you find at every Italian establishment.
Just look at those layers! You can see the espresso soaked ladyfingers and each layer of cream.
Back in the day, my local German grocery store actually sold gluten free ladyfingers known here in Germany as 'Biskuitlöffel' or cookie spoons. I just love how literal everything is in German! Why I never bought them and made tiramisu I have NO idea. Again, I was too scared to try, which is dumb! Of course now I realize it is SO easy that any beginner can make it!
Unfortunately, my grocery store cut their gluten free section in half. UGHHHHH! WHY????? I thought another store might have it but it is a 30 minute schlep away and I just wasn't in the mood for that type of drive for boxed cookies. Amazon.de does sell gluten free ladyfingers, but you have to buy them in bulk and the cheapest is over 20€ which is about 25 US Dollars. I'm not spending that on boxed cookies. I am happy to spend tons of money on amazing quality food, produce, craftsmanship, etc but not on store bought cookies. No thanks!
Nothing to worry about. Easy to make and can be made ahead time too!
What ingredients do you need to make homemade ladyfingers:
Cream of Tartar
If you are making this gluten free I recommend using the gluten free flour blend by Schär made specifically for breads. The flour blend for cookies will work but you won't get that extra crispiness that you need for these cookies
Also I added in 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum.
The full recipe is at the bottom of this post.
What tools do you need to make homemade ladyfingers:
Either a stand mixer or a hand mixer with the whisk attachment
Piping Bag fitted with a large round open nozzle (I used a Wilton 1A)
What are ladyfingers? They are a long stout cookie that is hard and crispy on the inside while being light and airy on the inside. I honestly do not enjoy eating them plain. They are more a vehicle for other desserts. In tiramisu you soak these cookies in espresso before layering on the marscapone egg cream. The cookie absorbs the espresso liquid retaining that amazing coffee flavor while not breaking down into a soggy mushy mess.
Here you can see how I dipped the ladyfingers into espresso and then layered them in my Pyrex pan starting the first layer of my tiramisu.
Let me give you a few tips on making ladyfingers from scratch. First when you seperate your eggs make sure there is not ONE drop of egg yolk in your egg whites. I made this mistake because my yolk broke, leaving just a few droplets of yellow. So small and it still created havoc on my egg whites not allowing them to stiffen. I whisked and whisked and still it was a goopy mess.
Yep, that is all it took.
This was the stiffest I could get my egg whites. They were running and gloopy and I had to throw it all out!
Finally, I separated my eggs correctly like a real baker and what do you know... actual success.
Here you can see me about to fold in my egg whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture. Nice and stiff, like a perfect cloud.
Then once I folded in all my ingredients I quickly piped out the batter into 2-3 inch long cookies.
Bake for 18 minutes and that's it!
Nice and crispy and hard on the outside and on the bottom. If your cookie is too soft then pop it back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes. You need a nice hard cookie!
Also, they don't need to be perfectly uniform. Once the marscapone egg cream is covering them and it all sets together you won't be able to tell if one is a smidge lopsided or if a few are too short.
Now onto the fun part. Building up the tiramisu. The first thing you need to do is make sure your eggs are fresh and cleaned. I took each egg (still in its shell) and carefully scrubbed them with soap and warm water. People get all crazy, OMG raw eggs. How could you? You are going to get salmonella, it's disgusting, your will be sick for weeks...
That is just untrue. People in Europe eat raw eggs and unpasteurized cheese and you know what, we're not getting sick! Actual bacteria is on the shell of the egg, not the inside. So wash your eggs.
Once you have cleaned your eggs, combine just the yolks and powdered sugar using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on high for 2-3 minutes. Then add in your mascarpone cheese and continue beating until combined. The mixture should be the texture of custard. Not soupy but not totally thickened. Once it chills, the mixture will thicken.
Next step: Dip the Ladyfingers
You want to use quality espresso. I used LavAzza Espresso which my husband and I drink on a regular basis.
I brewed it straight into a bowl to make it super easy to soak my ladyfingers before layering them in my pan.
Then you want to do 3 layers each of ladyfingers and of the marscapone egg cream, starting with the ladyfingers and finishing with the cream.
This next part I will say deviates from the traditional authentic tiramisu but I couldn't help myself. I am a sucker for homemade chantilly cream. I absolutely love it. To me, homemade chantilly makes every dessert better. Chantilly cream is just sweetened whipped cream. It takes 5 minutes to make and when you say your dessert is made with chantilly cream everyone always 'oohs and aws' not knowing it is just sweetened whipped cream.
I piped little dollops of chantilly cream directly on top of the tiramisu and then I dusted the entire pan with cocoa powder.
This was such a joy to make and paired perfectly with our Italian themed evening our neighbors had for us. Our good friends just bought a pizza oven that reaches 500 Degrees Celsius which is 932F. They wanted to have us over for pizza night where they would make legit Italian pizza from Naples. We put asparagus and seafood and buffalo mozzarella on top AND the best part was that they special ordered gluten free flour from Italy! From Italy! I don't even do that. I have amazing friends. Just look at this pizza.
I really do have incredible friends. They go above and beyond and I wanted to do the same in return. And this tiramisu delivered! We all devoured it, not the kids of course. I made a separate kid friendly tiramisu for them where I soaked the ladyfingers in chocolate milk and layered it with a whipped mascarpone chocolate cream. They loved it. We loved ours. Our Italian themed night was a blast!
The perfect tiramisu slice