I don’t know why, but the other day I decided to make tiramisu. Or wait, perhaps it had something to do with my freshly made batch of mascarpone cheese…
Either way, we know three things:
1. Tiramisu is really good.
2. In some ways, it’s hard to mess up tiramisu when you are working with such delicious ingredients.
3. The word tiramisu translates into “pick me up” due to all those espresso syrup-soaked layers.
Unless I can find a loving home for my creations, I’m the one stuck eating them (a true tragedy, I know) so I like to change things up from time to time.
Instead of a normal tiramisu, I wanted to eat one of a different flavor. Perhaps something more unique, maybe a little unexpected. My mind only got as far as salted caramel.
When I worked at my last job, I had to restrain myself from using a caramel component on every plate. It’s probably my most adored flavor. Sweet for a second, then bitter. A hint of salt. The absolute perfect compliment to something rich or sugary.
So I built the self-proposed tiramisu in my head. I plotted it’s structure out on paper. I know, I’m weird.
We start with homemade ladyfinger cookies. You can always buy packaged ones at the grocery store, but then again, out in the mountains I’m not sure if you can always find them.
The ladyfingers get settled in the bottom of our pan and then we give them a very heavy bath of caramel espresso syrup. We want them to get drunk on that Kahlua.
Next comes the creamy and luxurious salted caramel mascarpone cream. This is achieved by whipping heavy cream, a bit of sugar, and that homemade mascarpone together until fluffy and thick. Then we fold in some creamy salted caramel sauce. Voila.
Layer that salted caramel cream on. Repeat process two more times. And let the tiramisu sit and marinate for at least 24 hours. Serious. Trust me.
The next day you can slice into that tiramisu, which will be oozing with flavor and making each person who takes a bite believe you are truly…a sugar goddess.
How to make this high altitude recipe:
Salted Caramel Tiramisu
- Ladyfinger Cookies (adapted from Baking & Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft by the Culinary Institute of America):
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¾ cup cake flour, sifted
- Caramel Espresso Soaking Syrup:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 5 shots strong espresso
- 2 oz Kahlua
- Creamy Caramel Sauce:
- 1½ cups sugar
- ½ cup water
- Squeeze of lemon juice or a pinch of tartar
- 1½ cups heavy cream, warmed
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ½ tablespoon salt
- Salted Caramel Mascarpone Cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1½ cups mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup creamy caramel sauce (recipe above)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- For the ladyfingers: preheat your oven to 350 F.
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg yolks and ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar until thick and light, 4-5 minutes. Reserve in another bowl and wash your mixer bowl.
- Whip the egg whites with a clean whip attachment until frothy. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar and whip until medium-soft peaks form.
- Working gently, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks. Fold in the sifted cake flour.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip with the batter and pipe 3" lengths. The cookies will expand as they bake, being that they are similar to a sponge cake, so keep a little space between. Dust generously with confectioner's sugar, if desired.
- Bake until the edges turn a light golden brown, about 7-10 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container. Makes about 40 cookies, enough for one batch of Salted Caramel Tiramisu.
- For the caramel espresso soaking syrup: Make a dry caramel with the sugar over medium-high heat. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn't start smoking and get too dark.
- As it cooks, continue pushing the undissolved sugar into the parts that are coloring. If dry caramel makes you nervous, you can always do this on a lower heat setting and take your time.
- Once you have obtained a dark golden color, remove from heat and carefully add a little of the water. The pan with sputter and make a lot of commotion. Let it settle then add the remaining water. Put back over low heat and allow the caramel to dissolve.
- When the caramel has dissolved, add the espresso and Kahlua. Set aside. You will have some soaking syrup left over. Add it to your coffee on a Monday morning.
- For the creamy caramel sauce: Heat the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a sauce pot over high heat. Do not stir it and do not let sugar collect on the sides of the pot before you begin. This kind of caramel is highly prone to 'seizing', especially at altitude. So we touch the sugar as little as possible. Once the sugar starts to color, you can carefully swirl the pan to help it cook more evenly.
- Cook to a golden brown and remove from heat. Add the warmed heavy cream, in 4 increments. Be careful as the caramel will sputter violently. Stir in the butter and salt. If any bits of hard caramel remain, cook over low heat until smooth.
- Let cool to room temperature before folding into mascarpone cream. You will also have a bit of caramel sauce left over. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.
- For the salted caramel mascarpone cream: in the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.
- On low speed, gently mix in the mascarpone cheese and salt. Fold in the creamy caramel sauce.
- To assemble: In a 9-inch pan, layer the ladyfinger cookies across the bottom.
- Douse generously with the caramel espresso soaking syrup.
- Cover with ⅓ of the salted caramel, then repeat the ladyfinger, soaking syrup, and salted caramel cream layers twice more.
- Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Dust with cocoa powder right before serving.
Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking but should work fine unadjusted at sea level. The lady fingers may require baking slightly longer.