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November 24, 2011

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Tiramisu - Divinely decadent dessert

TIRAMISU is like heaven in the mouth. Probably the most famous and beloved Italian dessert, luscious tiramisu is made by layering coffee-soaked ladyfingers with a mixture of mascarpone cheese, egg yolks and sugar.

It's flavored with liqueur and cocoa powder. There are many variations, all delicious confections of aroma, texture and flavor.

There are many tales about how tiramisu was invented, mostly by confectioners at restaurants to honor various people. Here's a romantic World War II story from Tuscany.

According to the story, an Italian soldier must leave home and take up arms. As a farewell treat, his wife combines whatever ingredients remaining at home, including cookies, mascarpone cheese and coffee. She called it "tiramisu," literally "picking me up," and supposedly meaning she wants her husband to return and sweep her up in his arms.

It may well be the world's most famous Italian sweet.

This week, Shanghai Daily interviews two pastry chefs about the secrets of the divinely decadent dessert. Linda Fu, pastry chef at Grand Hyatt Shanghai, and Heinz Oertli, executive chef at Renaissance Shanghai Yangtze Hotel, talk about whipping up a bit of heaven.

There now hundreds of variations of what's believed to be the classic tiramisu and Chef Heinz says there are basically two kinds today. One is a cut cake with more gelatin, which seems firm and dry and is usually served in a bakery; the other is softer and creamer and is served in a cup as a la carte dessert.

Chef Heinz prefers the creamy dish, saying it has higher quality due to its better texture and moistness.

Chef Linda, a proponent of the traditional recipe, says authentic tiramisu should meet certain criteria. She uses milky-flavor mascarpone cheese from Italy, ladyfingers (Savoiardi) soaked in espresso; coffee-flavored liqueur, Italian Marsala and Kahlua, a coffee-flavored rum liqueur.

In southern Italy, said to be the birthplace of the dessert, tiramisu is often flavored with lemon zest and ratafia, an almond-flavored liquor.


The ideal container is a transparent so the layers of the dessert and marble-like patterns of white and dark brown can be appreciated. When tasting, scoop the spoon down to the bottom so that each bite contains all the layers and textures.

Sometimes a lot of cocoa powder is sprinkled on the top and diners should be careful not to inhale it but eat carefully and savor each flavor.

Renaissance Shanghai Yangtze Hotel

The tiramisu served at the Renaissance Shanghai Yangtze Hotel features soft, fluffy and creamy mascarpone and moist and rich ladyfinger layers.

The fine cocoa powder on the top not only garnishes the dessert but serves as a bitter counterpoint to the sweet cheese mixture.

Chef Heinz says he uses a house espresso recipe for dipping the ladyfingers, as well as imported Italian mascarpone, giving it an authentic Italian flavor.

"A cup of Italian coffee, a glass of sweet wine or an aged Marsala works will with the desert," he says.

BLD Cafe

Renaissance Shanghai Yangtze Hotel

Address: 2099 Yan'an Rd W.

Tel: 6275-0000

Grand Hyatt Shanghai

The tiramisu (258 yuan per kilogram) at the Grand Hyatt Shanghai has a strong and complex aroma of mellow coffee and milky cream. Each bite contains layers of texture, alternating ladyfingers and creamy cheese. Sweetness is balanced by the bitterness of the espresso.

Chef Linda recommends serving tiramisu with espresso ice cream - a real taste blowout of temperature contrasts.

The tiramisu is served at room temperature, while the ice cream is icy cold. The best time to serve tiramisu is at lunch, says Chef Linda, since the mascarpone cheese layer made with egg yolks and sugar is freshly made each morning.

Pastry Boutique / ON56

Grand Hyatt Shanghai

Address: 88 Century Ave, Pudong

Tel: 5047-1234 ext 8778


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