As far as I can recall, it was at Gene Gonzalez’ The Smiling Chef where I tasted my first tiramisu, oh, around twelve years ago. Along with the crostata di ricotta, the tiramisu was my favorite cake from The Smiling Chef.
It was from Biba Caggiano’s now defunct TV cooking show Biba’s Italian Kitchen that I saw the first actual demonstration of tiramisu-making. At the time, mascarpone cheese was as alien to me as the atmosphere of Mars. But, all through the years, I remember that she distinctly said, “Please do not substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone.” Yesterday, I found out why.
The first time I tried making tiramisu, I was happy with the way it tasted but not too happy with the way it looked. I used a combination of mascarpone and cream cheeses and the custard part was great, except that there was too little of it. Substituting mamon tostado for the lady fingers would have worked fine were it not for the fact that the mamon tostado I bought were too thick. My, bad, but there was no way I could have found that out from through the sealed tin.
Yesterday, because there was no mascarpone, I made the tiramisu using two blocks of cream cheese. It looked perfect. But it was too salty. So, I guess there’s going to be a tiramisu, version 3 sometime in the near future where I will apply the lessons I have learned so far: 1) Mamon tostado tastes better than lady fingers; 2) The mamon tostado should not be more than half an inch thick; 3) The mamon tostado should only be lightly dipped in espresso; 4) An all-cream cheese tiramisu is too salty.
Nevertheless, because I did not mess up the procedure this time, I will show you how I made my perfect-looking but a tad too salty tiramisu. »