Strawberry Tiramisu

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Many years ago, my girlfriend Gabriella made a strawberry tiramisu, and I’ve never forgotten it. It was made in the same manner as a traditional tiramisu, but without the coffee element. Instead, it had layers of beautiful spring strawberries.

So I wanted to finally make this twist of the popular Italian dessert using traditional ingredients like Savoirdi biscuits and marscapone, plus strawberries. However, I pondered upon what liquid to use in which to dip the biscuits.

A million years ago, approximately, my husband and I went to a Food and Wine Tasting in Aspen, Colorado. It was the same week that O. J. Simpson “allegedly” killed two people. I remember the actual day that he was followed along highway 101 in the white Bronco because it was my younger daughter’s birthday – June 12th.

In any case, the festival itself was a bit crazy. I think they sold too many tickets! Being short, I was always being elbowed by tall men who’d obviously never tasted wine or food before. Even if I was in front of a vendor table, people were reaching past me, around me, and over me. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not much of a crowd lover, so it was a bit stressful and painful for me. The good parts were having Stephen Pyles sign my cookbook, even though I was accused of stealing it (I had already purchased the cookbook in Denver before heading to Aspen), seeing a demonstration with Patricia Wells, and then attending a demonstration with Julia Child. Even my husband really appreciated that.

So why am I bringing this all up? There was a new winery at the festival – Quady Winery. The representatives were serving small scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a drizzle of Essencia, made from orange muscat grapes. It was fabulous. I personally think there’s a proper place for sweet and dessert wines, and these have since become award-winning wines.


There’s Electra as well, which is made from a black muscat grape. If you ever see them, give one a try. I actually have used both in making sangria, to replace the brandy element that’s too strong for me.

So back to the tiramisu. I thought an orange element, from the Essencia and from oranges themselves, along with the strawberries would create a perfectly delicious spring dessert! Here’s what I did.


Strawberry Tiramisu

16 ounces Marscapone, at room temperature
16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
3 oranges, juice and zest used
Strawberries, picked over, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Essencia
1 – 7 ounce box Savoirdi biscuits (I only used half)
Pearl sugar, optional

Begin by placing the marcapone and yogurt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar.


Add the zest of three oranges, and beat again until well distributed.

Set aside the marscapone mixture, and begin with the berries. I had hoped to use my own garden strawberries in this dessert, but they’ve been attacked by some kind of creepy crawly.

Slice the strawberries into even slices; mine were approximately 1/4″ thick. Place in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, and the juice of 1/2 an orange.


Toss well and set aside.

Using a square baking dish 8″ in diameter, begin by placing a layer of half of the marscapone mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Using a spatula, spread smooth.
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Pour approximately 1 1/2 cups of Essencia into a flat baking dish. Add the juice of one orange and stir well. Taste the mixture. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey or agave syrup.

Place the biscuits in the wine mixture, then turn over. You don’t want them to fall apart, but you do want them softened. Work with only a few at a time.

Place them over the marscapone in the baking dish. Make them fit however you have to!
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Add half the strawberries, then cover with the remaining marscapone, and top it with the remaining strawberries. There is only one layer of the softened biscuits.
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Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Slice and serve. I had mine still chilled with an espresso for breakfast!

But of course it’s perfect for dessert, warmed to room temperature, and served with Essencia or another dessert wine.


I put a few sprinkles of pearl sugar on the top for fun! It adds a sweet crunch.


This recipe doesn’t touch the traditional version of tiramisu, see note below, but it’s still really fun and highlights the sweet spring strawberries!


note: Traditional Italian tiramisu is typically made with a sabayon. My version is simpler, but not better. The sabayon makes the marscapone layer much lighter. Also, lady fingers and savoirdi biscuits have a similar shape, but that’s all they have in common. Lady fingers are light and soft, while savoirdi biscuits are hard and crisp. They should not be confused.

Italian Orange Cake

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Sometimes I hang on to a cookbook just because there’s one perfect recipe in it. And this is one of those recipes, although fortunately, there are plenty of other recipes in this cookbook that I love. But I’d keep the book just for this cake. Here’s the book, by Patricia Wells, published in 1993:

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I never really wanted to like Patricia Wells, probably because her life is so enviable. She never owned a restaurant or worked as a chef. In fact, she started out as a food journalist, but fell in love with the foods of France, then Italy, and then wrote about them. It’s not like she’s a Hubert Keller or Eric Ripert, but boy has she published a lot of cookbooks. And I have to say, all of the ones I own are pretty fabulous.

I heard her speak at a demonstration at an Aspen Food and Wine festival many moons ago. She seemed really snobby. I think she’s been living in France too long, with homes in both Paris and Provence.

One of Ms. Wells’ cookbooks that I own is about her home in Provence. I really didn’t want to like this book, because it showed off her beautiful 18th century stone farmhouse, and to-die-for kitchen. With a wood-fired oven. It will make you so jealous that you don’t have a farmhouse in Provence. Unless you do.

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And then there’s this book she wrote featuring Joel Rebouchon and his recipes. It’s another beautiful cookbook that I refer to often.

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Then there’s her Bistro book, which is essentially the French version of the Trattoria cookbook, focusing on regional food prepared at neighborhood restaurants throughout France.

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But I love her Trattoria cookbook because it’s about simple Italian fare; the recipes aren’t pretentious. It’s all about “healthy, simple, robust fare inspired by the small family restaurants of Italy.” Thus, the title.

Speaking of trattorias, if you ever go to Italy, be prepared that there are many different kinds of eating and dining establishments there. And each one has limited menus are are only open at specific times. Make sure to look into this before you go, or you will end up at at what you thought was a restaurant, where no food is available, or at a bar with no drinks. Or, the establishment will be closed.

Some of the recipes in Trattoria might not be terribly inspiring to those expertly familiar with Italian cuisine, but the book certainly has its place, especially to home cooks like myself. There are many recipes in it to which I still use, like this cake, which is Tuscan in origin, according to Ms. Wells.

Here’s her website, in case you want to check her out. She’s really quite accomplished. I’m just a little jealous of her life!

Fragrant Orange and Lemon Cake
Torta di Arancio e Limone

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup whole milk
16 tablespoons, or 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Evenly coat the interior of a 9″ springform pan with butter. Dust lightly with flour, shaking out the excess flour. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.
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Measure out the milk and place it in a small bowl. Add the orange juice and zest as well as the lemon juice and zest. Give it a little stir and set aside to “sour.”
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Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl.
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Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about two minutes.
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Crack each egg individually and place in a small bowl to avoid shells. Add the vanilla extract to the eggs.
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While beating, add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.
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Continue until the eggs are all gone.
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Then beat in about 1/3 of curdled milk mixture and then 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients, alternating and just beating until smooth.
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The batter will be nice and smooth at this point.
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Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan.
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Bake for approximately 50 minutes; a cake tester should come out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.
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Remove the side of the pan, and let the cake cool for about 30 minutes. Then remove the bottom of the springform pan using a long knife held parallel to the bottom.
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Slice the cake in wedges when still warm, or at room temperature.
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I served mine with raspberries and slightly sweetened whipped cream.
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I also served this cake with Quady Red Electra, which is a red Moscato. It’s wonderful with desserts, but also perfect to sweeten sangria.
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But an Auslese, a port, sherry, or some Tuscan Vin Santo would pair nicely as well.

This cake is just as delicious as I remember it from the last time I made it about ten years ago. It’s not a dry cake, presuming it’s not overcooked. It’s dense, in fact, and has an interesting crumb to it. I could have sprinkled the cake with some confectioner’s sugar as well, but I like the fact that this cake has no icing, and doesn’t need any. It would also be fabulous for breakfast or brunch.

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note: There are two major differences between this recipe and the original one from the cookbook. First of all, Ms. Wells uses a 10″ Bundt pan for this recipe, cooking it at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes. Also, she uses vanilla sugar instead of white sugar – sugar in which a vanilla bean pod has been added. I simply added vanilla extract to the recipe.

Buttermilk could probably be substituted for the milk in this recipe, given the additions of lemon and orange juices, but I really like the idea of the milk mixing with the juices and zest for a time before being used in the recipe.