April 2009

Tiramisu

Tiramisu is an Italian layered desert consisting of Savoiardi cookies (biscuits to the British, or "lady fingers" colloquially—slightly dry small sponge cake wafers) dipped (or soaked but not to saturation) in very strong coffee (espresso, traditionally) then layered with a very light custard made of Zabiglione (egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine (traditionally Marsala) or a liquor as a flavoring) and Mascarpone (a very rich, slightly sweet and slightly stiff Italian cream cheese). The carefully dipped-in-expresso cookies are then layered with the custard, then sprinkled with cocoa, and refrigerated.

The word tirami-su quite literally means "pick me up"; this makes sense if you think about the effects of the coffee, and the liquor. I'm not even going to attempt to unravel the history of Tiramisu as a dessert though; it's far too complicated, and too likely to cause headaches; I'd much rather eat it. I will note the following:

6 Great Ginger Desserts

Ginger has long been prized for its spicy burn, for its ability to settle the stomach, and for its warming properties (according to traditional Chinese medicine). It has been used medicinally to combat nausea, fever, colds, diarrhea, fatigue, the joint pains of arthritis, and a thousand other ailments. Ginger is a true culinary workhorse, equally delicious with pork and sugary cookies. As a tropical plant, it was originally cultivated in India and Southeast Asia, where it has a long history of use with meats, rice, and in beverages.

Here are six great desserts that you can make with ginger:

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns! Hot cross Buns!
One a penny, two a penny
Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters
Give them to your sons
One a penny, two a penny
Hot cross buns!

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
If you haven't got a penny
A ha'penny will do.
If you haven't got a ha'penny,
Well God bless you.

One of my very favorite childhood associations with Easter is that my mother would make Hot Cross buns a few days before; we would often have them on Good Friday, and we almost always had them for breakfast on Easter morning. Strictly speaking, they're actually Cross Buns, meant to be served "hot." Cross buns are a sweet bread, with a sweet yeast dough made with currants and cinnamon; sometimes cloves or other spices, or candied orange peel are used. The round bun is then marked with a knife on the top with a cross, and then (or in stead of) decorated with a white sugar-based glaze drizzled on the top of the warm-from-the-oven bun in the shape of a cross.