Greetings from an official Restaurant Week enthusiast!
I’ve always been what I like to consider myself as a closeted restaurant week supporter because I never quite took the step to truly allowing myself to experience what the hubbub was all about, but nonetheless enthused and gushed over the week from behind my kitchen doors and deep within my cupboards. I understand some people claim the quality of the food is lower during this week and some restaurants aren’t completely thrilled about participating so therefore the ambiance may be off and the experience not as fulfilling as it would be during the normal season, but I am here to disagree. I suppose my reasoning in taking so long to make a reservation and take the leap to a noteworthy restaurant during this time was because I felt that if I was going to spend the money and take the time, I wanted it to be during the establishments prime so I could experience them in their fullest potential. Basically I was listening to what everyone else had to say about this marvelous week. And with that being said, I would like to announce that they’re all wrong, because I spent my Thursday and Friday night being serenaded by the most amazing dining experiences to date.
Thursday night I took the trek to East Hampton’s 1770 House and had a wonderful three course meal of roasted carrot soup with ginger, curry and coconut milk, an entree of salmon with pureed parsnips and kale, and to finish a chocolate molten cake with macadamia ice cream. Friday night I dined at The North Fork Table and Inn in Southold and almost passed out of pure happiness. It was quite honestly the best meal I have ever experienced in my entire existence. To start I had a green lentil soup with rosemary croutons, smoked bacon lardons, creme fraiche and tarragon. My entree was the most succulent cooked pork loin I have ever had the pleasure to dine with, over an ensemble of roasted brussels, whipped potatoes and carmelized pan juices. It paired wonderfully with a 2007 Merlot from local vineyard Osprey’s Dominion. To finish I thoroughly enjoyed a honey lemon ricotta cheesecake.
Post three taste bud and stomach satiating courses later on both evenings I left each restaurant feeling more inspired than ever before. That’s what great food does to me; as full as I may physically feel, I always crave something so much more afterwards and it’s usually to create something on my own as fabulous as what I’ve just had.
What led me to make this tiramisu was over my deep passion for hating the first day of school. Proof that beautiful things can come from the ugliest times. I’ve hated the first day of school for as long as I could remember because I absolutely hate introducing myself to the class and fulfilling whatever fact that teacher wants me to provide about myself. It is always something pointless such as, what did I do that summer? (cried because it was too hot outside to turn my oven on) or, what are my hobbies? (bake) or the best: whats your favorite class subject? (food prep). I don’t mean to sound hostile, its just that throughout my educational career there are few teachers who have ever truly been able to pronounce my name correctly, let alone remember it, so I always found it silly to tell them my name and my favorite past time because they’d get so caught up in what my name is, that they’d forget the latter anyway. Plus, I always got so stressed out over-thinking the questions and trying to figure out how to choose what my favorite book or movie was that I always forgot everything I’d ever read or seen. I also hated sounding generic or taking the easy way out and copying what the kid in front of me said, so therefore I’d sweat a few bullets and rack my mind until I pretended I had to go to the bathroom so I could skip my turn. The truth is, I don’t have a favorite of much of anything. I enjoy everything too much to ever be decisive enough to pick one single thing in any given category to claim as a favorite.
I had pretty much written off the first day of school until this past semester when I was required to play this name and fact game in one of my classes. (Why we still play this game in college is beyond me; I always assumed it was a mutual understanding between professor and pupils that we’d never know each others names. Wrong). As soon as I heard the dreaded words “I’m going to ask you to tell the class your name and your favorite…” I almost got up to find the registrar to drop the class until I heard the word “dessert” slip from my professors lips. My attention was instantly caught but then I froze almost as suddenly because I realized… how does one choose a favorite dessert?! I would’ve almost (almost) rather have had him ask us what we did for Christmas break. (Almost).
Luckily I was sitting in the center of the room so I had time to debate on what to answer with, realizing it didn’t matter if I blandly answered “ice cream” like every other unimaginative kid in the class because people get so tripped up over my name anyway that they’d forget if I answered “banana foster” or “creme brulee” or “tiramisu” or some other worthy answer. But then I figured, screw it, I’ll throw everyone through a double loop with the combination of pronouncing my name, remembering it, and fathoming my awesome favorite dessert answer that maybe I will be unforgettable.
Well my little scenario didn’t go as shooting-star awesome as I planned because when it came time for me to announce my name and pretend like I had a favorite dessert, someone started coughing and someone opened the door and my mumbled AiyanaTiramisu got so lost in the noise no one even heard me anyway. I doubt anyone even knew I was talking.
When it was all said and done, I realized I had chosen to claim tiramisu as my favorite dessert, which is completely an acceptable favorite (but it is not my favorite, because like I said, I could never decide on one) but I realized I had never actually made it myself. I’ve had it plenty of times at restaurants, each time never failing to blow my taste buds, but I had never actually gone the lengths to recreating it myself within my kitchen.
The only thing that has ever bothered me about tiramisu (really, there is only one thing) is how unattractive it seemed to be plated sometimes. Certainly there had to be a way to present this delicious Italian dessert in a more poetic fashion, but I suppose the combination of all the dark colors and how it is required to be assembled doesn’t leave much room for creativity. That is, until I discovered this.
Tiramisu cake. This form of making tiramisu allows one to present the dessert in a different way. A way I find a bit more enticing. (Although if you’ve ever had tiramisu, you could agree that even if it was smashed under a rock you’d still eat it).
I can’t take credit for dreaming up this way of assembling the cake; I was inspired by many other bakers and for that I am forever thankful. I love how it came together and I am completely satisfied with the final product. It was definitely (pun intended) the icing on the cake for my first restaurant-week-restaurant experiences.
Note: I homemade my lady fingers. Store bought is perfectly acceptable, but if you wish to make yours, my recipe is down below. Make these before you start the cake or any other step.
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cream
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 2 9 inch cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the cream.
Divide batter evenly between baking pans and bake for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cakes spring back when touched. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Expresso Extract (I did not have expresso powder, so I brewed a very strong cup of coffee)
Dorie Greenspan suggested 2 tbs of expresso powder + 2 tbs hot water. I brewed half a cup of very strong coffee and used the coffee accordingly throughout the recipe.
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbs Kahlua (I used rum)
In saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil. Add Kahlua (in my case, rum) and 1 tbs of expresso (or in my case, coffee) extract. Set aside off heat.
Filling and Frosting
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Kahlua (again I used rum)
4-5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate shavings (I used bakers chocolate)
20-30 lady fingers. Recipe below!
In a large bowl, whip heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. In another bowl, whisk together mascarpone, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and kahula (rum). Whisk in the remaining espresso extract (coffee). Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.
Yields about 2-3 dozen
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the mixture with the sifted cake flour. Do not stir. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter, mixing until just incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the batter and fit with a round 1/2-inch tip or a large plastic bag with corner cut out. Pipe the batter into lines 3-inches long, keeping about an inch between the cookies on the baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are barely browned. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar.
Assembly of the Cake! Best part.
On your cake stand, place one of the cake layers on the surface. Spread a layer of the mascarpone mixture evenly across the surface. Dust the layer with cocoa powder and chocolate shavings. Place the second cake layer on top and repeat process. Spread the mascarpone mixture on the edges of the cake as well. Adorn the edges with the ladyfingers. Mine were a bit too long so I trimmed the bottoms. Serve with cappuccino and enjoy!