If you consider Italy’s ancient culinary tradition, it’s quite astonishing that the recipe for tiramisù is not 500 years old. I actually remember my first tiramisù, when it became popular in the early 1980s. Classic coffee tiramisù had just been created in a small restaurant in Treviso and by now it must be the most beloved Italian dessert in the world.
I have tasted (or have tried to avoid) many variations of tiramisù at endless birthday parties and all sorts of eateries. However, I have never found one suitable for winter that would retain the spirit of the original recipe.
This is my autumn/winter version, made with pears poached in spiced wine, which is a traditional peasant dessert in the North of Italy, especially in Piemonte. I have adapted the Piemontese recipe by cooking the pears in our local Sagrantino wine, a robust red, made in the Montefalco area in Umbria.
The resulting syrup has deep fruity undertones and makes a fabulous sauce to drizzle over the ladyfingers. For the mascarpone cream, I have used Vin Santo, an Umbrian dessert wine made with partially dried grapes. You can obviously use other wine combinations, both red and white. Each wine will impart a different character to the dessert.
Ingredients (8-9 servings)
- 16 lady fingers
- 250 g (1/2 lb) mascarpone
- 500 ml (1 pint) chilled whipping cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoon Vin Santo or other white dry dessert wine
- 120 g (1/2 cup) sugar
- 3 cooking pears
- 1 cinnamon stick
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 4 cloves
- 1/2 lt (2 cups) red wine
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
To poach the pears:
- Peel, core and halve the pears, so that they will absorb the flavors of the spiced wine. Place them tightly against each other in a stainless-steel pan and cover with the red wine. Add 1/4 of a cup of sugar, the lemon zest and spices, and poach with the lid on until just tender. Remove the pears from the liquid and dice into 1 cm (1/ 2 inch) pieces. Add the lemon juice to the wine syrup and set aside to cool.
To make the mascarpone cream:
- Beat the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, using a whisk or an electric mixer, until smooth and fluid. Ideally the mixture should reach 70C (160F).
- Add 3 tablespoons of dessert wine and whisk thoroughly for another minute or two. Remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool completely. Add the mascarpone and mix until just combined.
- Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it forms soft peaks. Fold the cream gently into the mascarpone mixture.
To assemble the dessert:
- Slice the lady fingers into 2.5 cm (1 inch) long pieces. Line the bottom of a 22 x 30 cm (8.5 x 12 inch) rectangular serving dish with the ladyfingers to form a single layer, making compact rows.
- Arrange the diced pears over the ladyfingers and evenly drizzle over the red wine syrup so that the ladyfingers will be soft but not soggy. Layer over the mascarpone cream. You can also make the tiramisù in individual cups or glasses, as depicted in the photo.
- Cover the dish or glass with cling-film and chill for at least two hours and up to a day.
- Dust with ground cinnamon before serving.
Letizia Mattiacci is a cookbook author and owner of Alla Madonna del Piatto Cooking School and Agriturismo in Assisi, Umbria, https://incampagna.com. This recipe has been previously published in Mrs. Mattiacci cookbook entitled A Kitchen with a View.