My all time favourite place for a coffee in Florence is amongst the fashionistas of the Roberto Cavalli café, Caffè Giacosa. I happen to walk past it almost every day, which gives me a great excuse to pop in for their speciality, a caffè marocchino – a “Moroccan coffee.”
A step up from your regular macchiato or cappuccino, the Italians make this hot beverage as an espresso served in a glass and topped with creamy milk foam – a lovely, naughty way to start the day. There’s actually nothing Moroccan about it, but supposedly it got its name from the coffee-coloured leather bandana (known as a “Moroccan”), which was popular in the 1930s when this coffee was being born.
What I really love for a change though is an actual Moroccan coffee. When in Marrakech on our honeymoon, we bought a beautiful spice mix of 26 different types of spices, which, when ground, could be added to coffee for a powerful, spicy aroma that leaves your tongue tingling and has the power to immediately bring me back to the Souks – a wonderful maze of a place with hundreds of things to fill each and every one of your senses until you think you may burst.
Taking these two connections as inspiration, you can put a little kick into a traditional tiramisu. My husband's nonna used to make her legendary tiramisu by dipping her ladyfinger biscuits into a mixture of half espresso, half Vin Santo (a Tuscan dessert wine). This version uses coffee (made with a teaspoon of Moroccan spices mixed in to the coffee grounds), with a splash of Vin Santo. If you don’t have it, another sweet alcohol will do nicely, as will spiced dark rum. Instead of cocoa powder, I’m going with some melted dark chocolate, drizzled generously. - Emiko
Test Kitchen Notes
Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts so I was excited to try this recipe. I've had spiced coffee in North Africa and was interested to taste it in a tiramisu. I made my own Moroccan spice mixture using the spices Emiko suggested. I couldn't find vin santo so decided on Marsala. I am somewhat of a purist about tiramisu but this recipe is delicious and exotic. The lady fingers gently dipped in the coffee, spice and wine mixture coupled with the mascarpone cream and dark chocolate sauce make a wonderful, indulgent and very sophisticated dessert. I did one thing slightly differently from the recipe: I had about 1/4 tsp of the spice mixture left so I mixed that with a tablespoon of cocoa and sprinkled on the top. It was wonderful. And I'd say it generously serves 6. - sdebrango —sdebrango
strong coffee (espresso, made with a teaspoon of ground Moroccan spice mix: such as cinnamon, cardomom, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, ginger, aniseed, juniper berries
Brew the coffee grounds together with the ground spices. An espresso machine if you can would be best for this, if you don’t have one, make it a very strong coffee! Add the Vin Santo to the coffee. Let cool.
To make the cream: beat the egg yolks with some of the sugar and the mascarpone. In a separate bowl, beat the whites until they form soft peaks, then slowly add the rest of the sugar until the whites become a glossy and firm meringue. Fold in to the mascarpone.
Over a double broiler, gently melt the dark chocolate.
Plate up: Briefly and lightly dip each ladyfinger biscuit into the liquid and place a small layer on a plate. Top with a dollop of mascarpone, then drizzle a generous amount of chocolate on top. Repeat the layering with ladyfingers, mascarpone and another, well-placed drizzle of melted chocolate. Add a dusting of the powdered spice mix and serve. I think this would also look good made in glass espresso cups like the ones used for a Caffe Marocchino.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.