Ah, tiramisu - the iconic boozy dolce of the Italian Restaurant. I spent a year studying the art of food, ahem I mean semiotics, in Bologna, in the food-famous region of Emilia-Romagna. There, tiramisu was but an after-thought, overshadowed by dishes made with the syrupy balsamic vinegar of Modena, the succulent prosciutto from Parma, the homemade tortellini from Bologna proper and the dense, dark chocolate that found its way in to most desserts and beverages. That is, except in the eyes of my Sardinian 'compagna di stanza', who made us tiramisu...almost every day. She was scared silly of raw eggs (some grandmother's effective and unnecessary campaign in a land of truly farm-fresh eggs!) and refused to make hers with the customary 3-4. Instead, she would lighten hers with some cream and a vigorous hand beating (no electric things in our kitchen that year). You'd never know your silky dessert was missing an otherwise key ingredient. This is a simple dessert that depends on the strength of its ingredients - an excellent espresso, an excellent rum (steer away from Vanilla-ish rums, it will start to taste too vanilla-y and slightly fake) and an excellent cocoa powder and you have an excellent dessert. In my opinion, tiramisu tastes best when it's very cold, and has had time to develop. I try to make mine the day before I'm serving, or at least that morning, to give the flavors enough time in the fridge. —yclaraquesi
a 9x12 baking dish, enough for a big dinner party and leftovers
Whip your mascarpone, half-and-half and vanilla, either by hand or by electric hand-held mixer, until the liquids are well incorporated and the mixture is light and creamy. Add tablespoons of confectioners sugar one by one, incorporating well after each addition, until it's sweetened to your taste (I generally add 8 - 10 tablespoons).
Soak the savoiardi biscuits in the coffee mixture, until fairly saturated, and lay down a first layer in your baking dish. If your cream is not too runny, and your ladyfingers not too wet, you can also construct your tiramisu on a serving plate without sides. I prefer fairly saturated savoiardi biscuits, however, giving you a smooth and delicious forkful, so baking dish it is.
Spoon half the mascarpone mixture over this first layer of ladyfingers, and top with a generous sprinkling of cocoa powder.
Repeat, adding a second layer of ladyfingers, mascarpone and cocoa. And voila! Cover with plastic wrap and allow to mellow in the fridge until you're ready to enjoy.