A weeknight shortcut to at-home tiramisu. Traditionally, this trifle-esque Italian dessert involves an armful of ingredients and steps. Whip up a zabaglione from scratch (egg yolks! sugar! Marsala!). Buy or bake lady fingers or sponge cake. Soak in espresso (maybe rum?). Throw in some mascarpone. Make it rain with cocoa and/or grated chocolate. It’s a lot. This Big Little version streamlines just about all of this.
Instead of cake, we’ll turn to sliced bread, which, if you’re like me, is already in your freezer. Just about any variety works here, whether it’s a crusty, tangy sourdough or buttery, fluffy brioche; sourcing from a local bakery is ideal, just avoid anything too seedy or dense. Rather than tracking down espresso, rushing it home, and spiking it with marsala or rum, I call in my old friend Kahlúa, a jolty liqueur with coffee-vanilla vibes. This soaks the sugar-crust toast like milk in a tres leches, turning the bread custardy and squidgy. The rest is a free-for-all. Something creamy is a must, but the choice is up to you, and cocoa powder or chocolate only depends on how bitter you want to go.
This scales up easily if you’re feeling kind and want to make a piece of dessert toast for someone else, or a group. In any case, please keep a close eye on the broiler when you’re blasting the sugar—I like to crack open my oven and sit on the floor. The top should be golden and caramelized, but not charred. —Emma Laperruque
thick slice bread (see Author Notes)
unsalted butter, melted
kosher or flaky salt
crème fraîche (or mascarpone if you prefer)
cocoa powder (or grated chocolate to sight)
Heat the oven to 375°F and line a sheet pan with foil. Brush the butter all over the bread, then place on the sheet pan and sprinkle the top with sugar and salt. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 10 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil (watching closely!) until bubbling and browned. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rimmed plate. Soak with Kahlua, then leave to cool for a few minutes. Dollop crème fraiche on top and use a fine-mesh sieve to dust with cocoa.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.