Since this year’s berry seasons were completely out of whack thanks to what sunny meteorologists with a rather cruel sense of humor called a “Summer of the century”, farmers, biologists and botanists called a “severe draught” and sane people called “Hell’s Doorstep”, I had to wing a couple of berry-related cookoffs on the spot. On one particularly exhausting Saturday, for example, my favorite fruit & veg vendor at the Farmer’s Market grimly informed me that the batch of blackcurrants in front of me was all he had for this year.
Since this conversation occurred about 3-4 weeks ahead of the usual blackcurrant season, my following panic-grab at 2 kilos of already very ripe blackcurrants caught me rather unprepared. Unprepared with a ticking clock on the berries and with over 80% of the energy normally powering my brain being re-routed to cooling down the rest of me, I went down a rather classic route for the black gems this year. A couple of preserves, jelly/jam/compotes and one hell of a sizzling-meat related sauce later, all that was left was just a little pile of berries – just enough to whip up this one little eat-me-today treat to compensate for the little wall of preserving jars I stacked up during the day. Here’s my very-berry take on everyone’s Italian darling, my Cassis Tiramisu~
The Berry Layer
2 Tbsp Crème de Cassis
2 Tbsp Honey
1) For those of you not used to dealing with large amounts of red- or blackcurrants, use a fork to gently, quickly and cleanly pull the berries off their stalks in one quick swipe~
2) Re-check your blackcurrants for stray stems before popping them into a small bowl.
3) Drizzle them with the honey and the Crème de Cassis.
4) Gently fold the lot in on itself until you don’t see any obvious signs of the honey anymore.
5) Set the bowl aside for about 1 hour, giving the berries enough time to marinade.
The Cream Layer
3 Large Eggs
75g Fine Caster Sugar
50g Low-fat Natural Yoghurt
200g Low-fat Whipping Cream
60ml Crème de Cassis
2g Gelatine Leaves – about 1 ¾ leaves
1) Place the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
2) Grab your Whisk-o-matic, set the whisks to full speed and have at them until the resulting mixture has changed its outfit to pale yellow, thick and creamy.
3) Add the mascarpone, cream and liqueur to a second bowl and whisk the lot into a soft and creamy fluff as well – your whisks should leave behind soft peaks of the mixture standing at attention when you pull them out.
4) Pop the gelatine leaves into a bowl of cold water.
5) Fold the mascarpone mixture into the eggs in three rounds, making sure both components are well blended into each-other each time before adding the next load.
6) Pick up 5 tbsp of the mixture and add them to a small pot set onto medium heat.
7) Gently warm the mixture, melting it on the process. Be careful not to let the heat get too high though, it just needs to be warm enough for the gelatine to melt and blend into the cream without lumpy complaints.
8) Squeeze the gelatine leaves as hard as you can to remove any excess water, then pop them into the pot of warm berry-cream.
9) Grab a regular whisk and stir the mixture inside the pot until the gelatine has dissolved completely.
10) Move this lot back into the main force and fold them together until they’re well combined.
The Cookie Layer
First off… dear Tiramisu purists, I’m sorry. Ever since I couldn’t resist the yumtastic smell the freshly baked Cantuccini coming off an Italian Pâtisserie stand at the farmer’s market, bought too many and used the excess for a classic Tiramisu to save them from going stale, I do not get the point of ladyfingers anymore. Not only do they… actually taste of something, but they taste amazing in even their “basic” version and, if needed, there’s a ton of variations on these fantastic “cookies” to play around with. I always use the classic type with almonds for my Tiramisu variations – what a wonderful excuse to open a bag of the freshly baked beauties right on the spot, stick in my nose, inhale deeply and feel like a giggling 5-year old again~
100ml Crème de Cassis
150ml Espresso or really strong coffee – “It’s not coffee if your spoon doesn’t stand up in the center of the cup” ~Garfield
1) Pour both of the liquids into a small jug and stir to combine the two.
2) Place the Cantuccini on a flat tray and drizzle them with about half of the boozed-up coffee, just enough to color the surface.
3) Give them a minute to soak up the liquids, then turn them over and treat the other side the same way.
4) Cantuccini are quick to turn mushy if you use too much of the coffee mix, so have a close look at the bottom of your tray – any signs of leakage are your cue to hold back on the rest of the liquids.
Assembling the Dish
200g Dark Chocolate, at least 70% Cocoa solids
100g Almond shaves, lightly toasted
Before we get around to stacking all the components into a delicious dessert, a quick word on the chocolate. Whenever I serve a Tiramisu of any kind the showy, eye-candy way – champagne flutes, pretty dessert glasses, mini-preserving jars or any other see-through container you could possibly use to serve something in – I melt the chocolate into disks fitting the (inner) diameter of the glasses I’m about to use. A chocolate disk between the layers keeps said layers in check – major seepage avoided, pretty desserts saved~!
When it’s just a simple – but just as delish~! – single-dish-and-large-spoon affair, a layer of grated chocolate and almond shaves does pretty much the same in a less fussy way.
1) Start with a layer of the coffee-soaked Cantuccini – try to fit them across the bottom of the dish you’ve picked for the job in an even layer.
2) Cover the Cantuccini layer, its dimples, nooks and crannies with half of the macerated blackcurrants and a small drizzle of the juices in the bottom of the bowl. You should be looking at a somewhat even’ish layer of yumness in your dish.
3) Time for the chocolate dam keeping the cream and the berries from mixing, melting and swirling before the cream has set! Cover the berried Cantuccini with the Chocolate-way you’ve decided on – a disk to avoid seepage or finely grated.
4) Top the chocolate-layer off with the toasted almonds.
5) Carefully spread a thick layer of the Mascarpone mixture over the chocolate-sealed berries and even out the surface with a palette knife or a rubber spatula.
6) Dot the surface with the remaining blackcurrants – try to shake off the liquids remaining in their bowl at this point, at least until the cream mixture has set completely.
7) Cover the dish(es) with clingfilm or their respective lids and pop them into the fridge.
8) Chill the Tiramisu for at least 8-12 hours or, even better, overnight.
9) Just before serving, dust the surface of the Tiramisu with a 50:50 blend of freshly grated dark chocolate & cocoa powder.
10) Grab a spoon, lock the door, turn off the phone, lean back and…
Just on a side-note, whenever I make the effort of dividing everything into 1-portion glasses/dessert dishes/ramekins, I end up with a bit of an excess of the cream mixture. On one of those occasions, I had the bright idea of transferring the remains into my popsicle moulds and freezing them – and whaddayaknow, a couple of hours and a dusting of cocoa powder later: perfect Tiramisu on a stick!