When we decided that the food for Mom’s 90th birthday party was going to be Italian, my brain skipped ahead to dessert. Oh, sure, there would be birthday cake, but I wasn’t going to be the one to make it. I know my limitations and cake decorating is definitely not in my skill set!
There had to be more, though. I had tiramisu on the brain. But it had to be tiramisu that could travel. This was going to be a roadshow, after all. The party would be at my brother’s house, so I didn’t have to cook and clean for company. Smart, eh?
Inspiration hit: Cream puffs! I’d made them before – some years ago – and knew that they’re way less complicated to make than they appear. Another perfect party finger food – no utensils required to eat them. Not to mention, dressed to impress.
The trick would be in the flavorings. How to get that feeling of eating tiramisu – coffee dipped ladyfinger base, marsala cream, and chocolate surface in a cream puff. I settled on flavoring the pate choux (the pastry) with coffee. That would be easy enough. And since I was already making a batch of ricotta pastry cream for cannoli (that’s another post), why not just modify that?
Knock me over with a feather – it worked! Mom even insisted that I set a few aside for her to take home, so she could enjoy them without a bunch of people looking over her shoulder. If that’s not a 5-star review, nothing is!
Tiramisu Cream Puffs (makes 30 pieces)
For the pate choux:
1 cup water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 Tbs. instant coffee or instant espresso
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 425º F.
In a non-stick saucepan, bring the water, butter, coffee, salt, and sugar to a boil. Add the flour and remove from heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and return the pan to the heat (medium-low), continue to stir until all the flour is incorporated and it becomes a ball.
Place the dough into a mixing bowl and allow to cool for 4 or 5 minutes. Using an electric mixer, add 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next one. The batter should be thick, but should fall from the beaters smoothly. If the batter isn’t falling from the beaters, add the 4th egg. (I used all 4 eggs). Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, or load it into a plastic bag and snip one corner.
Prepare a couple of baking sheets by lining them with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Pipe the batter into 1-1/2″ rounds about 2 inches apart. Get a glass of water, and with either a pastry brush or your finger, dip into the water and knock down the peaks on the tops of your puffs.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425º, then reduce heat to 375º and bake for an additional 20 minutes. When you remove them from the oven, poke each one in its side with a sharp paring knife. This allows the inside of the puffs to dry as they cool, preventing gumminess. Allow to cool completely.
For the filling:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup + 1 Tbs. granulated sugar (divided)
2 tsp. vanilla (divided)
1/8 tsp. salt
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup whipping cream (heavy or regular)
Cocoa powder or melted bittersweet chocolate for topping
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, 1/4 cup of the sugar, 1 tsp. of the vanilla, and the salt, using an electric mixer, until smooth.
In the top of a double-boiler (or using a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water), whisk the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, and Marsala, continuously, until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then add to the cheese mixture, beating until smooth and completely incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream with the remaining 1 Tbs of sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla until stiff peaks form. Stir the whipped cream into the custard mixture, until well blended and smooth. Load the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.
Insert the tip into a puff (preferably using the slit you already made in the puff – if you can find it), and fill each one with the cream.
You’ll probably have a little cream left over, but, you know, isn’t that what a spoon is for? 🙂
For topping, you can either sift cocoa over the tops or melt some bittersweet chocolate, and dip the top of each puff in it.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to several days. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.