soju sunrise

Irish cream tiramisu – recipe

recipes | January 12, 2015 | By

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Happy New Year and welcome to 2015! I don’t normally post recipes on this blog, on the very sound basis that I think (a) lots of people are better cooks than me, and (b) there is a whole world of cookery blogs and magazines out there where you can find a million different variations on every possible kind of dish. But, truth to tell, since I returned to Korea a couple of weeks ago from a long and amazing break in South America, I have been far too greedy to stop to take any photos of the food I’ve been guzzling, and eating out at old favourites rather than trying anywhere new.

I hope that’ll change soon – I’m very keen to try the new Lobster Bar in Itaewon, the Beastro in Hongdae, and Meatballism in Gyeongnidan, none of which I have yet visited – but for the moment, I’ve no restaurant reviews worth blogging.

So, instead, here’s a dessert I made a couple of days ago. Everyone loves tiramisu – even though, back in Britain, at any rate, it has long graduated from exotic Italian treat to weary food cliché. So when I made dinner for a friend last week, it seemed to make sense to give it a whirl. There were only two problems with this plan: I had not made tiramisu since about 1996, and some of the ingredients seemed to be a little tricky to find.

The first problem was easily solved, since there are almost as many recipes online for tiramisu as there are cat photos. After a bit of hunting, I decided to use the scrumptious Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Irish cream tiramisu. Like many people, I have a bottle of Bailey’s sitting in my fridge which I never touch, so a recipe that used this, rather than the more traditional rum, seemed ideal.

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Otherwise it is quite a traditional version: ladyfinger biscuits (more properly called Savoiardi), mascarpone cheese, coffee, and so on. This quickly led to problem number two. Mascarpone I could find – albeit at the usual hefty prices, from any foreign food store in the Itaewon area, and even sometimes in E-Mart these days – but ladyfinger biscuits? Where the hell?

Luckily help was at hand in the form of the very helpful Giovanni, from HBC’s mighty Il Gattino, who advised that they could be found in Lotte and other fancy department stores. But before I could even tread warily into a Lotte food court, I found them in High Street Market in Itaewon – albeit, again, at a fairly eyewatering price.

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The recipe itself is reasonably straightforward, if a little fiddly. To start, brew some very strong espresso coffee – at least a couple of times stronger than you would normally drink it (four times stronger, if you are Korean).

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Let it cool down in a bowl and then mix in some Bailey’s. You’ll get an unattractive milky brown mixture, but it tastes great. Try not to drink it yet.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the tiramisu mixture. Whisk two egg yolks with some sugar, and then fold in some more Bailey’s and the mascarpone cheese. It’ll take a little while to get the lumps out, but persevere.

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Then you add a whisked egg white and mix the whole lot gently together.

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I added some vanilla extract – the real stuff, full of tiny little black seeds, not the cheaper and nastier essence that is what you normally find here (has anyone ever seen real vanilla bean paste in Korea?) – but this is optional and probably would get me shot in a real Italian kitchen. Whatever.

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The original recipe calls for a large glass or Pyrex dish, but these are damnably hard to find in Korea. I substituted these nifty small glass containers from the supermarket, and they worked nicely, each one containing enough dessert for two people, or one Andy-sized person. (They are oven-safe, so you can also use them for individual pasta bakes, or something like that.)

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Now, you need to look sharp. Dip a few ladyfingers at a time into the coffee / Baileys’s mix, until they are damp but not soggy. You need to work quickly, because within seconds they will be falling apart in the bowl, so they need to be taken out as soon as they are soaked through. I also suggest giving them a gentle squeeze to get some (but of course not all) of the boozy mixture out of them, because otherwise your tiramisu will end up swimming in liquid, like mine was.

Line the bottom of the dishes with the damp biscuits, spoon on half of the mascarpone mixture between the bowls, and then repeat with another layer of each.

Then all you have to do is cover and whack them in the fridge – these E-Mart dishes came with fitted lids, which makes them even more convenient – and leave them for at least four hours, preferably overnight, but not more than a couple of days on account of the raw egg. Then, when you’re ready to serve, dust a little cocoa powder over the top, and Bob’s your uncle.

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Verdict? Well, for my first effort at making this dessert since the days when there were only three Star Wars movies and Manchester City were in the Second Division, not bad. There was a bit too much coffee and Baileys swimming in the bottom of the dish, and I ran out of mascarpone mix on the second bowl (since it’s about 11,000 won for a 250ml tub, I think I can be forgiven) so the second dish looked a bit lopsided. Overall, though, it was a success. Giovanni may splutter into his espresso at the shockingly untraditional addition of Bailey’s – and I’m quite sure his version is a thousand times better – but this makes a great, if expensive, dessert to make for a special dinner.

The full recipe, which makes 8 generous portions, is below. If you reduce the quantities, as I did, make sure you have enough of the coffee mix – these biscuits suck in liquid faster than [redacted – Soju Sunrise lawyers].

  • 1½ cups very strong espresso, made with instant powder or beans (cooled)
  • 250 ml Baileys
  • 400 grams Savoiardi (ladyfinger) biscuits
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75 grams caster sugar (regular white sugar will do, at a pinch)
  • 500 grams mascarpone cheese
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
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