Cooking Lesson: Tiramisu Made with Wine


Image via Martha


So many times at work I see a person walk in with a piece of paper and I cringe. It’s either a list from a national pub or a recipe. Let’s go with the latter for right now. There’s typically a quizzical look as I offer to help. “Does it matter what wine I choose…But it calls for Burgundy and I can’t afford that…It should be good enough to drink…”. Now I think there are two schools of thought when it comes to cooking with wine. You can definitely go with the cheaper bottles. Or go with quality. The difference is really how you’re using it. I thought a good example of this would be my Tiramisu. I use two types of liquor when making this tasty little dessert. Marsala in a Zabaglione (Italian egg custard)–this portion of the recipe gets the cheaper stuff. Then I’ll splurge on the coffee-flavored liquor used to soak the pound cake. That’s right, pound cake in Tiramisu. Commence drooling. Follow this reasoning and then make the dessert.

A less expensive bottle of wine, Marsala in this case, is totally cool to cook with if the alcohol is being cooked though. I often tell customers this because the finer, more exquisite flavors can be lost from the heat of cooking. And if that is the story you’re essentially looking for the base flavors of that wine. So substitute a cheaper bottle of Pinot Noir if you’re making a dish that calls for Burgundy. See if your friends can tell the difference. If they can, let them buy the wine from then on. You can only win in this situation. Normally there will be an area in the liquor store for cheaper cooking spirits.

I love using pound cake in this recipe. It’s easier to make than traditional lady fingers. And seriously, how many of us have the molds to make them? So because the pound cake is only soaked for this part of the culinary experience it makes a huge difference in my opinion. The alcohol isn’t heated here, thus all is being tasted. I like to play with different coffee-flavored liquors in this dish. Tia Maria is commonly used. Of course I have to be different. Corretto by Roundhouse Spirits is by far my favorite. It has a sweet side to it that I find delectable. Leopold Bros. is another that’s awesome. It’s flavor is so much more of a French Press style, quite bold. Makes one hell of a Caucasian, Jackie!


6 egg yolks
¾ cup Marsala
½ cup sugar
2 vanilla beans

8 ounces Mascarpone
1 Pound Cake, Make or use prepared. Will provide my recipe soon enough. =]
Coffee Liquor, use your favorite and have fun.
¼ teaspoon cocoa for each finished dessert.

FOR THE ZABAGLIONE: Place egg yolks, Marsala, sugar and freshly scraped vanilla beans in a large, round-bottomed stainless steel bowl. Half-fill a pot with water, bring the water to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Set the pan or bowl containing the custard mixture over the water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisk the mixture for 10 minutes until it froths up and becomes pale. May triple in size. When it reaches the desired consistency, take the container out of the pot. Continue whisking for a minute or two to prevent the custard from sticking to its container.  Custard done!

Immediately add the Mascarpone to the custard and refrigerate for at least one hour.  When needed, transfer to a one gallon plastic bag.  Cut the bottom tip from the bag and you’re ready for piping into the wine glasses.  Next cube the pound cake into bite size pieces and lay on a cookie sheet. Grab the coffee liquor and drizzle over the bread. Toss and do it again. Maybe once more? The pieces should be moist, not soaked.  Time to layer and touch it up with a little chocolate. Serving Tiramisu in a wine glass is something I picked up a restaurant a long time ago. The presentation is unique, fun and not as stuffy as it may sound. Check out the pics for how I did it.  Should make about 6 – 8 servings.  Enjoy!


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