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I see a lot of tiramisu recipes that soak savoiardi in pure undiluted espresso coffee.

Usually the recipe asks for a cup or more of espresso. As a person who regularly makes and drinks espresso, this seems way too much. It's both too much to prepare (8 shots!), and will make for an overpowering coffee flavor in the tiramisu.

I can understand if the recipes are adapted. Especially if the recipe asks for "espresso or strong brewed coffee", while no strong brewed coffee is a by-volume equivalent of espresso.

But, wouldn't original tiramisu recipes use espresso, but in some reasonable amount? Or, is authentic tiramisu really so intensely flavored with coffee?

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  • @FuzzyChef Welcome to Stack Exchange! You must be new here. Please read the help section about commenting and read the text presented to you when starting a new comment. – pipe Dec 21 '20 at 17:10
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    @pipe it is perfectly acceptable to send a new user a friendly message! Yes, comments are designed to be temporary, but welcome messages are a long-standing tradition on many SE sites. – Stephie Dec 21 '20 at 19:23
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    Pipe: ah, you might wanna look at my points on this SE, and then edit your comment. – FuzzyChef Dec 22 '20 at 0:36
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    Based on how we make tiramisu at home: we use around 2 moka for 3 people (rougly 6 espressi lunghi) to soak the oro-saiwa (dry biscuits we use instead of savoiardi) for 500g of mascarpone. – DDS Dec 22 '20 at 9:53
  • @DDS Purist here - the substitution of all the key ingredients is fine - except the biscuits!!! – Strawberry Dec 22 '20 at 10:20
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As a suppliment, I'll address your questions regarding "authenticity":

Tiramisu is not a traditional dish; it's a modern restaurant dish dating back only to the 1960's (but see other answer, it may go back to the 30s). It's generally agreed that it was created at the restaurant Le Beccherie in 1969 (although based on a long tradition of Italian cream cakes), so it's fairly easy to find their original recipe. This is it from a publication in 1981:

12 egg yolks

1 lb 2 oz (½ kg) sugar

2 lb 4 oz (1 kg) mascarpone cheese

60 ladyfinger (savoiardi) cookies

Espresso coffee, as necessary

Cocoa powder, as necessary

As you can see, no quantity for the espresso is given; likely the restaurant did not keep track of how much was used, particularly since they probably used "leftover" coffee from service. Interestingly, there is no alcohol in this version. Anna Maria Volpi, who is rather obsessed with the dish, uses 1.5 cups of espresso.

All of the advice in @dbmag9's excellent answer, therefore, applies.

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    Your quote can't really be the original if it has primarily American units with the proper units just in parentheses. – Nobody Dec 20 '20 at 22:44
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    You're welcome to argue with Anna Maria Volpi if you're bored and hate life. – FuzzyChef Dec 21 '20 at 2:05
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    @Nobody the site itself is fully in english. It seems like the intended audience is an international one, so it might be understandable to have measurements translated also to american units (the weight in Kg is also used for all non-american sane people). There might be some small ratios lost in translation, but i would judge it unlikely. – bracco23 Dec 21 '20 at 10:13
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    I am not sure an Italian restaurant would be likely to have leftover coffee available for this. Espresso is usually made on the moment, cup by cup. – Federico Poloni Dec 21 '20 at 11:12
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    it can't be the original if it's not in Italian. However the metric numbers are identical facebook.com/ArchivioGiuseppeMaffioli/photos/a.222226964568655/… The other ones are just translated – thelawnet Dec 21 '20 at 14:09
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A typical tiramisu will serve a good number of people, so each serving is unlikely to have more than about a shot's worth of espresso. There's a limit to what the savoiardi will absorb so you'd struggle to get more coffee than that into a portion. Further, the flavour is diluted by the flavour already present in the savoiardi as well as the alcohol, mascarpone, cocoa on top and other ingredients. I wouldn't worry about the coffee flavour overpowering the rest. Obviously if you've made it before and felt the coffee was too strong then reduce the quantity.

Note that in Italy, caffè will by default refer to espresso, or at home to the product of a Moka pot or equivalent. Filter or drip coffees are not a native part of Italian coffee culture (hence the americano, imitating filter coffee by diluting espresso). You could search for older recipes in Italian (although according to Wikipedia, tiramisu is not an especially old dessert) but they will probably just say caffè.

Remember that tira mi sù means 'pick me up', alluding to the fact that the dessert contains enough coffee to wake you up a little at the end of a meal.

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    I was really confused the first time my Italian girlfriend told me tira mi sù, while sitting on the floor, extending her arm towards me. – Eric Duminil Dec 20 '20 at 20:18
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    Interesting that "pick me up" has the same double meaning in both English and Italian. – Acccumulation Dec 21 '20 at 5:37
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    As Italian I confirm that whenever you found "caffè" in a recipe we are referring to espresso. If it's not espresso it will be indicated as "caffè americano" (american coffee) or similar. – Zucch Dec 21 '20 at 8:34
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    @Acccumulation Given the dessert is not very old, perhaps the phrase it's named from went from one language to the other? (1960s/1970s, so well after WWII when a lot of Americans were in Italy) – Joe M Dec 21 '20 at 18:04
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    @Acccumulation I’m honestly not that surprised. A lot of simpler and more logical idioms actually tend to be remarkably consistent across a wide variety of languages within a language family (flying livestock, for example, are a common part of idioms speaking about impossibility of events in a number of Indo-European languages, though the choice of livestock varies a bit). – Austin Hemmelgarn Dec 22 '20 at 2:25
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There are in fact multiple versions of tiramisu, all of which are authentic. Some contain espresso and mascarpone, others cream, marsala but no mascarpone.

'Tiramisu' dates at least to the 1940s as a name, and to the 1930s as a recipe (much earlier considering related desserts)

Following documentary proof presented to the Italian government, the Protected Origin to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region was granted in 2017.

This has two forms:

  1. tiramisu carnico - with mascarpone, attributed to Norma Pielli Hotel Roma Tolmezzo , and existing in the 1950s or earlier - recipe includes '300ml bitter and strong coffee' but no alcohol https://www.udinetoday.it/cucina/disciplinare-ricetta-tiramisu-signora-norma-pielli-tolmezzo.html
  2. Coppa Vetturino Tirime su/tiramisu bisiacca - without mascarpone (instead cream) or espresso, and with marsala, by Mario Cosolo from Al Vetturino restaurant - recipe https://www.oggi.it/cucina/ricetta/tiramisu-della-tradizione-prima-coppa-vetturino-1935-1938-poi-tirimesu-1946-1950/

There are also:

  1. Tiramisu Veneto from Le Beccherie, Treviso, made with mascarpone, coffee to taste and without alcohol https://www.informacibo.it/la-ricetta-originale-del-tiramisu-di-treviso/
  2. Coppa Imperiale - from Ristorante Al Fogher, which is similar to the above and claims to predate it, but included a liqeur (possibly Grand Marnier) recipe https://www.hotelalfogher.it/restaurant.htm
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  • Ooooh, interesting! Do you know better sources for either of those earlier Tiramisu recipes? The first article doesn't have any kind of attribution, and the second doesn't mention a year of invention. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that someone had come up with it before 1969; the ingredients are all pretty common for Italian desserts. – FuzzyChef Dec 22 '20 at 0:42
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    The second recipe is taken directly from "Tiramisù by Clara and Gigi Padovani " which is the most dedicated treatise on this matter. tiramisuday.com/en/book – thelawnet Dec 22 '20 at 2:20

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