Who knew that the key for paradise were a few ingredients and a brothel? Very random, isn’t it?
Savoiardi, mascarpone, eggs, coffee: this is what comes to mind when thinking about Tiramisu.
What the majority of non-italian speakers dont know, is that its name literally translates as “pick me up”. It is a curious name for an innocent dessert, uh? Well, as it turns out, Tiramisu is not very innocent (allegedly).
Today we are in Northern Italy, where 4 different regions are still disputing to determine where Tiramisu was originally invented: Toscana, Piemonte, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.
According to this theory, Tiramisu was invented in the 17th Century in Siena, to celebrate the visit of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III de’Medici. For this special occasion, they invented “La zuppa del Duca (Duke’s soup). Coffee had been introduced in Italy around that time, so it is possible that a coffee based dessert was made to honour the Grand Duke, however it is unlikely that it was Tiramisu: savoiardi were originally invented in the Savoia region, and they were not commonly used in Toscana. Additionally, mascarpone is a cheese from Lombardia, and again it wasn’t used very much in Toscana at that time, especially because it is a very delicate cheese that it would be impossible to ship from Lombardia to Toscana at that time.
Some people believe that Tiramisu was invented to honour Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour to energise him during the estenuating job to unify Italy. This story is not very credible for the reasons above, and also because the use of raw eggs (essential ingredient for tiramisu) was almost impossible at that time due to the risk of contracting salmonella.
It is commonly believed that Tiramisu has aphoradisiac effects, and for this reason it was served in to the personnel and the clients of Treviso brothels to “keep the money flowing”. In particular, it is believed it was originally served in the 1930s in the “Cae de Oro”, a brothel particularly famous in Treviso. According to this story, the brothels had proper contracts with nearby farmers, to make sure fresh eggs were delivered every day. At that time, what was served to the clients was called sbatudin, a mixture of egg yolks and sugar served not only to energise the clients and the employees, but also to invigorate the men that were heading home, to avoid any issues with the wives that were waiting for them and would have noticed they were “tired”. When the government shut down the brothels and made them illegal, sbatudin started appearing in restaurants, the most famous of which is “Alle Beccherie”, where the chef “updated” the recipe adding mascarpone cheese. In the 1950s, 3 different restaurants started serving a dessert containing the ingredients of Tiramisu as we know it, but none of them was called Tiramisu.
It is Friuli-Venezia Giulia that can pride themselves with the invention of the most loved Italian dessert: “Il vettorino” restaurant used to serve, in the 1940s, “La coppa Vettorino” – a sponge soaked in Marsala wine, covered with chocola” hotel in te mousse, zabaione and cream. The restaurant changed the name of Coppa Vettorino in ‘Coppa Vetturino Tirime su’ and then 10 years later, it was just called ‘Tirime su’. Around the same time, the “Rome” hotel, owned by Norma Pielli, started serving their own version of Dolce Torino, a layered dessert originally made of savoiardi soaked in alchermes, butter, egg yolk, milk, sugar and dark chocolate. The dessert served in Norma’s hotel was quite similar, but mascarpone replaced the butter and coffee replaced the alchermes liqueur. This is what historians believe was the first tiramisu ever made, and in 2017, Tiramisu was entered by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies on the list of traditional Friulian and Giulian agri-food products in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.
Here is the original recipe for Tiramisu, in Italy we still use raw eggs and every time I mention this abroad, I get very funny looks from people. Sorry guys, it is tradition!
-cold espresso coffee with sugar as you like, 300 ml
- Separate the egg yolk from the white
- Take half of the sugar, mix it with the egg yolk and whisk it until you get a super foamy cream
- Add the mascarpone
- Take the remaining sugar and mix it wil the egg white.
5. Whisk until you get a firm mixture, and add it gradually to the mascarpone cream, folding everything together using a spatula
6. Put the coffee&sugar in a bowl, and dunk the savoiardi for 3 seconds for each side
7. Start making your first layer of savoiardi: dunk a biscouit and put it in a tray
8. Once the first layer is completed, cover it with a layer of cream
9. Add another layer of soaked savoiardi and add another layer of cream
10. Dust with cocoa powder and leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours
Did you know all these stories about Tiramisu? Do you have your own recipe? Let me know!