Words can't capture the wonders of this dessert. One suggestion: make it a day ahead to give the flavors time to settle in.
Yolks: in a double boiler, with water at a simmer, combine egg yolks with sugar, beating, 4-5 minutes, till mixture becomes pale yellow and thickens. Transfer to mixer bowl. Add mascarpone and beat with electric mixer for 2-3 minutes.
Cream: in a separate large bowl beat cream till it forms stiff peaks. Add rum, vanilla and 2 tsp. espresso and continue beating till incorporated. Gently fold mascarpone/egg yolk mixture into whipped cream.
Whites: in yet another bowl, beat 5 egg whites till they form stiff peaks. Gently fold 1 C of beaten egg whites into mascarpone/ cream mixture and blend till smooth. Then add the remaining egg whites and blend till smooth.
Assembly: dunk ladyfingers, one by one, in espresso and layer them on the bottom of a 6 qt. baking dish (about 2” deep).Form one complete later. Spread mascarpone/cream mixture evenly over soaked ladyfingers. Add another layer of soaked ladyfingers, and another layer of mascarpone/cream mixture over that.Liberally dust the top with cocoa powder. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or, better, up to a day before serving
Tips & Glossary
Arborio Rice: a medium-grained rice. Its high starch content yields a creamy texture and is the basis for risotto.
Balsamic Vinegar: dark, thick vinegar with a sweet pungent flavor. Fermented, concentrated, and aged in wooden casks, sometimes up to 12 years. Can be pricey.
Caper: salty, pickled bud of spiny shrub native to the Mediterranean region. Most prized is the non-pareil, the smallest (approx. 1/8”), though other sizes are tasty and less expensive.
Formaggio: Cheese! Like France, Italy is a land of sublime cheeses, some 400 varieties. Here are some of the most widely sold in the U.S.
Italian Seasoning: blend of dried herbs used in Italian cooking—marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil. Packaged commercially and found in most food stores. You can also make your own.
Olive Oil: There's much more to know than is room for here. To learn all you need to know about the different grades of oil, and much, much more, head to Tanbourit.
Pine Nuts: pinoli or pignoli; edible seeds of pine trees used in pesto sauce. Before cooking, release flavor by lightly browning in a heated skillet.
Roasted peppers: buy or make your own: place under a broiler, or hold over a gas flame, till skin chars and blisters. Place in a closed paper bag for 15-20 minutes (to steam them). When cool, the skins slip off under water.
Prosciutto: especially Prosciutto di Parma, dry-cured ham from Parma. The real deal! Cured up to 2 years, is almost sweet and very expensive. You can substitute with capicola, a delicious, light peppery ham.
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