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Hazelnut tiramisu

Coffee? Can’t stand the stuff. But there are exceptions…

I hate coffee, absolutely hate it. If I drink a cup, it sits in my tummy and makes me feel sick. I’m a tea drinker, born into a long line of tea drinkers, so that’s always been the family brew of choice. But weirdly, two of my siblings – my younger sister, Jasmin, and brother, Jak – are big coffee fans. The rest of us can’t understand where they get it from. We can only assume we are not related, that they somehow fell out of the sky.

It’s no surprise, then, that when I started experimenting with a tiramisu recipe six years ago, Jasmin was really excited. The trouble is, she was pregnant and couldn’t eat raw eggs, so she begged me not to make it until after she’d had her baby. Of course, I went away and made it about four times without telling her so that I could perfect it, and do you know what? It turns out I do like coffee – well, in desserts at least. I think it’s because you can’t taste the bitterness and the flavour is disguised by all the other ingredients, so it’s a much more subtle taste. Coffee cake, coffee ice cream, tiramisu … I positively love them all.

This is a very standard tiramisu recipe. I use instant coffee because that’s what I have to hand, but you could equally use filter or espresso coffee if you want a stronger hit. Sponge fingers are the traditional biscuit base, but every now and again, I might make it with plain cake if I haven’t got any sponge fingers in the house, and it works just as well in a slightly trifle-like way. Some recipes call for you to add the eggs all at once, but I like to separate them and whisk the whites. That way you get the richness of the yolks and cream but with a bit of lightness from the aerated whites. It’s the best of both worlds.

The main thing I’ve learnt is that a tiramisu is always better made a day ahead. If you eat it the same day it just isn’t the same. Put it in the fridge overnight and not only will the flavours develop and mix together, but it will set nicely, so that when you get to cut it, it’s really nicely formed. It just might make a coffee drinker out of me yet. Who knows?

Simple hazelnut tiramisu
Serves 8

4 tbsp instant coffee
6 medium eggs, separated
3 tbsp caster sugar
500g mascarpone
30 sponge fingers
4 tbsp cocoa powder
200g roasted and chopped hazelnuts
100g milk chocolate, grated

1 Pour 350ml hot water over the instant coffee and set aside to cool completely.
2 Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl and whisk using a hand mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Now add the mascarpone and mix until it has all combined well. This will take less than two minutes. 3 In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add to the mascarpone mix and fold through gently.
4 Place the cooled coffee in a shallow dish and dunk in the sponge fingers completely, quickly taking them out and lining the bottom of your serving dish. Continue dipping and adding until you have covered the bottom of the dish.
5 Add a layer of the mascarpone mixture on top of the soaked fingers. Dust some cocoa powder all over the mixture and then scatter over some hazelnuts.
6 Repeat the above steps again until you have used up all the sponge fingers, mascarpone, cocoa and hazelnuts (how many layers you make will depend on the size of your serving dish).
7 Finish with a grating of milk chocolate. Place in the fridge overnight to set and for all the flavours to mix.