Limoncello Tiramisù is a favorite dessert of mine – and soon to be one of yours! Not only is it a simple recipe that will impress family and friends, it is also a brilliant way to take care of your leftover Thanksgiving cookies and cake.
In my new holiday special, Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday for Heroes (check your local listings for times), my friend Bryan Anderson explains the army tradition of creating desserts from leftover dessert rations for their comrades celebrating birthdays. As Bryan told me his story, I knew I had to share this dessert with him – a fanciful homage to the MRE birthday cakes created by his platoon.
Watch as Lidia hears the story that inspires her to create Limoncello Tiramisù for a dinner party of veterans, in the special Holiday for Heroes
- 5 or 6 lemons
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ½ cups limoncello liqueur
- 1 cup water
- 1 pound (2 cups) mascarpone, at room temperature
- 40 ladyfingers (preferably imported Italian savoiardi), or more as needed
Remove the zest of 2 or more of the lemons, using a fine grater, to get 2 tablespoons of zest. Squeeze out and strain the juice of these and the other lemons to get ¾ cup of fresh lemon juice.
Pour just enough water into a double- boiler pan so the water level is right below the bottom of the mixing bowl when it is sitting in the pan. Separate the eggs, putting yolks in the large bowl of the double boiler, and the whites in another stainless- steel bowl.
To make the base for the tiramisù: Heat the water in the pan to a steady simmer. Remove the top bowl from heat, and beat the egg yolks with ¼ cup of the sugar and ½ cup of the limoncello until well blended. Set the bowl over the simmering water, and whisk constantly, frequently scraping the whisk around the sides and bottom of the bowl, as the egg mixture expands and heats into a frothy sponge, 5 minutes or longer. When the sponge has thickened enough to form a ribbon when it drops on the surface, take the bowl off the double- boiler pan and let it cool.
Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of limoncello, all of the lemon juice, the 1 cup water, and ½ cup of the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook for 5 minutes, evaporating the alcohol. Let the syrup cool completely.
In another large bowl, stir the mascarpone with a wooden spoon to soften it, then drop in the grated lemon zest and beat with a whisk until light and creamy. In another bowl whip the egg whites with the remaining ¼ cup sugar until it holds moderately firm peaks. When the cooked limoncello zabaglione is cooled, scrape about a third of it over the mascarpone and fold it in with a large rubber spatula.
Fold in the rest of the zabaglione in two or three additions. Now fold in the whipped egg whites in several additions, until the limoncello- mascarpone cream is light and evenly blended. Pour some of the cooled syrup into the pan, no deeper than ¼ inch, to moisten the ladyfingers. One at a time, roll a ladyfinger in the syrup and quickly place it in a 9- by- 13- inch Pyrex pan. Wet each cookie briefly— if it soaks up too much syrup, it will fall apart. Arrange the moistened ladyfingers in neat, tight rows in the pan, filling the bottom of the pan completely. You should be able to fit in about twenty ladyfingers in a single layer.
Scoop half of the limoncello- mascarpone cream onto the ladyfingers, and smooth it to fill the pan and cover them. Dip and arrange a second layer of ladyfingers in the pan, and cover it completely with the remainder of the cream. Smooth the cream with the spatula, and seal the tiramisù airtight in plastic wrap. Before serving, refrigerate for 6 hours or up to 2 days, or put it in the freezer for 2 hours. To serve, cut portions of tiramisù in any size you like, and lift them out of the pan onto dessert plates.