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Currently Reading

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Am just starting News of the World: A Novel by William Morris. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her LIFE. That kind of praise requires me to read it. It’s about an old man, during the early, old wild west times, who goes from town to town and people pay him money to read the newspaper to them. (Imagine, there WAS such a job.) By chance he’s asked to take a very young girl to Texas to reunite with her family. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby, raised by them, and she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!).

Just finished Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

Recently finished reading The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Also just read Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

Also read H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on August 14th, 2009.

tiramisu 1 Without a doubt, this is the very best Tiramisù

I’ve ever eaten. Bar none.

It had been some years since I’d made Tiramisù, using an old recipe that I’d put together myself from about 3 different versions. Then I was watching America’s Test Kitchen last week and they made a rather simplified Tiramisù, and I was hooked. Had to try it. Caution: this recipe does have raw egg yolks in it, so if you’re interested in the version made without raw eggs, America’s Test Kitchen has that recipe too. A note: you do have to sign-in to a free ATK membership in order to view these recipes (so they can send you emails, most likely, which they do, but I like receiving most of them – except the two a week wanting me to subscribe to Cook’s Country – wish they would stop sending me that one – I’ve asked – no can do, I guess).

I suppose, from beginning to end, it took me about an hour to make it. Not too bad, I guess, although I thought it would take less than that. This recipe has a lot more mascarpone in it (1 1/2 pounds) than I’ve used before. But I sure learned exactly how to dip the savoiardi cookies – those are the Italian, dry ladyfingers used to make this dessert. Not the soft ones you can sometimes find at the grocery store.

Just the right amount of coffee

That's how much coffee was left over

Even though I’m a fairly experienced home cook, and tackle almost anything, I’d never known HOW to get just the right amount of coffee into the cookies/the dessert. Too much and they fall apart into wet mush. Too little and the dessert is dry. You want a happy mixture of the cookies, coffee and mascarpone cream. That’s what I like about America’s Test Kitchen – they figure all this out for me so I don’t have to guess. They showed us exactly how to hold the cookie and how long to dip and turn it over in the coffee mixture. When I got done I had exactly one cookie left over and a little bit of coffee, so I dipped it in and bit into it. Exactly how it’s supposed to be – you only dip about 2 seconds, maybe 3 at the absolute most to get the coffee on the outside. When you cut (bite) into it, the center of the cookie is still dry. At least it was when I made the dessert. After it sits for 24 hours, the cookies had perfectly absorbed the flavors, but it wasn’t soggy with coffee, nor had it fallen apart. They still had enough “form” to use a spatula to cut and remove a nice serving portion.

tiramisu spread The mascarpone batter was easy – eggs and sugar – some rum (rum was also added to the coffee dipping mixture too), the mascarpone and whipped cream. So, you dip the cookies in the coffee/rum mixture, put one layer in a 9×13 glass dish, slather on half of the mascarpone cream (picture at left shows spreading the first layer over the cookies), sprinkle with a bit of Dutch process cocoa, another layer of dipped cookies and the last half of the mascarpone and more cocoa. That’s it. Chill at least 6 hours, but 24 is preferable.  That was fine with me, so I got this dessert done a day ahead of our dinner party the other night. Just before serving I sprinkled the top with a bit of chopped semisweet chocolate shavings.

tiramisu side view

From this picture above (side view of the Pyrex dish) I can see that on the bottom layer I didn’t push and shove the tender soaked cookies tightly enough over on the right– they mentioned that on the ATK episode, about making sure the cookies are pressed snugly, to push a bit to fill in all the nooks and crannies. So I had a little dip there. Surely didn’t matter to the taste, though!

Results? By far the best tiramisu I’ve ever had. I would make not one change to this recipe. It will now be my go-to one for this coffee and chocolate dessert. The leftovers were sublime, even 48 hours later.
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Tiramisù (from America’s Test Kitchen)

Recipe: America’s Test Kitchen
Servings: 12-16
NOTES: Brandy and even whiskey can stand in for the dark rum. The test kitchen prefers a tiramisù with a pronounced rum flavor; for a less potent rum flavor, halve the amount of rum added to the coffee mixture in step 1. Do not allow the mascarpone to warm to room temperature before using it; it has a tendency to break if allowed to do so. Be certain to use hard, not soft ladyfingers. If you do a little smaller portions, you can probably get 15 or 16 servings from the one 9×13 pan.

2 1/2 cups strong black coffee — room temperature [I use decaf]
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder — [I use decaf coffee granules]
9 tablespoons dark rum
6 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 pounds mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream — (cold)
14 ounces savoiardi (Italian dry ladyfingers) — (42 to 60 preferably depending on size)
3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa — Dutch-processed
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate — grated (optional) or use bittersweet

1. Stir coffee, espresso, and 5 tablespoons rum in wide bowl or baking dish until espresso dissolves; set aside.
2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat yolks at low speed until just combined. Add sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once or twice. Add remaining 4 tablespoons rum and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape bowl. Add mascarpone and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl once or twice. Transfer mixture to large bowl and set aside.
3. In now-empty mixer bowl (no need to clean bowl), beat cream at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer. Using rubber spatula, fold one-third of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set mascarpone mixture aside.
4. Working one at a time, drop half of ladyfingers into coffee mixture, roll, remove, and transfer to 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. (Do not submerge ladyfingers in coffee mixture; entire process should take no longer than 2 to 3 seconds for each cookie.) Arrange soaked cookies in single layer in baking dish, breaking or trimming ladyfingers as needed to fit neatly into dish.
5. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers; use rubber spatula to spread mixture to sides and into corners of dish and smooth surface. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in fine-mesh strainer and dust cocoa over mascarpone.
6. Repeat dipping and arrangement of ladyfingers; spread remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and dust with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa. Wipe edges of dish with dry paper towel. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, if using; cut into pieces and serve chilled.
Per Serving (if you cut 16 pieces, calorie count will go down, obviously): 510 Calories; 36g Fat (66.2% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 205mg Cholesterol; 157mg Sodium.

A year ago: Zucchini Pancakes

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  1. Emily

    said on May 5th, 2012:

    This Tiramisù is absolutely spectacular! I invested in some very high quality ingredients and definitely did not regret it once I had a taste. WOW. Thanks so much for sharing. The tip on how long to dip the ladyfingers was especially helpful.

    Thanks, Emily! It’s comments like yours that keep me going writing this blog. I’m so glad you had success with it. But I can’t take the credit – it’s all Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe! . . .carolyn T

  2. Aileen Lengyel

    said on July 17th, 2016:

    It sounds good but isn’t egg yolks dangerous to eat this way?

    There was a big deal made about raw egg yolks some years ago, but more and more home cooks are using raw egg yolks IF they’ve been purchased from a grocery store AND the person eating isn’t pregnant or have other serious health issues. I’ve been using raw egg yolks for years with no problem, but I buy them at my grocery store and they’re stored/refrigerated properly (in their box, not in the door tray in most refrigerators). And I’m not expecting . . . .look at my article, up in the first paragraph there’s a link to making it without raw eggs. . . carolyn t

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