Coffee Tiramisu Pie
Like creamy, caffeinated tiramisu, but cut into wedges.
It’s Father’s Day weekend, so I am sharing my dad’s favorite: Tiramisu. I took all the things I love about the classic dessert and ditched the ones I don’t (the spongy texture, the raw eggs, the booze - sorry!) to make a tiramisu pie.
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Always wanting to do things a little differently, I thought of several ways to turn a classic tiramisu into pie. The texture of traditional tiramisu can be a bit stodgy and soft, and I liked the idea of something creamy yet sliceable.
As a pie, I came up with frozen, baked, no-bake, and stove-top options. All had these non—negotiables in common: coffee, mascarpone, and ladyfingers.
All of my ideas started with a ladyfinger crust. The cookies whiz easily in the food processor into a fine crumb and can be used just like graham crackers in a press-in crust. No need to make homemade ladyfingers here, as store-bought is preferred.
It was the filling that presented itself with various options for something creamy and coffee-filled. I thought of coffee ice cream - simple yet delicious. A baked coffee custard pie - a bit more work but worth it for the silky texture. I seriously considered a fully no-bake option of whipped coffee mascarpone, but in the end, compromised with a stove-top coffee custard filling (think banana cream pie - minus the bananas; add coffee).
The coffee filling is smooth, rich, and downright delicious. It is made like a pastry cream, using egg yolks that are tempered with warm cream, sugar, and coffee. At the end, fold in mascarpone for an ultra creamy custard and try not to eat it all with a spoon.
This option was most like a traditional tiramisu, made rich with egg yolks and mascarpone, but a thicker texture that sets into sliceable portions in the refrigerator.
To top everything off: mascarpone whipped cream. Often cream cheese is added to heavy cream to help stabilize it after whipping. The same rules apply here, but with a bit more richness.
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Ladyfinger Pie Crust
1 ½ cups (180g) Savoiardi ladyfingers
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee
½ teaspoon salt
6 (85g) tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Place the ladyfingers in a food processor and pulse until they turn to crumbs. Add the sugar, coffee, and salt then pulse to combine.
Tip the ladyfinger crumbs into a large bowl and pour in the butter. Mix until evenly moistened and the crumbs clump together when squeezed together.
Pour about half of the crumbs into a pie pan. Working with the sides first, press the crust into the sides of the pan. Tip the remaining crumbs into the center and press flat. Grab a measuring cup with a flat bottom or a small drinking glass and press down all around and into the corners (where the bottom meets the sides) of the pan to ensure an even crust.
Pop the pie crust into the freezer as you make the custard filling.
Creamy Coffee Custard
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
½ cup (120ml) heavy cream
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (250g/8oz) mascarpone
Place the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a slight simmer.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks and sugar until smooth. Add the cornstarch and instant coffee and mix until smooth.
Once the milk is hot, temper it into the egg mixture. While whisking, slowly add a little bit of the hot milk at a time to gradually raise the temperature of the egg mixture. Once everything is combined, transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and set over medium-low heat.
While whisking continuously, cook the pastry cream over medium-low heat until it thickens. Do not overheat, or it may curdle. Once it thickens, large bubbles will come up from the bottom and “pop” at the surface. Once this happens, whisk constantly for 1 to 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.
Strain the pastry cream through a mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
Add about half of the mascarpone and whisk until smooth. Add the second half and fold it in with a spatula until combined.
Spoon the pastry cream into the chilled ladyfinger crust. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly to the top surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate to thicken, 4 hours or overnight.
Mascarpone Whipped Cream
½ cup (125g) mascarpone
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 ½ cups (360ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cocoa powder for dusting
After the pastry cream chills, make the mascarpone whipped cream.
Place the mascarpone and sugar in a bowl and whisk together with a hand or stand mixer until smooth.
With the mixer on low, slowly stream in the heavy cream followed by the vanilla extract. Once the cream begins to thicken, bump up the speed. Mix on medium-high speed until medium peaks form. Stop the mixer and continue whisking by hand until thick and the mixture holds stiff peaks.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip with the mascarpone whip. Remove the pie from the refrigerator and top with the whipped cream.
For the spiral design, start on the top left side of the pie. Hold the bag at a 45° angle and pipe clockwise spirals. Release pressure on the piping bag when you reach the bottom of the first row and start again at the top - moving to the right until the pie is covered.
Chill the pie until serving.
Dust the top with cocoa powder before slicing.
Serving and Storage:
If you can, chill the pie for at least an hour after adding the whipped topping. This will help it set and create cleaner slices.
Use a large chef’s knife to cut the pie into wedges. Make sure that the knife cuts through the crust before removing from the pan.
For cleaner slices, carefully wipe down the blade of the knife between slices.
Store the pie in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days.
The pie serves 8 slices.
I like a generous dusting of cocoa powder that gives the finished pie a velvety look to it. Keep in mind that the cocoa will start to “melt” after about 30 minutes, so dust just before serving.
Alternatively, cover the top of the pie with chocolate shavings.
Make sure to cook the pastry cream at a moderate temperature and always keep whisking slowly, turning the heat lower if the eggs begin to curdle. Straining the pastry cream removes any bit of egg that may have overcooked.
If mascarpone is only available in 250g/8oz tubs and you only want to buy one, you can use cream cheese for the whipped cream. A plain vanilla whipped cream is fine too.