In his black chef’s hat, Fabio Neri has something of the look of a Medici banker, though in person proves a lot less sombre. The head chef at San Gimignano’s Locanda dell’Artista, a dreamy hill-top bed and breakfast with a high end restaurant attached, Fabio woos diners night after night with his inventive raviolis and magical ways with burrata and beetroot. Today he’s running a cookery class for the Locanda’s greedier guests, including a smattering of Londoners, a genial couple from Glasgow and an English teacher from Monterey. Homemade pasta is our first assignment, but mastering the boozy art of the tiramisu is why we’re all really here.
This sweet and creamy confection, which hints at darker depths, first appeared on Italian menus in the late 1960s. The creation of Veneto restauranteur Roberto Linguanotto and his apprentice Francesca Tiramisu, it’s remained a retro crowd-pleaser ever since. There are regional variations, it’s a cousin of zuppa inglese, but chef Fabio prefers to stick to the classic recipe. After a morning of kneading pasta dough, tiramisu turns out to be an effortless affair, largely thanks to the appearance of a gleaming KitchenAid. Fabio’s top tips for a sophisticated tiramisu: use organic eggs; cooled espresso from a French press imparts the best coffee flavour; only soak one side of the ladyfingers (ie preserve some biscuity crunch); and allow the dessert to chill in the fridge for as long as you can resist temptation. EH
- 6 egg yolks
- 1kg mascarpone
- 600g Italian Pavesini biscuits (ladyfingers)
- 300g sugar
- 20ml cold coffee/espresso
- 150g whipping cream
- Brandy/Cointreau to taste (a slug or two)
- Dark chocolate shavings for decoration
Combine egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl (or KitchenAid) for 7-8 minutes, until the mixture is smooth. Little by little add the mascarpone to avoid lumps. Finally add the whipping cream and continue to stir until the mixture is creamy. Combine the brandy and coffee in a separate bowl. Semi-dunk each Pavesini biscuit in the coffee mixture and set aside. Choose a large round or rectangular dish for a large tiramisu, or ramekins for individual servings. Layer a little of the cream on the bottom of the dish, followed by a layer of biscuits. Then repeat the layering two or three times. Finally decorate the surface with a sprinkle of cocoa powder and dark chocolate shavings. Chill in the fridge for as long as possible, preferably overnight.