I had learnt this Italian dessert Tiramisu (“lift me up”) from an Italian friend back in school. She would always say it was the easiest and one of the lightest desserts to make but the trickiest part was how much the lady fingers were soaked in the coffee. While that is absolutely true, I still find it to be my go-to dessert. It almost always turns out delicious and if you are in a hurry to prepare a quick dessert without too much headache, this one never will fail you. I have had lady fingers soaked anywhere from ‘too much’ to ‘too little’ and every time it was delectable!
- 4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 2 packets of lady fingers
- 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese
- Sugar (3 TBs/egg)
- Hot liquid coffee
- Whipped cream for topping
- Some cocoa for decoration
- Beat egg whites until foamy peaks form
- Beat egg yolks and sugar until the color is pale yellow
- Add mascarpone cheese to the yolk. Mix well into a cream.
- Fold in egg whites to this cream. Mix well.
- Prepare hot liquid coffee
- Use 9-13 inch rectangular pan
- Make 1 layer with lady fingers (lady fingers should be soaked into hot coffee for 1-2 seconds on all sides using forks for guidance)
- Spread half of the cream over the lady finger layer
- Repeat step 2 with another layer of lady fingers
- Finish with remainder of cream
- Add whipped cream on top and spread evenly
- Sprinkle some cocoa for decoration
I knew this would be so emotionally intense – I had met my niece after a few days of her birth. Those were some precious moments I had held her in my hands for the first time. Her beautiful big face, while the rest of her so tiny, peeked through the light pink and yellow blankets that cozily wrapped her. Through the next five years, time would fly by, I would only speak with her over phone or over skype – especially for the last couple of years we started speaking every Sunday afternoon. She would sing me songs ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’, she would name her little pony toy Twinkle (twinkle is my nickname). Her name for me is Fifi and to match that she calls my husband Fifa. Over these years I started to grow a special relation with her – the way she would call me on the phone, how happy she would be to speak with me, how she said she prayed for me every day. She wanted me to come for her 5th birthday. She started the hosting process a few months earlier, prepping me with cookies and teas over the phone. All kinds of things were being made and the question that begged every phone call – when was I going to come by? I kept saying soon for her birthday, cautious not to break her little heart lest I was unable to make it. I told her I would visit her if the weather was nice. She convinced me that the weather would be nice and that I should visit soon.
Finally I came to a date on which I would meet my beloved and precious niece. I was excitedly waiting for that day to arrive. My husband was with me. We would be driving to New Jersey and since it had also been her birthday recently, we would be buying many birthday presents to load up in the trunk to surprise and amaze her. Our car inched closer to the house. We just had parked, when she came running out of their front door shouting happy bursts of ‘Fifi, fifi, fifa, fifa’. Her relative mentioned she had been speaking of us all day. She was so overjoyed. I grabbed her little self and we took some photos right away. I wanted to capture each and every moment spent with her. I wanted to experience every single precious moment that I could with her to its fullest. We opened the trunk and to her amazement she was thrilled with all the presents we had brought for her. We took them all inside and she started playing with them. Many more pictures follow and she was all wide smiles. According to her mother, she is not very fond of taking pictures, but today she was smiling the widest at the camera. She really knows how to make you feel special. We had brought her a toy kitchen set. She started right away making a meal for us. She wanted to make us a special rice dish, ‘Chicken Biryani’. Every now and then she would come over and have us check the salt. I could not believe how intelligent she was and how much she knew already. She acted just like the perfect hostess. She served my meal first and just to be playful she told my husband that he needed to be patient and he needed to wait for his meal plate! How playful was that! Every now and then she would jump over our laps and we would steal a precious shot for making memories. My husband was also playful with her. We would always ask her to give us her toy pony over the phone. She would diplomatically answer ‘It is too big to mail. I will give you when you visit me.’ So now that we were with her, my husband asked for the big pony toy. Not to be making him upset, the little diplomat brought him a tiny pony substitute toy! My husband protested and asked for the bigger version to which she again outwitted him asking ‘Why would you ever need the big one? Do you need to sit on it?’! She makes you feel involved and special but she never loses her fine touch over things.
She cooked all afternoon for us and then she told us ‘I have been cooking a lot and now I am so exhausted!’ She runs to her couch as if to take a nap but then next minute she was up. She comes over to us and says ‘Good Morning, now it is time to eat breakfast!’ We told her we would burst if we ate anymore and that I would definitely need to exercise. She poked our tummies to check if we had any space left to eat! It was just the most adorable four hours that I will never forget.
Then it was time for us to leave. They had a cake so that we could celebrate another birthday with her. She would not blow candles until there were cute little toys all over her cake. She is so particular about what she wants. When I explained to her that I had to leave, I could almost feel her heart beating. She could feel my heart racing too. She knew I was getting upset too. So she kept kissing my cheeks as if to comfort me. She has a big heart like that. I cannot express how blessed I am to have my little niece.
This is a recipe for Bosnian walnut baklava. My husband is Bosnian and his favorite dessert is baklava. I wanted to be able to make baklava for him at home. However, I started with phyllo dough bought from the store. I was not satisfied with the flaky consistency. When I discussed with other Bosnian ladies, I realized that in the old days, the women would make baklava at home with homemade phyllo dough or jufka! It is very difficult to achieve the paper thinness but it is possible with enough practice. I must admit that I experimented on several occasions until I was able to perfect the entire process. The process below now works for me perfectly every time and the result is a crispy yet juicy baklava fresh from home! I learnt the recipe for jufka from ‘Baking with Sibella’ @ http://bakingwithsibella.com/.
Homemade Phyllo Dough (Jufka):
Use unbleached flour 2.5 cups
Use 1+1/8 cups of warm water
Use 1 TB distilled vinegar
Use 1 TB veg oil
Knead 50 times to make a soft silky dough
Separate to 5 equal balls and oil and let rest inside plastic wrap for 15-30 minutes or so
Use fresh walnuts totaling exactly 1.75 lbs of finely chopped walnuts
Use 4 TBs of bread crumbs
Use ¼ sugar
Use 1 big TB cinnamon
Use 2 cups sugar
Use 2 cups water
Heat at medium until all dissolved, then lower heat and let simmer for 6-7 minutes.
Use 1 TB lemon juice
Use ¼ cup honey and let simmer for another 3 minutes and turn off heat.
- On a well floured surface, roll out one ball with a pin, flouring each time making it very thin and almost transparent. Put away on a well floured surface and sprinkle with flour. Repeat 3 more times with the other 3 balls.
- Now turn heat to low and melt 1 stick of butter
- Turn oven to 350F
- Work on the last dough making a thin sheet
- On a well buttered pan layer one well-cut and trimmed sheet and butter evenly.
- Place the second sheet and repeat buttering
- Stack with ½ of the nut mix
- Place one sheet and butter
- Stack remaining nut mix
- Place one sheet and butter
- Finish with the perfect top sheet and have diamonds cut slightly on the top sheet. Butter generously and place in oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown
- While bakhlava is baking prepare syrup mix as recipe above
- Have bakhlava cut more thoroughly into wedges once baked and pour warm syrup over hot bakhlava
- Let soak for 6-7 hours and then eat!