There are members of my household, who shall remain nameless, who flat-out refuse to eat anything involving creamy, soft cheese. The ricotta in lasagna, the chevre in a beet salad, and the schmear on a bagel are all objectionable.
Likewise, the mascarpone in tiramisu. Never mind that once it's all mixed up with the espresso, sugar, and cocoa powder you can't even taste it. If spreadable cheese is on the ingredient list, it's not on our menu.
But what's life without luscious Italian desserts? That's why I was excited to try Dr. Oetker's Tiramisu ($4.99) for this week's Mixed Review. It may contain a host of artificial ingredients, but it is entirely cheese-free.
The box contains three pouches. The first is filled with eight lady finger cookies, the second with "filling mix," the third with cocoa powder. The list of additional ingredients is flexible: "1/3 to 1/2 cup" of room temperature coffee, "1 to 2 optional tablespoons" of amaretto or rum, and 3/4 cup of milk.
To assemble the dessert, I arranged the lady fingers in an 8x8-inch square pan and poured the coffee and amaretto over them. While they soaked, I beat the milk and filling mix with an electric mixer for five minutes until it was the consistency of loosely whipped cream. I spread the filling over the lady fingers, sifted the cocoa powder over the surface, and refrigerated my tiramisu for the requisite two hours, allowing the flavors to meld.
The results were a mixed bag. The coffee, almond, and chocolate elements were well-balanced and rich, and the ratio of cookie-base-to-creamy-filling was on point. I didn't miss the mascarpone at all. But the texture of the cream was more than a bit grainy, and the lady fingers were much too soggy (the coffee really should be kept to a minimum). Also, with only one layer each of cookies, cream, and cocoa, the dessert looked a little flat and unimpressive on the plate.
In the end, I would recommend Dr. Oetker's Tiramisu Mix if you're short on time and craving a coffee-flavored dessert. While not something to serve to dinner party guests, it would make a perfectly decent weeknight family-style dessert. All the more so if your family, like mine, is cheese-free.
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