#15: Food challenge 1 - Tiramisu vs. Pasta Pomodoro

First names it is.

So there are two other guys who work in the same office as me. One of them (Ting) is trying to finish his Master's thesis this summer, and he has been working hardcore. I feel a little bit guilty every time I ask him for help, because I know that he'll try to help me but this takes away some of his time. The other (Jacky) slacks off to the extent where it is infectious, and this eventually led to having weekly food challenges. (It probably started with the excessive amount of baking I do, and the regularity with which this shows up in the office -- after all, I need somebody to eat it.)

The way it works is like this: I give Jacky a recipe to cook and he gives me one to bake in return (or vice versa; actually last week he gave me the recipe first.) Then we bring it and can discuss/compare/see whose is better.

In my opinion, this is just a free lunch every week, and an opportunity to try baking new things. So I am completely down with that.

His first challenge to me was tiramisu. I decided to make it themed and I searched for some kind of Italian-esque dish on allrecipes[dot]com. The pasta pomodoro seemed fairly popular, so I sent that over his way.

I've never made tiramisu before, although I've had every intention of doing so. However, the recipe calls for mascarpone cheese, which is totally legitimate except that I have no idea what that is, what it looks like, or where to get it from.

Combine that with being invited over to someone's house the next evening and having to bake starting at around 11pm (which meant getting groceries from Superstore at 10:30 pm) meant slight craziness.

Because I was somewhat rushed in looking for ingredients, I settled for cream cheese as a substitute instead. It seems funny for someone who has no idea what mascarpone cheese is to be coming up with substitutes on the fly, but I did it. I picked up everything else I needed (which included these huge lady fingers; honestly, no lady has fingers like that) and then started my tiramisu adventure at around 11:10 or so.

The first component involved egg yolks and boiling. In my experience, I tend to mess up anything that I need to heat on a stove (hence why I generally bake instead of cook). It just seems to want to burn... which is what happened here. Manang said that the pot I used was too thin and burns easily, which may have been true. At any rate, although the mixture boiled and thickened (I think it was egg yolks, milk and sugar), there were little brown spots in it. I was concerned that it was the pot shedding, but once I took a closer look and realized it was just burnt bits, I decided that it was okay.

I just didn't want to redo it all at 11:30 at night, to be honest. And nobody eating it could tell, as I later found out. (Yes, to my audience who tried this, that is what you ate; it wasn't really that bad though. ^^)
See? You can barely tell...

The next component was whipped cream. All you have to do is turn on a beater and whip the cream, which is easy enough -- right?

Wrong. I don't know what happened, but a little spots showed up in the whipped cream. It wasn't the first time it happened, and I'm quite sure they were safe to eat, but it was saddening for me -- why was this turning into such a disaster?

I don't think you can really tell in my photos, actually.

The last component was the ladyfingers, which are soaked in a coffee+rum mixture. But I do not have rum at hand (or do I? I don't know...) so I used Kahlua instead. Because seriously, drinks with Kahlua are the only alcoholic things that I think taste good (although I was trying to learn how to handle wine, for social situations...) and the occasional mix of fruity stuff. I say this as if I've tried a lot, but I actually haven't. Hahaha.

Anyway, this part was pretty hard to bomb. I might have though; we don't drink coffee so we don't have a coffee maker. Consequently, I used instant coffee in some arbitrary amount (because really, what does "strong coffee" mean?) and then mixed it with a couple tablespoons of Kahlua. I dipped the ladyfingers in this, and then laid them out in the container.

When I was eating this later (when it was done), this was my favourite part. Possibly because I didn't bomb it.

Finally, after the yolk-sugar-milk mixture had cooled (I had refrigerated it, as instructed), I beat in the cream cheese. I tasted a bit and, as one might imagine, it tasted more like cheesecake than tiramisu.

Of course, it was past midnight by this time and I just wanted to go to sleep, so I layered it on (ladyfinger, cheese, cream, repeat) and then refrigerated it, hoping that the flavours would magically meld together into awesomeness over the next 24 or so hours.

I forgot to mention, I put some cocoa powder on top. I intended to make it look pretty, but it ended up being a mess, as you can see. There was also a mess on the counter and the floor because of my terrible aim and lack of skill. If I had more time, concentration and motivation, I would have made a stencil -- but seriously, it was going to be cut up anyway. No need.

Maybe next time.

On the day of the challenge, we had an epic showdown.

Not really. We just ate our food and chatted. It was nice lunch on a sunny day, and Jacky's food was really good. My so-called tiramisu ended up tasting more like cheesecake, so I think I would rather try to pass it off as "tiramisu cheesecake". As tiramisu though, it was pretty much a failure and I would say that he won. In my opinion, anyway.

Yay, lunch!

It was fun stuff. If everything goes through this week, there'll be another challenge to chronicle. And I should really start looking for these ingredients ahead of time.


on faith, food and flying
The thoughts and experiences of a college kid on faith, love and life in pursuit of Christ, the loveliest One, while enjoying misadventures and quests for food, which so happen to take her around the world.
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