Tiffin Squares

Tiffin Squares

December 25: Christmas

‘Tis the season to see pretty plaid patterns as Christmas decorations, which are reminiscent of Scottish tartans. For many years, the English banned the Scots from wearing their cultural clothing (learn more about the “repeal of dress” here). Also, for four centuries, Christmas was banned in Scotland because Protestant rulers of the 16th century associated Christ’s mass with Catholicism. It was only in 1958 that Christmas became an official holiday in Scotland.

Now with the freedom to express themselves with plaid AND observe Christmas Day, the Scots have been very influential in their holiday celebrations with decorations and traditions.

As a Christmas dessert, we made a traditional Scottish treat called tiffin. The recipe originated in Troon, Scotland, in the 1900s, and is a chocolate cake-like confectionary commonly comprising of crushed digestive or rich tea biscuits (cookies), cocoa powder, golden syrup and dried fruit with a top layer of melted chocolate. Although it is considered a “cake”, tiffin does not require baking in the oven. Because the mixture is chilled in the refrigerator to set until hardened, tiffin is also known as fridge or icebox cake, chocolate concrete cake and no- bake chocolate biscuit cake.

Tiffin is very similar to the groom’s cake made for Prince William when he married Kate Middleton in 2011 (but the royal recipe contains eggs). Like the royal cake, tiffin is a treat that tastes rich and decadent but is very easy to make, especially for Christmas cookie exchanges and for Hogmanay next week.

Try tiffin and celebrate Christmas and be proud of plaid. Nollaig Chridheil (Merry Christmas in Scots Gaelic)!

Recipe

(Adapted from Rampant Scotland)

Ingredients

  • 1 package digestive biscuits
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1-2 tablespoons glacé cherries, halved (optional)
  • 6 ounces good quality chocolate, melted

Directions

In a plastic bag, crush the biscuits into small crumbs. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter with the cocoa powder and golden syrup and stir until smooth.

Tiffin Squares

Add the raisins and glacé cherries. Add the crushed biscuit pieces and mix to coat well. Line an 8×8-inch square pan with parchment or wax paper with a little overhang for the handles. Press the chocolate mixture into the pan until flat and even. Set aside.

Tiffin Squares

Pour melted chocolate over the top and smooth with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least an hour until firm. Lift the tiffin out of the pan using the paper handles. Slice into 36 squares.

Tiffin Squares

Notes

  • Because Christmas was banned for 400 years in Scotland, the Scots have celebrated Hogmanay (new year) in grander style. “Auld Lang Syne” is a popular and traditional Scottish song for the new year.
  • Search our blog for other Scottish and Christmas recipes.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

October: National Dessert Month

Tiramisu is a traditional Italian dessert that we always order at Italian restaurants in North America. So when we were able to visit Italy (Rome, Florence and Venice) a few years ago, we wanted to try the authentic treat. Whether we ate tiramisu simply sliced and served on a plate or from fancy shot glasses or classy cups, we savored the rich, creamy and potent dessert. With several shots of espresso flavor and sometimes sweet Marsala wine and brandy infused in the dessert, tiramisu really “picked us up” and we had enough energy to continue touring the Italian towns! This no-bake confection is like a cross between a cheesecake and trifle. For an impressive dessert, it is not as difficult to make as it seems. For National Dessert Month, try making traditional tiramisu to “pick you up” as the season turns into fall!

Recipe

(Adapted from Alessi Biscotti Savoiardi)

For the zabaglione cream

  • 5 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup Marsala

For the cream filling

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups mascarpone cheese

For the cookie base

  • 30 or more lady finger cookies (we used Alessi brand)
  • 1 – 1 ½ cup espresso or strong coffee, cooled
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • ¼ – ½ cup brandy or Marsala (we used Cognac-brandy)
  • 1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder (we used Nestle brand)

For the optional garnish

  • Chocolate syrup or sauce (we used Hershey’s brand)
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate-covered coffee bean

Directions

Make the zabaglione cream by beating the egg yolks with sugar in a bowl until the mixture turns to a pale yellow color. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water (double boiler). Reduce the heat to simmer. Gradually add the Marsala, beating continuously until thick. Pour the mixture into another bowl, cover and refrigerate for half an hour.

Tiramisu

Meanwhile, make the cream filling. In a mixer, whisk the heavy whipping cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese. Add the cooled and thickened zabaglione cream to the mixture. Blend until smooth and softened. Prepare the cookie base. In an 8x8x3-inch square pan, arrange the lady finger cookies in a row, slicing off pieces to fit, if necessary.

Tiramisu

In a small bowl, mix the espresso or coffee with vanilla and brandy or Marsala. Pour a tablespoon of espresso/coffee mixture on top of each cookie to soak well (or dip each cookie in the bowl). Layer half of the chilled filling over the soaked lady finger cookies.

Tiramisu

Sprinkle the top with about one tablespoon of cocoa powder using a fine sieve. Repeat the process of arranging and soaking the cookies as the next layer.

Tiramisu

Finish with a layer of filling. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to allow the cookies to soften and the flavors to blend together. Serve by drizzling chocolate syrup/sauce on a dessert plate.

Tiramisu

Put a slice of tiramisu on the drizzles. Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder using a fine sieve. Pipe a rosette of whipped cream on top and garnish with a chocolate-covered coffee bean. Cover any leftover tiramisu to prevent the lady fingers from drying out.

Tiramisu

Notes

  • Tiramisu is literally translated as “pick me up.”
  • Grazie (thank you) to Lisa L. for the Marsala from Sicily. She served on this Italian island as a U.S. naval reservist and bought a bottle of the booze for our blog!
  • Use half the amount or eliminate the Marsala in the zablagione cream for a less liqueur-tasting tiramisu.
  • For a similar mini-version of tiramisu, try the recipe for St. Roch’s Fingers, which we posted on our blog on the Feast Day of St. Roch on August 16.