For someone who started off as a tiramisu scorner, I have turned out to be its most slavish proponent, finding any excuse to whip up a new one. From Anna Del Conte's all-white meringue version, and something more trad (and I say this being well aware that tiramisu as such came into being only in the latter half of the 20th century), to one made with Frangelico and another with Baileys.
Some say, challenging more generally accepted ideas about the provenance, that it was invented in a casa chiusa (a house of ill repute) to give the working girls a pick-me-up, as the name (tira-mi-su) suggests. Whatever its inception, this one reverts to the original formulation--although in dinkier format. This is not because I am a huge fan of the cute (you know that) but because it means you have a tiramisu worth making for fewer people (you don't need a partyful), and in less time. By which I mean very much less time, since, unlike the big, trifle-style tiramisu, these tiramisini (think coffee-soaked Savoiardi cookies, topped with the familiar, whipped Marsala-spiked mascarpone in small-portioned martini glasses) don't even need to sit overnight before being ready to eat.
These are a tiny bit lighter, too, as I don't use the egg yolks (the mascarpone is plenty rich enough) but keep the whites to add moussiness and air. These I buy in a carton (pasteurized) and have always at the ready. I make sure the savoiardi, mascarpone, and marsala are also on hand; and coffee is always in the house, as well as the liqueur that echoes it, but it's fine to leave out the coffee liqueur and just bump up the coffee quotient, if you prefer.
Make your espresso and pour it into a heatproof pitcher, adding the coffee liqueur, then leave it to cool. I find 10 minutes outside the window on a cool day does it!
Break each savoiardi cookie into about 4 and drop the pieces into the martini glasses, then pour the cooled espresso mixture over them. Tamp down gently, making sure the biscuits are soaked all over.
Using an electric hand mixer for ease, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, and set aside for a moment.
Scrape the mascarpone into another bowl, adding the honey; I love the way its mellow sweetness marries with the marsala, though sugar would be fine too. Beat with the electric hand mixer (no need to clean it first) and, when smooth, slowly beat in the marsala.
Fold in the egg whites, a third at a time, then dollop this mixture over the soused savoiardi in each glass, using a spoon to whirl it into a swirly peak at the top. Let these stand in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours, then dust with cocoa, pushing it through a fine-mesh strainer, just before serving.
Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs, shellfish and meat may increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Reprinted from Nigellissima. Copyright (c) 2012 by Nigella Lawson. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.