On Trial: ToH Best Ever Desserts – Tiramisu Brownies

Discouraged and irritated, I took a couple of weeks off of the current On Trial series, where we are painfully working our way through Taste of Home’s latest publication. The cover article proudly boasts “Best Ever Desserts” and we are putting them to the test.


After one failure of a cheesecake and one decent, although not “best ever” cake, we’re back in the kitchen to find out if ToH magazine can redeem themselves with their Tiramisu Brownies.

Tiramisu is a dessert of Italian origin. It is essentially comprised of soft, spongy ladyfinger cookies (preferably Italian savoiardi) dipped in strong coffee and liquor. These are layered with a mascarpone, egg, sugar and cream mixture, and topped with cocoa powder. The original dessert did not contain any alcohol, as it was often served to children. A delicate cake with an intense flavor, tiramisu is served in different incantations across the globe.

Photo courtesy Sebastian Kügler and Wikipedia

Still, I had some expectations going into this.

The savoiardi cookies that comprise a tiramisu are a spongy bite of deliciousness marinated in a strong coffee mixture. The cookies aren’t heavy at all, which left me a little concerned about a brownie version — a brownie is usually meant to be picked up and, in order to do so, this would have to have some sort of substance to it. Still, I was hopeful.

I’m not going to list the recipe to this – you’ll thank me later. If anyone out there wants it, the magazine is available at grocery stores everywhere and will probably be up on the ToH website in the near future.

Semisweet chocolate is melted and mixed with butter. So far, we seem to be on the right track here. If you use a decent-quality chocolate, you will get better results. I always love the glossy texture of chocolate and butter.


So far, so good. Beat in sugar and a lot of eggs. Add flour and… a quarter cup of instant coffee granules.


Ugh. You’ve got to be kidding me. An entire quarter cup!? Too late, this thing is now a train wreck that I can’t turn myself away from! I added it to the bowl.

That mess gets set aside, and you start on the filling. It’s mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla. Pretty basic.

Now we just put it all together. Half of the chocolate mixture goes into the bottom of a greased 13×9 baking dish. As you can see from the photo, I used parchment paper. That’s just how I roll. The mascarpone cheese mixture is poured on top.


The remaining batter is spread over the top. I found this annoying because the dough is not pourable, so I had to carefully smooth this out as best as I could without mashing it into the mascarpone. If you are making this recipe (I don’t know why you would be but just in case you are) I would suggest putting thin strips down and trying very carefully to smooth this out. Space the chocolate evenly, so as it bakes it can spread and connect to the other blobs of chocolate.

After baking, you get a big pan of brownies. Here is a slightly blurry photo of one that I managed to capture right before leaving for work.


The brownie portion itself is just a brownie. There’s no depth of flavor, no “vavoom” of the chocolate. I really think that if I had just left out the instant coffee, I would have had something decent. The mascarpone filling is good, but is sort of left hanging by the brownie not being able to deliver.

The Verdict: Fail

The recipe tried to give us a light brownie to mimic the original tiramisu dessert, and that was its failure. If we had gone with a brownie that consisted of rich texture, deep chocolate flavor and good dosage of a decent quality (and brewed) Italian roast, it would have been more successful.

Taste of Home, you need to get your act together.

Next up, we’ll be trying out the Taste of Home mini apple pies and, if this doesn’t rock my sock off, we’re calling it quits and giving the ToH Best Ever Desserts an abysmal Sandra Lee rating.

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