- 6 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- Four 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups espresso or strong coffee, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup brandy or cognac
- 30 to 32 crisp Italian ladyfingers (savoiardi)
- 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
- Bittersweet chocolate, for shaving
- Line an 8-inch-square baking dish with plastic wrap, leaving a 3-inch overhang on all sides. Fill a large bowl with ice water.
- Make the custard: Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) until the sugar dissolves.
- Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the custard is light and foamy, about 10 minutes (a thermometer inserted into the mixture should register 170 degrees F).
- Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set in the bowl of ice water; whisk until the custard is cool, about 1 minute. Put the mascarpone in a large bowl. Fold the custard into the mascarpone with a rubber spatula until almost combined, then whisk until just smooth (do not overmix or the custard will be grainy).
- Combine the espresso and brandy in a shallow bowl. One at a time, dip the ladyfingers in the espresso mixture until soaked but not soggy; arrange 2 rows of about 5 biscuits each in the baking dish. Spread one-third of the mascarpone custard over the ladyfingers. Repeat with a second layer of espresso-dipped ladyfingers, arranging them in the opposite direction. Top with another one-third of the custard. Repeat with the remaining ladyfingers, alternating directions. Spread the remaining custard on top and dust with the cocoa powder. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Invert a plate on top of the tiramisu, then flip the tiramisu with the plate. Remove the baking dish and plastic wrap. Invert a serving plate on top of the tiramisu and flip again so it is cocoa-side up. Remove the remaining plastic wrap. Shave curls of chocolate on top with a vegetable peeler.