Tiramisu became a birthday staple in my household ever since my older sister became bored of traditional homemade birthday cakes. We would usually pick her up a box of tiramisu from Olive Garden, however, the price for it was a bit ridiculous. It was around forty-five dollars for a large box. While it was delicious it was not economically reasonable, and it might be more sustainable to make it by hand or buy generic smaller portions from stores such as Walmart or Publix. A traditional homemade recipe of Tiramisu mainly calls for sugar, mascarpone, milk, eggs, espresso, an alcohol, and Ladyfingers, a type of sponge biscuit. However, once someone delves into the production of these ingredients it becomes clear that Tiramisu is not sustainable.
Custard is a main component of Tiramisu. The custard is created by heating egg yolks, milk, and sugar in a bowl. A Food Network Tiramisu recipe requires six large eggs. However, only the yolks of the eggs are used. Besides this waste of ingredients, many mass scale egg production methods are not environmental friendly. The main impact of egg production is caused by the chicken feed. While it might sound better to buy cage free, free range, or organic eggs, these chickens need to be fed a greater amount of feed than caged chickens. Non-cage egg production also makes it harder to regulate chicken feces, therefore, contributing to more ammonia emissions. However, caged egg production is also not sustainable and usually means GMOs. Another major ingredient of Tiramisu’s custard is milk. In terms of sustainability, the dairy industry also tends to not be ecologically friendly. The amount of methane produced by a dairy cow has a twenty-five times higher global warming impact than carbon.
Another dairy ingredient in Tiramisu is Mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese. Cheese has a high carbon footprint, perhaps even higher than that of milk because it takes around ten pounds of milk to create only one pound of hard cheese. Mascarpone, since it has a high-fat content, has an especially large ecological footprint. Other ingredients in Tiramisu that are not fully sustainable are alcohol, espresso, and sugar. Many Tiramisu recipes use alcohol in their coffee mixture to enhance flavor, however, alcohol production is also harmful. Brandy, a typical alcohol element in Tiramisu, is harmful to the environment due to its distillation process. Alcohol distillation is a destructive and energy consuming process that leaves behind wastewater and byproducts. In addition to alcohol’s impact on the environment, this ingredient is personally not accessible to me due to my age. Coffee and sugar production are also environmentally detrimental due to common monoculture practices.
While I was able to find all these ingredients at Publix I could not locate Ladyfingers, the main component of Tiramisu. This sponge biscuit is usually found in the international section of stores; however, I know from past experiences it can be particularly hard to find. While cocoa powder and chocolate are also included in Tiramisu, I do not believe they have a heavy bearing on the carbon footprint of this recipe due to only being used as toppings. Therefore, taking in account the accessibility of certain Tiramisu ingredients, as well as their environmental impact I have decided to construct a homemade vegan version of Tiramisu that is more ecologically and economically friendly.
My revised Tiramisu recipe will eliminate all animal-based products, so heavy carbon footprint ingredients such as eggs, milk, and mascarpone are out of the equation. I will also eliminate an alcohol from my recipe, due to economic and accessibility reasons, however, I am still using espresso because I believe that is a crucial element of Tiramisu. Sugar is also in my recipe, while not explicitly, but implicitly within the vanilla cake mix that will replace ladyfingers. I decided to use a cake mix because it is economically better than making a cake from scratch and because most cake mixes are naturally vegan. I recommended in my revised recipe to use cake mixes that do not require an egg or just substitute the egg with applesauce. My revised recipe does not have custard; hopefully, vegan mascarpone will be enough to contribute the same texture element of custard. The vegan “mascarpone” is basically a crème made from raw cashews, soy milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and coconut milk. The goal of my vegan tiramisu was to be ecologically friendly, but I also wanted this recipe to be a better economic option than the forty-five-dollar box of Tiramisu from Olive Garden. The price of the ingredients in my revised recipe was around twenty-five dollars so I met my personal economic goal. Meeting my ecological goal was more complicated, however. Michael Pollan states in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma that “We’ve discovered that an abundance of food does not render the omnivore’s dilemma obsolete…only to deepen it, giving us all sorts of new problems and things to worry about.” (Pollan 7). Pollan makes the argument that because we are faced with complex choices and labels, such as organic, cage-free, vegan etc, it becomes complicated to decide what is best to eat. In making my revised recipe this concept was highly apparent. Just because my recipe is vegan does not automatically make it sustainable. Nearly every ingredient has a negative impact on the environment. However, despite that many of the ingredients in my revised recipe, such as the plant-based milks, have their own carbon footprint due to processing, overall these ingredients have a smaller footprint, and therefore are more sustainable, than the animal-based products in traditional Tiramisu.
*Inspiration for “vegan mascarpone” from https://itdoesnttastelikechicken.com/vegan-tiramisu/
Tiramisu Recipe from https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/tiramisu-recipe-2131631
Featured Image from https://www.maxpixel.net/Tiramisu-Desserts-Dessert-Sweet-Food-Restaurant-3331009
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