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« Tiramisu Cake | Main | Homemade Mascarpone »
Friday
Apr272012

Ladyfingers

Ladyfingers

Ladyfingers. I've always thought this was an odd name for a cookie. If I let my imagination run free, I can see the resemblance (well, maybe). If I had it my way, however, I wouldn't equate delicate desserts with eating a woman's digits. Even so, depending on the part of the world you live in, these little cookies go by other names, such as sponge, savoy, savoiardi, and, my personal favorite, boudoir cookies.

Though the cookie has many names, the result is always the same.

Ladyfingers Ladyfingers

Ladyfingers are an old cookie, born out of the traditions of the eleventh century. The fact that this little cookie stood the test of time for nine hundred years earns my deepest respect. Despite the long history, the cookie has evolved very little in that time. In the fifteenth century, ladyfingers were often given as gifts to the visitors of France. Rumor has it that when Czar Peter the Great of Russia and his wife Catherine came to visit, Catherine fell so hard for these cookies that she bought the baker and sent him back to her home in Russia.

It makes me wonder just how many ladyfingers that poor baker must have made (and how many Catherine must have eaten).

Ladyfingers Ladyfingers

I do have a word to the wise to share if you want to bake these cookies. The batter is easy and straightforward to make, but the dough can be a bit persnickety, especially when it comes to temperature. If the room is hot and humid, the lady fingers have a tendency to spread out on the baking sheet, turning the look of the delicate ladyfingers into those from a large man's hand. I may speak from experience.

While still delicious, the look is a little less than desirable.

However, the problem is an easy one to avoid. Chilling the baking sheet before piping will prevent the ladyfingers from spreading due to the warmth of a summer day (or the heat from the oven).

Ladyfingers

Ladyfingers are light and airy, just as a sponge cake, with a weight that is light as a feather. Fresh from the oven, the lightly sweetened cookies are soft and the bottoms are just ever so crisp. Ladyfingers are individually lovely, but they taste just as well with a side of fresh fruit or a dollop of whipped cream. Incredibly absorbent, ladyfingers are also used in more complex desserts, such as tiramisu or trifles.

One Year Ago: Raspberry Swirled Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Ladyfingers
Adapted from Joy of Baking

Yields about 2-3 dozen

3 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar until pale yellow and thick, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the mixture with the sifted cake flour (this is one of the rare occasions when sifted flour is necessary for a light and delicate finished product). Do not stir. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat together the egg whites with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter, mixing until just incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the batter and fit with a round 1/2-inch tip (a large plastic bag with the corner cut off will also work). Pipe the batter into lines 3-inches long, keeping a good inch between the cookies on the baking sheet (in the pictures above, I piped 4-inch lines for a special project). If the room is hot and humid, chill the baking sheet before piping; it will prevent the ladyfingers from spreading too much due to the heat.

Sprinkle the cookies lightly with powdered sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are barely browned and the cookies spring back when touched. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. The cookies will stick to the parchment if allowed to cool on it. Serve immediately.

Ladyfingers do stale quickly, so it's best to store them in an airtight container in the freezer to keep for another day. A few minutes at room temperature is all it takes for them to unthaw.

Reader Comments (17)

Can I see a tiramisu from scratch on the horizon? I shoud get on with the mascarpone :-)
04.27.2012 | Unregistered Commentervera@growntocook
This is perfect! I always have the hardest time finding lady fingers when I want to make tiramisu. Now, I can make them at home. Yay! :D
These are just plain pretty. Love these!
I've only ever made ladyfingers once - I wanted them for tiramisu but they ended up so pretty and delicate I wanted just to eat them as they were!

Yours look incredible, and your photos are stunning as always.
04.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterthelittleloaf
I was just looking for a good ladyfingers recipe! Looks great, thanks :)

Natalie
04.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie
Enjoyed reading the history of Ladyfingers. I had no idea this classic cookie was centuries old! Made from scratch has to be so much better than the packages from the store. Great post!
04.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeb
I love the texture of lady fingers. All soft and delicious with just a slight crust on the outside. Plus their shape is perfect for dunking :)
I guess that Catherine had good taste in cookies - a baker who made nothing but ladyfingers. Sounds like a good idea to me!
'Boudoir' cookies - love it! Your blog is delicious in every way - tempting recipes and love the aesthetic simplicity and beauty of your photos and love that you are having an 'affair' with your food - can totally relate to that.
I've always wondered where "ladyfingers" came from!
This is brilliant - absolutely love the pictures! :)
04.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKajal
They look divine - light and soft and just perfect!
04.28.2012 | Unregistered Commentercooking rookie
If I'm using these to make your tiramisu cake recipe, should I pipe these ladyfingers 3" or 4" long? I was planning on doing 2- 9" layers for the cake. Also, you suggest making the cake a day before it will be eaten. Is it ok for the cookies to be put on around the outside that early, or should that be done just before serving? I want to serve the cake this Saturday for my husband's birthday and am trying to figure out if I can bake the cookies tomorrow (Thursday) and assemble the whole thing Friday night. Thanks!
03.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
Jenny-- I would pipe 4-inch ladyfingers. This will give you a little wiggle room so that they do come up over the cake, but can be cut down if necessary by trimming the bottoms off with a knife. I would put the cookies around the cake just before serving. Ladyfingers can dry out quite quickly so waiting will keep the cookies soft, prevent them from absorbing moisture from the cake, or getting soggy. You can use a cake pan to cut the cookies to the right side, arrange them, and make sure you have enough if you want to get as much done as possible beforehand. The cookies take only a few minutes to press into the cake and tying a ribbon around them will hold them firmly in place. I hope that helps!
03.27.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Hi Kristin -- mine came out incredibly runny/thin... any thoughts on where I went wrong?
04.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBecca
Becca-- I am guessing that the batter was too warm due to a hot kitchen or oven. To prevent this, I would chill the batter in the refrigerator and freeze the baking sheet before piping them. This will help the batter keep its shape and prevent excessive spreading while baking in the oven. I'm sorry they didn't turn out as you would have liked, but this should prevent that problem in the future!
04.29.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Hi there! I love your recipes! :) So I really want to make this for my daughters tea party. http://pinterest.com/pin/280067670546615600/

How do I make the round ladyfingers at the bottom? Can I freeze and roll out and cut with a round cookie cutter?

Thanks!
06.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBUnmi

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