Ladyfingers – Backyard Poultry

by Cappy Tosetti

PRESENTATION IS ESSENTIAL when presenting and serving food, especially when desserts are on the menu. Who can resist trying a tempting Italian tiramisu or feasting on a large stemmed glass bowl filled with scrumptious layers of English trifles?

Ladyfingers are the key ingredient that makes these desserts extra special. Also known as Italian Savoiardi, boudoir, sponge, or baby finger biscuits, and a host of other names, the oval-shaped biscuits are crispy on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside.

Legend has it that ladyfingers were invented in the 14th century by the ruler of Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy in the region known as the Duchy of Savoy,
located in the Western Alps between southern France and northern Italy. He
Seems King Charles V of France and his court were visiting the palace, so the count asked his chef to create something unique for the grand banquet. Little is known about the dessert the chef prepared that evening, but the king’s enthusiastic comments made it the “official” cookie from that day on.

Ladyfingers are typically dipped in a sugar syrup, liqueur, coffee, or espresso before being assembled into a particular dish. Apart from tiramisu and English trifle, they are the main part of many other desserts such as Charlotte russe, strawberry shortcake, chocolate mousse cake, parfaits and pies. As a rule, fruit and jam are layered with ladyfingers with egg custard or gelatin and whipped cream. Many recipes call for lining a bowl with straight ladyfingers, creating a circle of sponge around the interior ingredients, which makes for a tempting and beautiful sight at the table.

In addition to playing an important role in desserts, ladyfingers are a delicious treat with a cup of coffee or tea. Some people like to sprinkle them with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or cinnamon. Often, parents give infants simple cookies that are soft enough for teething, but firm enough not to fall apart and easy for little hands to grasp. When making tiramisu or other recipes that call for layered cookies, it’s best to leave them out at room temperature for a while, letting them stale a bit so they can absorb liquids better without getting soggy.

Homemade or store bought?

Conveniently, it’s much easier to stop at the grocery store and buy a packet of cookies instead of baking a batch at home. They can usually be found in the aisle with the flour and sugar, or on the shelves with the cookies, or displayed in the bakery aisle.

It’s really easy to make ladyfingers with a few simple ingredients. After cooking and cooling, they can be stored in an airtight container or frozen for up to two months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

Eggs are essential for light and airy ladyfingers. Some people insist on whisking the whites and yolks separately, while others think it’s perfectly fine to mix together whole eggs. Some recipes call for three eggs, while others add four to six eggs. It is wise to compare different recipes.
As always, every cook has a different take on things; it’s up to the individual.
Thanks to online YouTube videos, it is convenient to watch different step-by-step instructions. This recipe is simply a version to try.

Leave room between the torn ladyfingers; they puff up a bit.

Ladyfingers recipe


4 large eggs, separated — room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ lemon zest — optional
½ teaspoon vanilla extract – optional
4½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Powdered sugar for dusting (some recipes call for ½ tsp baking powder – optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (Some recipes call for temperatures of 375 or 400 degrees)
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Put aside.
Prepare a large piping bag with a plain ½ round tube. Tip for filling the piping bag: Invert the bag into a tall drinking glass. This frees up the hands when pouring the batter into the opening.
Separate the eggs into two bowls. Beat the whites over medium heat with an electric mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Add two tablespoons of sugar
and continue beating until stiff and glossy. The secret to perfect ladyfingers is air! This creates a super light and spongy batter, resulting in a crispy exterior and a spongy interior.
Beat egg yolks and remaining sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. The yolks can be whipped by hand.
Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, taking care not to deflate
all looks.
Sift the flour, cornstarch and salt (and baking powder if using) over the egg batter.
Gently stir in the dry ingredients until incorporated into the batter.
Fill the piping bag and pipe the dough into lines 3½ inches long about an inch apart. When piping, hold the piping bag at a 45 degree angle and apply pressure while piping, then stop squeezing before you reach the end of each lady finger. Simply lift the bag up to break the “tail” of the dough.
Before baking, sprinkle the ladyfingers with powdered sugar. This helps the sponge cakes spread less and rise more. Some people instead sprinkle granulated sugar over the batch before baking, then sprinkle with powdered sugar once cooled.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until just golden, depending on the oven.

CAPPY TOSETTI lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her three rescue dogs who help her with Happy with Cappy Pet Sitting. She puts things in
movement for a day crisscrossing the country in a vintage caravan visiting horse and draft goat farms.

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