Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ladyfingers - A Rose by any Other Name

I have been writing a lot lately about Guatemala. My time there was well-spent, learning all sorts of new recipes, trying all sorts of new delights. When I created a Cookbook and Memoir for my oldest daughter when she turned 40, I took a trip down memory lane and tried to recall everything I could. She was born in Guatemala, as were all my children. I hoped to keep the heritage alive for her. She was the oldest, at age 10, when we moved back to the US. The other children were 8, 7 and just turning 3, respectively. The youngest has very little memory of Guatemala, except through the foods I have made.
Round shapes, filled with Biscoff Spread

When I asked my second daughter if she wanted a copy of this book, she said absolutely! I was thrilled. She was only 7 when we left there, after all. I don't know how much she can recall of the food. Certainly nothing of the cooking of it, except what she learned from me. As I went back over the original book, making changes here and there, I went and dug a bit deeper into my memories, and came up with a lot more recipes, or at least memories of foods eaten. There came a point where I had some questions, so I called my ex-(Guatemalan) husband to consult. He was not too big a help. We all recall things differently, after all. He was not the cook, so his cooking vocabulary in Spanish is perhaps less developed than mine in some cases.

Ladyfinger Shaped, filled with Biscoff Spread
He offered to loan me a very old Guatemalan cookbook he was given. While perusing this book, I came on a word that positively rang bells in my head, yet I had absolutely no clue what this thing was. I knew, from the ingredients that it was something sweet. It had to be a dessert or cookie of some sort. But what? The word was "Chiqueadores." I phoned my ex again. Again, while he knew what these things were, he was at a loss to describe them. We came up with "wafers" and that was the best he could do. But, the word kept sitting there making nanny-faces in my mind.


Finally I spent quite a long while one day online. What I finally found out is that this recipe was for  . . . . .

LADYFINGERS! For goodness sake!

Ladyfingers, called Savoiardi in Italian, and Chiqueadores in Guatemala, are light and airy little puffs. They are most often used in recent years in the making of Tiramisu. They are also used in making a Charlotte. I have not made a Charlotte yet. But now that I knew what Chiqueadores were, I felt it was time to make them; always a first time. I had only ever bought Ladyfingers before. They are easy to make really. Piping them with a piping bag is perhaps the most "difficult" part of the recipe, if making them in classic ladyfinger shapes, though there was really nothing difficult in making them. If making them into little round cookies, they can be piped or just dropped with a spoon and flattened slightly. Either way, they are good. They can be made as little tea cookies and eaten plain or sandwiched and filled. Fillings could be as simple as whipped cream, or something like a buttercream or other icing. I used Biscoff Spread, a Speculoos type mixture. They were just divine this way!

Open Star Tip #172 worked perfectly     piping bag opening cut to 3/4-inch wide
The recipe makes quite a lot of smaller ladyfingers. Quite certainly enough to use in an application such as a tiramisu. I piped them into about 3 or 3 1/2 inch long little bars. I also made some into little rounds, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. They do grow and expand in the oven. Space them accordingly, with at least an inch between, if not a little more.

Ladyfingers, Savoiardi or Chiqueadores

Ladyfingers or Chiqueadores
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two (or more) baking sheets with parchment. To keep the parchment in place while piping, first lightly grease the baking sheet, then set the ungreased parchment on top.

In a large bowl, beat together the first 3 ingredients until very light and lemon colored, then continue to beat until the mixture falls like ribbons back into the bowl, taking a few seconds to disappear on the surface. This took about 6 minutes with a small hand mixer. Add the vanilla to combine.

Sift together the flour and cornstarch, then return the mixture to the sifter (or sieve) and set aside.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they are at soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar in gradually while beating, until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
yolk mixture at point     |     whites beaten stiff     |       folding in whites       |       folding in flour       |       batter ready to pipe

Scoop about a third of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture and fold in. Add in the remaining whites and fold in gently. Sift the flour mixture over this folded mixture in three parts, each time gently folding the flour in until none remains. 

before baking, sprinkled with confectioners' sugar  |  straight our of the oven, right, lightly golden
If using a disposable piping bag or a zip top bag, cut off the tip or a corner until the width of the cut is about 3/4 inch wide, as shown in the photo above the recipe. This will ensure a hole about 1/2 inch in diameter. If using an icing top, it should have a hole at least 1/2 inch in diameter. I used the only one I had with a half-inch diameter hole, a #172 Open Star Tip. Fill the bag and pipe straight lengths about 1 inch wide by 3 to 3 1/2 inches long. Dust the tops with confectioners' sugar and let them set for a few minutes, until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Sift a little more sugar over top and bake the ladyfingers for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, to ensure even browning. The cookies should come out light golden and puffed.