Homemade Lady Fingers and “Neo-Classic” Tiramisu

"Neo-Classic" TiramisuThe French language can be so musical, don’t you think? Ooh-la-la. Je t’aime. Croque en bouche. Pate a choux. These names and phrases just roll off the tongue so smoothly and softly.

French is the language of late night romantic whispers. English is the language of yelled conversations over the ambient din of a Starbucks.

Observe:

 French  English
  • croque en bouche
  • creme patisserie
  • pate a choux
  • langues du chat
  • crunches in the mouth
  • pastry cream
  • cabbage paste
  • cat tongues

So far, my Thesis holds. Except for that whole cat tongue thing. At least it sounds better in French. And then, along come the Doigts de Dames. Digits of Dames. Fingers of Ladies. Lady Fingers.

"Neo-Classic" TiramisuI mean, seriously French people. It’s cute to liken wee poufs of crisp dough to tiny cabbages. But to liken finger-shaped sponge cake to actual fingers? I cry Foul and Foul again. And even in French, the name hardly rolls off the tongue: Doigts de Dames. Too many stop consonants. Blech.

But I find myself ranting, and you’re not really here for that, are you?

Alright, let’s put the Unfortunate Moniker aside and get down to Brass Tacks, shall we?

I did a lady finger/tiramisu demonstration on Google + last evening. I’ve embedded it here for your Viewing Pleasure, and afterwards you’ll find a General Roundup of what we covered as well as the recipes for the sponge and the mascarpone cream.

A lady finger is nothing more than a sponge cake batter piped into a finger shape. So, while their shape may set them apart, their ingredient list does not.

To build a lady finger, you need 3 basic items plus some flavorings: eggs (separated), sugar and flour.

The procedure is fairly straightforward:

  1. Whip your yolks with some of the sugar until Crazily thick.
  2. Whip the whites with the rest of the sugar to medium peaks.
  3. Sift flour over both, gently but thoroughly fold together.
  4. Pipe/spread and bake.
  5. The End.

chocolate lady fingersWhat you’ll end up with is a very light, airy, dry little cake. And that by itself does not seem like a Worthy Achievement. Until you bring some added moisture to the party. Booze, simple syrup, coffee, fruit juice—whatever sounds good. Liberally sprinkle/brush/spray your sponge with the liquid so it soaks it all up. You want it moistened all the way through but not dripping.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Basic Lady Fingers
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert Component
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Pipe these into classic finger shapes or spread the batter out in a half-sheet pan and then cut it in whatever shapes you want. These amounts make ½ sheet pan.
What You Need
  • 6 oz cake flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz egg yolk
  • 6.5 oz egg whites
  • 6.5 oz sugar (divided)
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
What To Do
  1. Sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the yolks along with the majority of the sugar until very thick and light. The mixture should look almost like marshmallow cream.
  3. Whisk the whites with the remainder of the sugar and the vanilla until you reach medium peaks. (If using the same stand mixer, wash the bowl and whisk really well before proceeding. If whisking by hand, do it at the same time as you are whisking the yolks on the mixer. You can't overmix the yolks, so just let them go until you're finished with the whites).
  4. Pour the whipped yolks into the bowl containing the whites. Resift the flour and salt over the top of the eggs and then gently but thoroughly fold everything together.
  5. On a Silpat or parchment-lined ½ sheet pan, pipe into fingers or spread into a sheet.
  6. Bake at 375F until set and the top springs back when you touch it, about 12 minutes.
Other Stuff to Know
To make chocolate lady fingers/sponge cake, substitute 1 oz of cocoa powder for an ounce of the cake flour. Add a teaspoon or two of fine espresso powder if you'd like.

You can also change up the flavors by adding extracts, citrus zest or other spices, depending on what you're going to do with them.

To make the espresso simple syrup for a tiramisu-type dessert, bring 2 cups granulated sugar and 2 cups of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons espresso powder and a heavy pinch of salt. Cool and go for it.

And then, you can do whatever you want to with it.

Technically, you should probably figure out what you want to do with it before you start dipping it in syrup or splashing it with booze.

"Neo-Classic" TiramisuTiramisu, that Italian “pick me up,” is arguably one of the best-known uses for lady fingers. And what’s not to love? Airy sponge cake dipped in espresso and layered with rich mascarpone cream, maybe some grated chocolate and some cocoa powder? Pretty darn delicious.

If you’re leery of ingesting raw eggs, you might want to skip the classic mascarpone cream and make this version instead. It doesn’t have any yolks in it at all but is plenty rich and flavorful without them.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Mascarpone Cream
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert Component
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Rich with heavy cream and mascarpone cheese, this filling is very rich. You can flavor it however you'd like, but I find that orange goes nicely with chocolate sponge.
What You Need
  • 8oz mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 oz heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
  • 8 oz heavy cream, whipped to medium-soft peaks
What To Do
  1. Mix together the mascarpone, salt, 2 oz cream, vanilla, extract and zest until smooth.
  2. Whisk the mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream just until you reach stiff peaks. Don't overmix or the cheese will get grainy.
Other Stuff to Know
You can add up to 2 tablespoons of liqueur to this mixture. Try Grand Marnier for orange or make whatever flavor you like.

Now that you have lady fingers (or sponge cake) and some mascarpone cream, why not whip up a Tiramisu-type dessert? Or throw caution to the wind and make something else yummy. Remember, it doesn’t have to be traditional to be tasty.

My motto for this year is #Fearlessin2013, and I hope to share some of that with you guys. Thanks for hanging out, and have a lovely day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Camille says

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never heard the term “doigts de dames” in a French bakery (perhaps because it sounds too much like “women’s rights”? Only when one butchers the accent), instead, everyone calls this type of cake (no matter the shape, as far as I can tell) “biscuit cuillère”, which is just as hard to say as it is to spell. It means “spoon biscuit” or “spoon cake”. I don’t know why.

    • says

      That is a very good thing to know, Camille! Wonder why they chose “spoon biscuit?” Seems an odd choice. Guess it’s better than lady fingers. Except they do look more like fingers than spoons… Odd. Tasty, though!

  2. says

    Three of my chickens are named Tuile, Pavlova, and Cassis. (well, two of them have French names at least :-). I missed the “hangout” too….I am not sure how to sign up (I am looking..)

    • says

      Hi Denise! I think you’ll enjoy them. I froze some of mine and whipped them out a couple of nights ago. Cut out some circles and soaked them in my espresso syrup, shoved them in the bottoms of glasses and then filled them up with choc-hazelnut gelato. Swanky dessert, almost zero effort!

    • says

      Some of the translations can be pretty amusing, even if they are kind of descriptive! Enjoy the lady fingers. They’re a good recipe to have in your arsenal since they are so versatile! :)

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