Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rosie Makes Ladyfingers. Kinda.

Man, oh man, what is it?
I try to gloss over a particular element in my presentation
and my readers are gonna bust my chops every time.
I have to admire that tenacity.

 I posted the other day about my
 Strawberry Rhubarb Parfaits.

I made a strawberry and rhubarb filling
and layered my glasses with the filling,
along with whipped cream, Creme Anglaise,
and homemade ladyfingers
sprinkled with sherry or Amaretto.
Or both.
I was soooo trying to coast on the homemade ladyfingers,
but nooooooo.
Ain't gonna happen.

Rosie loves getting comments from her readers
and she got this comment on March 25 about her parfait post:

Anonymous said...
Actually when I noticed the specks in the sauce,
 I knew vanilla beans would turn up soon!

I also noticed in your photos the interesting appearance of the ladyfingers.

 They look like they have a glaze. (?) 
Are your ladyfingers soft or crispy?

Next time, maybe you'll drop the other shoe

 and tell us how you make your homemade ladyfingers :)

Best wishes to you Rosie
The reason I glossed over the ladyfingers
is because they didn't quite turn out the way I expected
and it was my fault.

Since I've been "outed" on my ladyfingers,
I'll give you the recipe and let you in on what went wrong.

I haven't had ladyfingers since childhood.
I remember them as soft cakes,
 drier and not as sweet as regular cakes.
I remember when I bit into these cakes,
I might inhale some of the sugar.
I'm thinking the ones Mama Hawthorne bought 
had a cream filling too. 
But I may be making that up.

I haven't even noticed them in stores,
(I haven't looked.)
so I turned to Julia's, Baking With Julia.

A ladyfinger starts with a genoise.
A genoise is to the French baker
what the sponge cake is to the American baker.
It's a basic cake and a building block for fancier confections.
The fact that it is drier than American cakes
is considered an asset by the French,
since the cakes can be soaked in liqueurs and sugar syrups
of most any conceivable savor.

A genoise is a whole egg sponge cake.
It gets its volume not from chemical leavening
(baking powder or baking soda) 
or beaten egg whites,
but from the air retained in a whole egg and sugar mixture
that is beaten until it has tripled in size.

At this point, everything goes downhill,
as in these beaten eggs look freakin' beautiful right now
and anything I add to it and/or do to it will only serve to deflate
both eggs and ego.
Julia says not to worry,
"This deflation is built into the genoise equation."

Apparently, Julia didn't factor in the Rosie Variable.

Julia's Ladyfinger Genoise
Makes enough batter for 6 dozen ladyfingers.

3 TB unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour the melted butter into a 1-quart bowl and reserve.
Sift sifted flour, 1 TB sugar, and salt  and set aside.
Put eggs, yolks, and 1 TB sugar in bowl of heavy duty mixer.
Whisk to combine.
Add remaining sugar and whisk to mix.
Whip the mixture on medium speed until it is airy, pale,
and tripled in volume, 4-5 minutes.
The eggs are properly whipped when you lift the whisk
and the batter falls back into the bowl
in a ribbon that rests on the surface for 10 seconds.
If the ribbon sinks, continue whipping.
Pour in the vanilla during the last moments of whipping.
Detach the bowl from the mixer.
Sprinkle about one third of the flour mixture over batter.
Fold in the flour with a rubber spatula,
stopping as soon as the flour is incorporated.
Fold in the rest of the flour in 2 more additions.
Gently spoon about 1 cup of the batter into the bowl
with the melted butter and fold the butter in
 with a green rubber spatula.
Fold this mixture into the batter still in the mixer bowl.

"This is the point at which the batter is at its most fragile,"
 Julia tells me, "so fold gingerly.
The batter is now ready to be used and,
in fact, must be baked immediately."

My oven is at 400 degrees and I have two 12- x 15 1/2-inch
baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
I also drew pairs of parallel lines 3 inches apart
across the parchment paper, as recommended by Julia,
to serve as piping guidelines.
Marked this way, each sheet will give you room to pipe
3 dozen ladyfingers.

Heeding the advice given to me by Sandra Lee,
I smartly turned the parchment papers over,
so I wouldn't ingest all the "lead from the pencil."
Thanks for the tip, Sandy!

Fit a 16-inch-long pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain
decorating tip and scoop ALL of the batter into the pastry bag.

Yup. This is another place I screwed up.

Using the marked lines on the paper,
pipe out ladyfingers that are 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long,
keeping them about 1/2 to 3/4 inches
 apart so they'll have room to expand.

Coat each ladyfinger heavily with sifted confectioner's sugar,
or, as Pauler Deen calls it, "confectionate sugar."

Bake for 5-6 minutes,
or until the ladyfingers are firm but feel spongy
when you press lightly with your finger.
Transfer to cooling racks.

Julia described this recipe as "sturdier" than the classic genoise,
having a little more flour which gives it the body needed
to be piped into ladyfingers that hold their shape
and having additional egg yolks for even more structure.

Sounds like I can't go wrong!

Here's my sifted mixture of 1 1/4 cups sifted flour,
1 TB sugar, and salt.

Action shot!
Find the whisk.
Eggs, yolks, and 1 TB sugar.

Remaining sugar whisked in.

A-whuppin away.

Vanilla in.

Triple volume.  Check.
Ribbons for 10 seconds.  Maybe?

As I said, the eggs are at their peak volume right now
and anything else I do only serves to deflate.
But the deflation is built into the equation.

Flour mixture going in.

Fold until flour is just incorporated.

Rest of flour goes in in 2 more additions.

Keep folding.

One cup of batter going into melted butter.

Buttery mixture going back into bowl.
Fold gently.

Then I start piping.

This is where it all broke down.
I didn't use a pastry bag this time
since I couldn't find the proper piping tip.
If I could have put all the batter at one time
in one pastry bag,
I think my ladyfingers might have made it to ladyfingers.

What I used was a canister type with the plunger.
The opening to fill the canister was about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
I had to refill the canister 3 times and each time
I could see the difference in the resulting piping of genoise.

And you cannot imagine the mess I made.
Well, those of you who know me can.

These are not holding their shapes.
Somehow, the Rosie Variable
was not ciphered into the Deflation Equation.

And I sprinkled the confectioner's sugar after baking.
Forgot to do it before.

 I know.

I let these cool on racks
and when I touched them they were real sticky and soft.
So I put them back in the oven until they crisped up.

Not Mama Hawthorne's store-bought ladyfingers of my childhood.
The texture was a soft crunch,
not cakey.
But, oh my, the taste was there.

So there you have it, Becky.
Thanks again, for so graciously pointing out my failure.

And by the way, the absence of any photos of Julia's Ladyfingers
in Baking with Julia was quite conspicuous.


Kathy said...

Hahaha! Appearance is overrated. Flavor is king.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thank you, Kathy!

But I still want to do a proper genoise and ladyfinger - the way I remembered them.

southdrivein said...

Do you remember the episode of the Beverly Hillbillies when Granny used Ellie Maes Ladyfingers as Bullits ?

Anonymous said...

Rosie - OMG what an adventure you had. I had to laugh, the same stuff happens at my house. It's true, the ladyfingers in your photos don't look like typical LFs, but I never guessed it had all gone wrong. It takes real creative wit to pull it off the way you did, right? Take heart, they look more interesting and delicious than the usual. The last time I bought ladyfingers they were horrible. Thanks for another good chuckle! XXOO Becky

Rosie Hawthorne said...

South, I don't remember that episode. But I do remember Ellie Mae's double-barreled slingshot.

Becky, these weren't your typical ladyfingers, texture-wise, but I liked them. My eggs deflated too much what with having to use that canister pump thingie and refilling it 2-3 times.

Live and learn.

I probably shouldn't have called them ladyfingers. Perhaps whore-claws. Then we wouldn't be having this issue.