Julia Child’s ladyfingers

To paraphrase a comedian from a few years ago, “I used Julia Child’s ladyfingers.  She’ll be needing those back.”

I found a recipe for orange trifle that I wanted to try, but I have trouble finding ladyfingers in the grocery store.  The only place that carries them here is Whole Foods.  The other night, I wondered if Julia Child had a recipe forladyfingers in her cookbook, and she does.  I made my own ladyfingers, and they were delicious!  Later, since I was still testing the recipe for orange trifle, I bought ladyfingers at the store and they weren’t nearly as good. 

Of course, I made mine too big and piped them too close together on the baking sheet, so I only got 15 out of the recipe instead of 24-30.  On the other hand, I decided to put my trifle into individual dessert dishes instead of one big trifle bowl, so I crushed the ladyfingers anyway.

I tried one experiment:  I didn’t have a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip, so I used my cookie press, and it worked fine.  The only thing is that since it was my first time making them, they were too big and fat.  Next time they’ll be better. 

Ladyfingers

(Biscuits a la cuiller) from Julia Child
24-30 ladyfingers

1 tablespoon softened butter
flour
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a sieve or shaker 
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract    
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, scooped and leveled, turned into a flour sifter      

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Prepare two baking sheets:  butter lightly, dust with flour, and knock off excess flour.  Assemble a pastry bag with a round tube opening 1/2-inch in diameter.  Put the powdered sugar in a sieve or shaker.  Measure out all the rest of the ingredients listed in the recipe.

Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks, add the vanilla, and continue beating for several minutes until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and forms a ribbon.      

In a separate bow, beat the egg whites and salt together until soft peaks are formed.  Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

With a spatula (not a whisk), scoop one-fourth of the egg whites over the top of the egg yolks and sugar mixture.  Sift on one-fourth of the flour, and delicately fold in until partially blended.  Then add one-third of the remaining egg whites, sift on one-third of the remaining flour, fold until partially blended, and repeat with half of each, then the last of each.  Do not attempt to blend the mixture too thoroughly or you will deflate the batter; it must remain light and puffy.

Forming the ladyfingers:  scoop the batter into the pastry bag.  Squeeze out even lines onto the prepared baking sheets, making finger shapes 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, spaced 1 inch apart.  When the whole sheet is full, sprinkle with a 1/16-inch layer of powdered sugar.  To dislodge some of the excess sugar, hold baking sheet upside down and tap the back of it gently; the ladyfingers will not budge unless you are rough with them.

Baking the ladyfingers:  Bake in the middle and upper third levels of preheated oven for about 20 minutes.  The ladyfingers are done when they are a very pale brown underneath their sugar coating.  They should be slightly crusty outside, and tender but dry inside.  If they are not baked enough, they will become soggy when they cool; over-baking makes them dry.  As soon as they are done, remove from baking sheets with a spatula and cool on wire racks.