Do any other cooks/bakers out there has a kitchen bucket list?
I do, I decided a while ago, to write everything that I wanted to accomplish in cooking/baking - specific recipes, techniques, things that made my legs go jelly (I’m looking at you fondant). My list has stuff like, puff pastry, pie dough (I think I got this one conquered), bread, pate, croissant, and yes among all of those difficult techniques and dishes is written “ladyfingers”.
This is the part where I thank my lucky stars that I found Heavenly Cake Bakers group, because without the push of having a weekly deadline, I would have never gotten around to making ladyfingers from scratch. And if I continue to write “scratch” over and over is because - Oh.my.god, I made ladyfingers from scratch!
Were they difficult? Was there a lot of swearing from my kitchen - a la Apple Charlotte? Did head rolls? Dogs and cats go into hiding? Did Tom walked out and told me to get my *stuff* together?
No, no and no.
They were simple to make - at least the batter. If you have been baking long enough from Rose’s books, and you have grasped the concept of sponge cake making, then voila - you got Ladyfingers!
Except the batter used here is a bit different, because it contains more flour than most sponge recipes to make it thick enough to pipe, but, the rest is pretty easy. The egg yolks and sugar are beaten together until thick, to which vanilla extract, sifted flour and beaten egg whites are folded in and then the batter is then piped into long finger-shaped cookies which are dusted with sugar before baking to give them a crisp sweet crust.
Who do we thank for this simple brilliant cookie? The court of the Duchy of Savoy, (in northern Italy in the 15th century) who made them in order to mark the occasion of a visit of the King of France. Later they were given the name Savoiardi and recognised as an “official” court biscuit. They were particularly appreciated by the young members of the court and offered to visitors as a symbol of the local cuisine. And although these delicate sponge cookies can be eaten on their own as a petit four or as an accompaniment to ice creams, they really shine when soaked in a syrup and used as part of more complex desserts such as Tiramisu, English Trifles, or Charlottes.
So, since the Lemon Canadian Crown, which was our cake of the week, require to be protected with these sweet morsels all around, and I live in a small city, with zero chance of finding good ladyfingers anywhere, I got down to business and prep my myself mentally for conquering another bucket list item.
I came away with some awesome good ladyfingers and another scratched off the list!
The only difficult part for me was actually piping them out on the template - yes, I freaking drew a template on my parchment paper, because when Rose gives you measurements and complicated fractions, you better draw your guidelines, or else pay the consequences.
I also realized that while I’m much better at the pipping thing. It still has the power to render me defenseless when I pick the bag up, because not only did I piped my ladyfingers and my round disk to served as the bottom of my Canadian Crown, I also got batter on my hands, my arms, some on my counter top and lets not forget on the kitchen floor.
My piping skills? NOT GOOD!
But, at the end I got part of the ingredients to move forward and create the Lemon Canadian Crown.
And this desserts is up there with the likes of the Saint-Honore Trifle, and the Apple Caramel Charlotte. It’s one for you to slave over only when you need a show stopper at a dinner party or a special event. Because it will test your patience - with three pages of instructions (7 if you count the ladyfinger recipe) and lots of waiting around between steps, this one can break you.
Even if you decide to go the half recipe route, which I totally did. I used a 6-inch springform pan to hold and compose it, and out came out this beautiful little piece of lemony heaven.
The actual lemon curd was pretty easy to put together - lemon juice (and zest), sugar, eggs yolks go together in a double boiler scenario and then it’s a matter of not loosing it while standing there stirring it, over and over again until it thickens - sorry Rose, but mine did not thicken at the 15 minute mark, it did at well over 25 minutes (and that is because I called uncle). Not cool, standing over a stove waiting for it to reach the 180 degree mark. But, once it did the rest of the steps were pretty easy. You beat the cold cream and then mix into the cold lemon curd and then filled your prepare mold all lined up with your ladyfingers made from scratch.
And guess what you do next?
Oh yes, up to 5 hours this time (or 5 days, if you fancy that too).
I left it overnight, went to bed and said a little prayer for more patience.
Next day, you beat the eggs whites until peaks and cover the top of your crown.
Then you get ready to play with fire!
Because,when I took my handy kitchen torch to toast the top, it decided that it did not want to play nice at this party. After bringing in my handy boyfriend for some technical expertise and trying all different things, the torch was given a nice burial in our kitchen garbage can. And I put one in my wish list (hint, hint).
Time to play with the broiler in my oven.
Which totally played nice. See the toasty, brown meringue?
But, guess what you have to do now?
ah, yep - back into the freezer it goes, to chill out for another hour (or up to 3 weeks, if you fancy that too).
Tom was getting antsy at this point and I was totally getting frustrated - why all of these steps? And will someone please tell me the added value of wrapping it in the aluminum foil and then putting it in the freezer? The book said that is to protect the meringue, but really, how can it protect the meringue when it’s wrapped around the pan - *cough-cough* nowhere near the meringue to begin with? This one had me going bonkers, can you tell that I need to know the reason behind things - and sorry, but this one specifically did not make sense to me.
But, enough of my rant, because you are all probably thinking, after all it said and done, was it worth it?
Yes, it was totally worth it.
This little cake, was ethereal. Not too lemony, not too sweet, We actually ate it cold and not let it come to room temperature at all and it was so good. The cream filling does become almost an ice cream without the benefits of an ice cream maker. And while Rose mentions that after 3 days the lemon flavor intensifies, I can see this little gem not making it pass the forty-eight hour mark in my house to test that.
Would I do this one again?
Yes, if Tom begged me and gifted me with something very shiny.