Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ladyfingers And Candycane Cookies - With The Daring Bakers!

 Its that time of the year with the welcome nip in the air, the air of festivity and more importantly the air of baking and Christmas! Don't you just love having Christmas around the corner? Though we do not actually celebrate the festival, I find the infectious spirit of baking more and more irresistible - this year more than the last, every year! The The Daring Bakers challenge this month turned out to be cookies, some of them Christmassy too!

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us. She challenged us to make at least one of the dozen recipes plus another which could be any of our favorite celebration cookie/sweet/bar..  I chose to bake ladyfingers as I have never baked them before, been on the to-bake list since forever! It takes something like a DB challenge plus a deadline to beat for the reluctant baker to get those ladyfingers in the oven! Oh yes, the added bonus here is these can be a very versatile base for so many more cakes and desserts. I just can't wait!

And then one more festive cookie, which one shall I bake? Scouting for recipes without the quintessential mixed spices and ginger, I zeroed in on simple but fun candy cane cookies.  Rich, colorful,  butter cookies shaped into canes and baked. Gift wrap them for the kiddos!

 Ladyfingers, also known as biscuits la cuiller, Savoiardi, sponge fingers or Boudoir biscuits are oval-shaped cookies baked with a sponge batter. The sponge cake batter is prepared by whipping egg yolks and sugar to a volume, folding in flour and whipped egg whites. The batter is spooned into a pastry bag and piped into fingers and baked. Though I did not really fancy eating them as is, I moistened one of these and chilled it, stayed good, moist and firm even after 2 days! Cakes, trifles, charlottes and yumm..Tiramisu!


Recipe adapted from Joy Of Baking. This recipe is supposed to make 4 1/2 dozen cookies. I wouldn't recommend halving the recipe as whipping the egg-yolk mixture would get really difficult. I have used 2 pans, baked simultaneously in both my ovens. 


All purpose flour - 54 grams plus cornstarch - 8 grams OR Cake flour, sifted - 1/2 cup (65 grams)
Egg yolks - 54 grams / 3 large at room temperature
Granulated white sugar, divided  - 2 tablespoons (25 grams)
Vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon 
Egg whites - 90 grams / 3 large, at room temperature
Cream of tartar - 1/8 teaspoon
Granulated white sugar - 3 tablespoons (36 grams)
Powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar for dusting the tops of the cookies
Procedure : Mise en place. Have your beaters, a cup (to drop the egg whites in) and a medium sized bowl (to beat the egg whites in) squeaky clean and ready. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment. Using a pencil, draw 3 inch rows, with an inch of space in between. ( I could draw only 2 rows on my 9'' square and 8'' square baking tins). Flip the sheets and then line your trays with them. Keep aside. Fit your piping bags with a 1.25 cm round tip. I used a bigger one (about 1.8 cm) as that is what I have, probably why I got about 3 1/2 dozen or so ladyfingers. Have a strainer and the powdered sugar ready.Weigh your flour, cornflour, sift thrice. Keep aside. Weigh the sugar (keep the 2 tbsp and the 3 tablespoons separately), egg whites and then last the yolks.  

Take the egg whites in a medium sized bowl, beat with the hand mixer.  When it starts foaming well, add the cream of tartar. If you add it beforehand, the whites will not foam. Once you add the cream of tartar, continue to beat gradually increasing the speed to medium high. When the beater marks show distinctly and soft peaks form, add the 3 tablespoons of sugar you have reserved.

 You could add the sugar beforehand, but whites whip faster to soft peaks without the sugar. Continue beating for a minute more till the whites form stiff peaks. To check, stop your mixer, slowly lift the beaters from the whites, you should be able to see peaks which stand straight. If they droop right away and fall back, you have to beat a little more. Be careful here, stop and check after a minute or so, as you do not want to beat the egg whites till they dry out. If they dry out, it will not easy to incorporate into the batter and your cookies will not be light. Once the whites are whipped to the right consistency, keep the bowl aside.  

 In the  large bowl,(preferably one which will allow you to tilt and beat), take the egg yolks and the 2 tablespoons sugar sugar.  Beat on high speed till the mixture turns thick and pale yellow. ( about 5 minutes says Stephanie, but mine took about 8-9 minutes at a guess, please be go by the indicator as your guide - when you raise the beaters the batter should fall back into the bowl in a slow ribbon.)  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Sift the cake flour over the batter but do not fold in.  Fold the whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture in three additions, mixing only until incorporated. If you over-do this, you will be deflating the batter, knocking off the air and volume.

 Fill the batter (with a large spoon) into the piping bag/bags. Holding the bag at about a 45 degree angle to the baking sheet, pipe the batter into 3 inch (7.5 cm) long ladyfingers, using the lines drawn on the parchment paper as your guide.  Pipe the batter leaving about a 1 inch (2.54 cm) space between the cookies.  When you have piped all the cookies, place the powdered sugar in a wire strainer, and lightly sift the sugar over the tops of the cookies.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the ladyfingers are firm but barely browned and are still spongy when pressed with a finger. (I intend to use these in a dessert, so I have baked them longer to err on the crispier side, for 12 minutes, think its better to slightly over bake than under bake these)

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and slide the parchment paper from the baking sheets onto a wire rack.  Let the ladyfingers cool for a few minutes and release them from the parchment paper, with a flat spatula, while they are still warm. If they have grown into each other, use a pizza cutter to cut.  If you left them completely cool before removing them from the parchment they stick and hard to remove without breaking.  Finish cooling the ladyfingers on the wire rack before using or storing.  If you are not using the ladyfingers right away, freeze them.  Ladyfingers stale very quickly unless they are soaked in a liquid.  To store, place in a plastic bag between layers of wax or parchment paper and freeze up to 2 weeks. 

 Please note: The cookies look quite good to me. But since I have never seen or used ladyfingers earlier, I am not sure how they are supposed to turn out.  I would ideally ahve liked to bake these once agin before posting, but I coud not. Will be baking these shortly and update notes if any.
Candy Cane cookies : Cute looking buttery cookies, which have a soft-tender, texture (think benne biscuits), just about sweet. The recipe does not have baking powder in it as the cookies have to remain undistorted as they bake.

From Joy Of Baking

All purpose flour - 325 grams / 2 1/2 cups
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
Unsalted butter - at room temperature - 227 grams / 1 cup
Powdered sugar - 120 grams / 1 cup (for just about sweet)
Egg yolks, 2 large - 36 grams
Pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Pure almond extract - 1/2 teaspoon
Red food coloring - 1/2 teaspoon ( I used Wilton no-taste red gel)

Procedure: Sift the salt and flour into a bowl, keep aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar till creamy ( I quartered the recipe, did 3 1/2 minutes on speed 2 on my hand mixer). Add the egg yolks, the extracts and beat till combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions, on low speed beat until you have a smooth dough.  Remove half the dough and set aside. Add the red color to the remaining half and mix till well combined. The dough was very soft at this point, so I have refrigerated it for a couple of hours.  You could use earlier if its firm enough.

Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees C/ 375 F.  Line your baking sheets with parchment. Divide dough of each color into walnut sized balls. Keep them covered. If making a large batch, take out just enough dough from the fridge when needed. Keep a clean kitchen cloth nearby to wipe your hands as you touch the red dough. Lightly flour your work surface, roll each ball of dough into a rope of 4-5 inches. Place one rope of red dough and one of white beside each other. Press them together lightly. Twist the ropes to form a spiral. Place on the sheet, bend the twisted rope to form a cane shape. Space the shaped cookies 5 cm apart. If the shaped cookies feel very soft, put the tray with the cookies in the fridge for 15 minutes and then bake. If the ropes break as u twist, try refrigerating the dough for sometime and then  resume. Mine kept breaking, I could make only a few without clumping the dough back together and starting again. But the cookies were still tender and not tough, forgiving dough!

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies are just beginning to brown. Do not over bake. The baking time varies depending on the thickness of the ropes, so bake a test batch and try to keep the size of the walnut sized balls uniform.

Please note : Don't even think of transporting these anywhere as they are quite fragile! I broke half of them while taking the pictures...

Thanks Peta for the lovely challenge, it has got me into the spirit of Christmas baking!!




Easy (EZ) Editorial Calendar said...

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Archana said...

Oh wow ! I'm so glad you finally joined DB ! You are so made for for it ! Love those candy cane cookies. They look so pretty !

Vani said...

Am sure the kids will Looove the cane colorful they look!!

Sum said...

Lovely cookies Suma! Both look awesome... Yup!! Xmas is already in the air... and more this time for me ;)

Jenni said...

These are two of my favorite cookies, and they book look superb! Awesome job!

Priya Suresh said...

Loving that cane cookies,they looks super attractive and fabulous.

Pretty looking ladyfingers too.

Deeba PAB said...

Beautiful...well done on the challenge. Another one I missed. Actually I made just one batch...and was very ambitious on many more. Hopefully will get a handle on life soon!

Wajiha said...

I've been a reader of your blog for quite sometime now. its my go to guide for all things related to baking. So here is my question I'm considering buying an oven for doing more baking. I have a panasonic microwave cum oven which is completely unreliable as an oven. I'm open to a biggish front opening oven that I intend to use for a long time from now. I'm clueless about which brand to go in from. Would love to get your advice.

Suma Rowjee said...

Hi Wajiha, thanks a lot! Pls refer my post on baking paraphernalia for my two bits about ovens..

foodgalleri said...

Lovely cookies.. Perfect! Great job :)

Agos said...

I love the candy cane cookies, they're so cute!

By the way, I'm hosting a giveaway at my blog, you may want to check it out :)