The Italian Classic Dessert
It was close to my last day in Lucca while visiting my cousin Roberto, that one of the secrets of an Italian classic dessert was revealed to me. One of the family’s favorite gelato shops was on the other side of town, and Roberto was determined I was not to leave without sampling their artisan gelato. Of course we all know that not all gelato is the same. This recipe was from the artisan book all right and it was hard to choose among their myriad of flavors. Rich with egg custard as the base, the gelato was just the ticket at the end of this warm and wonderful sightseeing day.
With my two selected flavors in hand, I strolled around the pasticceria to have a look see at the dozens and dozens of decorated pastries and other delicacies in the mirrored showcases. Chocolates galore, and candles made to look like cameras and telephones!
But I digress, I need to tell the tiramisù secret.
At the end of a long aisle of cakes decorated with unbelievable confections, sat the king of desserts with all of its sumptuous layers vividly showcased. Who could resist? I looked more closely. There it was, as vividly as the cakes were beautiful, the layers in the tiramisù were made of the largest ladyfingers I’d ever seen. For years I had made my tiramisù with sponge cake so that we could have some cake in the mix, not just melted small ladyfingers and a lot of whipped cream. I honestly had never seen large biscottoni like this in our local stores.
This was the secret, to use larger ladyfingers called “Savoiardi” (no I can’t pronounce it).
I did find them in the couple of days I had left when I returned to Florence, at the elegant Rinascente Department Store in their gourmet grocery section. Chocolate and Vanilla Biscottoni they were called. They made it home without a crumble and the tiramisù I made using them was raved over by all. I agree the homemade biscuits made all the difference.
When I went to find the biscuits via Google, I was surprised at the number of recipes, not stores that came up, and used the recipe below with a couple alterations. And as though by magical ESP, the next time I went shopping, the larger “Savoiardi” were in the local grocery store!
3 large organic eggs (room temperature and separated)
½ c granulated sugar (divided)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. lemon juice (divided)
2 tsp. grated lemon or orange zest
½ c cake flour (sifted)
2 T potato starch
powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare pastry bag (1/2” tip) or heavy plastic bag for piping.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites, 1/4 c of sugar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice until stiff peaks form.
- In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar, citrus zest, vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and salt until thick and light yellow.
- Sift the flour and potato starch over the egg mixture and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula until smooth and well combined.
- Gently fold in the egg whites.
- Transfer half of the batter to the prepared piping bag. Pipe the batter into lines about4” long, keeping distance between them. Don’t worry if the ladyfingers are not shaped perfectly.
- Repeat with the rest of the batter.
- Sprinkle the cookies lightly with powdered sugar. Let them rest for about 5 minutes and sprinkle again with powdered sugar
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until lightly golden.
Let the ladyfingers cool for a few minutes then release them from the parchment paper, with a flat spatula
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