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Italian Ladyfingers (Savoiardi)
(Makes about 3 dozen)
Savoiardi, commonly known as "Lady Fingers" are delicate, light cookies from Italy that have been enjoyed by Italians for generations. Children love their simple goodness eaten as a snack alongside a glass of milk. Adults enjoy them between sips of espresso, cappuccino, or a glass of dessert wine. Ladyfingers are delicious on their own as a light and relatively low-calorie cookie but they may be used as a component in Zuppa Inglese, Zuccotto, and Tiramisu. They will keep well in a covered container in a cool dry place.
4 eggs, separated 2/3 cup sugar, divided 1 teaspoon vanilla Pinch of salt 3/4 cup flour Granulated sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper, buttered wax paper, or silpat. Prepare a pastry bag or cookie press with a 1/2-inch plain tube.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg yolks, 1/3 cup of sugar, and vanilla. Whisk on medium speed until very light and lemon-colored, about 5 minutes.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until they hold a soft peak. Increase the mixer speed to high and whisk in the remaining sugar. The egg whites should now have a soft, shiny peak. Remove from the mixer. Gently fold in the yolk mixture. Sift the flour into the egg mixture. Gently fold in the flour, making sure that the flour is evenly distributed.
Fill the pastry bag with some of the batter. Pipe 3-1/2 inch strips about 1-1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with granulated sugar (optional)
Bake the ladyfingers for about 15 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Remove them, still on the paper, to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, remove them from the paper and enjoy. You may store them in a covered container with paper between each layer.
Hand beating egg whites with a whisk incorporates the most air, yielding a very stable foam. Egg whites that are at room temperature will whip to a greater volume than cold egg whites. Start with a very clean bowl, perferably stainless steel or copper, and a whisk. Beat the whites in a circular motion until they begin to foam. They will begin to increase in volume and become opaque. Lift the whisk from the whites to determine the stage of their peaks. Soft peaks will gently fall over to one side. Whites beaten to stiff peaks will stand upright. Do not overbeat egg whites or they will become clumpy and grainy.
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