There are two main types of cakes to me. The ones that disappear without any hopes for leftover, and the ones that last a bit longer. I usually bake or cook cakes that belong to the first group, which is a smart choice, dietary speaking – you do get a few extra calories that night, but it is a one-off and you usually share. This means that I usually bake only when I have friends coming over for dinner or lunch or tea or just cake, or when I plan to bring the dangerous goods somewhere else.
It might be a smart choice, but it is sad. It is so nice to have something sweet to enjoy every day, a little bit at a time, something very special that you have made yourself. I usually don’t do that and when my sugar cravings are too strong I just buy something ready made. Sometimes it can be darn good, of course, but then this tends to fall back into the first group – it will disappear, matter of minutes; so most of the times the sweet craving resolves into the ‘hateful commercial calories you should really avoid, bound to give you more guilt than pleasure’. On the other hand, when I bake something just for us, I know exactly how much butter and chocolate and… goes in there, and I know that there is no excuse, I did not share the thing with eight friends so over the course of those few days I had an extra X calories.
So I was quite surprised when I made these savoiardi, or lady fingers. I first made them for the Daring Bakers tiramisu – which turned out a disaster, but still, the ladyfingers were by far the nicer bit. They were so nice and easy that I actually decided I wanted to make them again (incidentally, the recipe is very similar to the one I have always done, who comes, of course, from the Talismano della felicita’, the only difference being the addition of a couple of tablespoons of corn starch, and the preparation method, adapted to electric whiskers instead of hand ones). I resolved to do so when I finally bought a small tin of matcha and was itching to experiment baking with it. You don’t feel overly guilty with these things. They keep quite well in a box and actually mine have been sitting there steadily decreasing for about four days: not only are they still good, but most important, we ate, all in all, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a couple of eggs extra. I guess that they are going to work as a basis for some trifle inspired dessert – for example, you could easily adapt this one to include a layer or two of these delicate ladyfingers.
The matcha flavour is there but it is not overpowering. I think not everybody might like its slight earthiness – I do, of course, but also a not so huge matcha fan, who tried them, recognized they were an interesting twist. I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping the colour of the raw dough – the most delicate shade of jade – would keep when cooked, but their final colour is actually just a bit browner, or actually muddier, than regular ladyfingers.
The procedure is straightforward but it does help if you have a piping bag. After years of suffering I finally found that here in Germany they sell disposable ones – maybe it is not the most environment friendly solution, but I come from years of difficult cleaning of reusable ones, and bad quality, and the grease passing through the fabric when I squeeze … These ones are much more practical.
3 free range eggs, large
75gr granulated sugar
75 gr all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
pinch of salt
1 scant teaspoon matcha
about 4 tablespoons icing sugar
Heat oven to 170C (if ventilated, a little more if traditional). Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Separate eggs. Whisk egg whites until stiff, then add the granulated sugar and whisk more until you have a stiff meringue. Quickly whisk egg yolks and add them to the whites, mixing delicately from up to down. Sift together corn starch, flour, salt and matcha. Add them a tablespoon at a time to the egg mix, mixing delicately and trying to lose as little air as possible.
When it is homogeneous, put the dough in a piping bag with a flat nozzle. Pipe strips a bit larger and longer than a finger on the baking sheet, making sure you space them enough as they become larger when they cook. Sprinkle them with icing sugar then leave to rest for about ten minutes. When the icing sugar is a bit melted, sprinkle with some more, wait another couple of minutes and then cook for about ten minutes until slightly brown on the edges. Be careful not to overcook them, but you can vary a little according to taste. Remove them with a large knife from the baking sheet as soon as they are a bit warmer, then leave to cool on a wire rack.