So this afternoon I tried my hand at making ladyfingers from scratch. Aha! I hear you cry: He's making tiramisu! And you wouldn't be far off. I have a pizza event in February (check out the Upcoming Events page) and I wanted a somewhat different dessert, so I want to develop a tiramisu trifle. It will have the same basic elements as a traditional tiramisu: marscapone, whipped cream, coffee, chocolate and ladyfingers. But it will be layered like a trifle, probably in individual footed glass cups. I'm still working out the details on the construction, and I'm hoping to lighten or omit the custard-y qualities of the dessert to make it a bit lighter at the end of a six course meal. But first, I need ladyfinger cookies to soak in the coffee.
There are lots of ladyfinger recipes online, even some tiramisu trifle recipes (one by the ubiquitous Rachael Ray) but I decided to start with a classic and turned to the 1962 edition The Joy of Cooking which I purchased for a whopping $8 at a flea market. I figured that if Mrs. Rombauer could guide me unerringly through pâte à choux and mocha cream puffs (much to the delight of the Stage Rats) then she would do the same for ladyfingers. I was not disappointed.
The recipe calls for a lot of sifting and whisking and folding, but nothing that the average baker can't handle, and a stand mixer and a rubber spatula helped a great deal. Usually they're made in special pans, but I made mine in muffin tins so I can easily fit the round shapes into the individual dessert cups. I put only about two tablespoons of the batter into each cup, so they came out as small, very light disks, two dozen of them. I'll keep you updated on the experiment, and post a photo of the finished product--even if they DON'T turn out!
Update from the evening
I have assembled the trifles in little fluted glass cups and they are in the fridge overnight. I mixed the marscapone cheese with sweetened whipped cream and briefly soaked the ladyfinger disks in strong coffee with a little rum extract added. The layers were: coffee-soaked ladyfinger disk, marscapone cream, a sprinkling of finely ground semi-sweet chocolate bits, another disk, and more cream. They'll get a little chocoate garnish just before I serve them tomorrow. Every tiramisu recipe I've seen says to let the flavors develop overnight, so no sampling until tomorrow. The reason you haven't gotten any links to recipes yet is because I'm still testing, but when the whole process is complete, I'll give complete instructions so you can try it at home. I have a suspicion I was too timid with the coffee and it probably needs to be stronger. If you come around St. Bede tomorrow afternoon, you can have a sampl and offer your own opinion!
Actually, upon reflection I realize that the ladyfingers turned out just fine, so here's the link to my adaptation of the Joy of Cooking recipe. If you don't have a stand mixer as per the instructions, an ordinary whisk will do, but you'll have forearms like Popeye when you're done.