Known in Italy as "savoiardi," these long, oval-shaped cookies are often used in making elegant desserts such as tiramisu and charlottes.
Sweet and fairly dry, ladyfingers are made from a delicate sponge cake batter in which beaten egg whites, vanilla and flour are gently folded into a thick mixture of egg yolks and sugar. The batter is piped into long finger-shaped forms and dusted with sugar before baking to give them a crisp, sweet crust.
Ladyfingers are also known around the world as boudoir biscuits, sponge fingers and biscuits à la cuillère. They should not to be confused with "ladies' fingers," which is another name for okra.
Traditional Italian savoiardi are thick and crisp around the edges. American ladyfingers tend to be smaller and more moist. Both varieties can be used in recipes, but it is advisable to briefly toast American ladyfingers to keep them from getting too soggy (especially in liqueur-soaked recipes like tiramisu). You may also need to use a few more cookies than the recipe calls for depending on the size of your pan.
Ladyfingers are available year-round at most bakeries and Italian specialty markets. They can sometimes be found prepackaged in the bakery section of larger supermarkets as well. If you buy ladyfingers at a store, make sure they're fresh because shelf life is limited.
You can also bake your own ladyfingers at home.
Ladyfingers may be stored for up to one week in an airtight container, or frozen to last longer.
• Ladyfinger batter is very fragile. Fold the yolks and flour into the meringue very carefully so the egg whites don't lose their volume.
• Pipe the batter onto your baking sheet through a large pastry bag without a tip or use a plain, 5/8th-inch tip. This will help you turn out consistent shapes and sizes.
• The batter can also be spooned into a "ladyfinger pan," a special tinned tray with 10 ladyfinger molds. The pan can usually be found at gourmet kitchenware shops.
• Serve ladyfingers as an accompaniment to puddings, ice cream or zabaglione.
• Enjoy them with a glass of milk or sips of tea, espresso, cappuccino or dessert wine.
View BigOven's ladyfingers recipes