My younger daughter moved to London way back in July of 2010, and you can bet that her sister and I visited her that following December! I mean, why wouldn’t we?! Between the Christmas markets, the mulled wine, roasting nuts, Christmas decorations, warm pubs… it was a perfect time. This is a photo of the main entrance:
One day we visited Borough market, even though it snowed and was a wee bit frigid. The market is a fabulous establishment year ‘round, but it is definitely magical in December. We sampled and smelled all kinds of goodies, enjoyed raclette, and then decided to hole up in a pub across the street to warm our toes!
I had no idea Borough Market had a website, but when I found it, by lucky accident, I discovered this recipe: Cranberrymisu, a recipe by Ed Smith.
On this recipe page he writes, “TIRAMISU + CRANBERRIES = A WINNING AND FESTIVE COMBINATION.” Well, I have to agree. I have no problem with the original, but this was good, and festive.
I have one big pet peeve when it comes to the biscuits, namely savoiardi, used in tiramisu, and how, over the years, the word ladyfingers has become a widely-used term, specifically for the shape, but not for any other reason.
I grew up with ladyfingers, having a French mother, and a dessert called Charlotte, utilizing this pan and ladyfingers. French name: biscuits à la cuillère. Fillings can vary from fruits to chocolate.
When I began cooking, I had to make my own ladyfingers, because I couldn’t find them. I used Julia Child’s recipe, because they are French. She didn’t cook Italian food. Ladyfingers are soft, spongy cookies – almost like finger-shaped cakes. The egg batter is prepared, then beaten egg whites are folded in, so you can imagine the light texture.
Leave it to Martha Stewart to add cocoa to her ladyfingers, for an outstanding triple chocolate Charlotte.
Savoirdi are Italian biscuits, and Julia Child does not have a recipe for them in her “Mastering” books. They are indeed finger shaped, but that’s where their similarity ends with ladyfingers. They are crispy. You can break one in half by snapping them. They are not soft, spongy and cake-like.
Savoirdi are perfect for tiramisu, an Italian dessert, because they can soak up a coffee-liqueur mixture without getting soggy, unless you do it for too long. The layers of savoirdi can be seen in a classic tiramisu photo, such as this one from New York Times.
Now, can ladyfingers and savoiardi biscuits be used interchangeably? Yes, as long as the ladyfingers don’t soak up too much liquid because they will simply mush up. If you require a stiffer biscuit, savoiardi will always be preferable. In fact, for a Charlotte, savoiardi might be a safer cookie to use for unmolding purposes.
But, comparing the two is like comparing an Italian grissini, a hard breadstick, to a soft, yeasted breadstick. They are completely different in texture, even if the shape is the same.
So what doesn’t help is packaging such as this. This is the brand of savoiardi I purchased from Amazon. I have no idea what has happened over the years, but this is pure confusion for people who do not understand the significant difference between the two cookies.
Savoirdi are not Italian ladyfingers, they are savoiardi biscuits. Nor can ladyfingers be called soft savoiardi. The shape of the cookies is the only similarity, but otherwise it’s truly apples and oranges. This kind of packaging is confusing and wrong. Even when the packaging states, “soft ladyfingers,” you can tell that they’re not.
Real ladyfingers are not shelf stable like savoiardi, which is why they’re harder to find. You can tell the ladyfingers are pale, and don’t have a hard, crispy coating.
So, the whole point of my rant is just to make sure you know what you’re buying! It’s easy to tell the difference between ladyfingers and savoiardi, so just know what you want before you purchase.
Next, I’ll rant about what’s happened to the word “charcuterie”…. But for now, this wonderful recipe!
8.8 ounces cranberries
1 large orange, zest and juice
4 ounces caster sugar, divided
8.5 ounces strong black coffee
2.5 ounces Grand Marnier
3-4 tsp cocoa powder
3 egg yolks (I used four small egg yolks)
8.8 ounces mascarpone
10 ounces double cream
24 savoiardi biscuits
1 ounce dark chocolate
In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, orange zest and juice and 2 ounces of sugar. Bring to a steady simmer and cook for around 5 mins, until roughly half of the berries have popped and broken down, but the remainder are whole, yet soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Brew the coffee, decant into a small container that will snuggly fit the length of one savoiard1 biscuit. Add 3 tbsp Grand Marnier to the coffee and set aside.
Use a balloon whisk to whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and remaining liqueur for a few minutes, until the mixture is light in both colour and texture and has more than doubled in volume – it should look and feel like a thin mayonnaise. Use a spatula to combine this with the mascarpone.
In a separate bowl, use a balloon whisk to whip the cream to an airy, luscious but not-too-stiff ribbon stage. Fold and beat the egg yolk mixture into this, then very briefly use a balloon whisk to whip it back to that not-quite-soft peak stage (it will set further once in the fridge and a little ooze is preferable to over-whipped).
One by one, soak half the biscuits in the coffee and booze mix so that they’re wet and flavourful but not soggy, then transfer directly to the dish until the base is covered.
Spread the cranberry sauce over the biscuits and dust that with another teaspoon of cocoa powder. Spread just under half of the mascarpone mixture on top.
Repeat the biscuit soaking and arranging for a second layer. Cover with the remainder of the mascarpone, then refrigerate for 3 hours or more.
Just prior to serving, dust with a final, generous teaspoon of cocoa powder, then use a fine microplane or similar to grate the chocolate over the top.