Langue de chat

Langue de chat

“Langue de chat are the sort of biscuits that are wonderful with any pudding you eat with a small spoon” (Nigella, 20).

As you will probably notice, I am really enjoying cooking from, and indeed eating from, the biscuit section. I have absolutely loved all 3 recipes so far, and making and rolling out biscuit dough makes me feel so glowingly efficient in the manner of some kind of uber-Goddess! Therefore, I am keen to maintain this feeling, and am thus planning on rustling up some langue de chat today (Wednesday). Usually I would wait until the weekend for my biscuit endeavours, but these seem so easy to prepare, that I think that they can be made as no fuss weekday fare.
I have done my research concerning this dish and found out from Chocolate and zucchini’s gorgeous website that “langue de chat”, literally means “cat’s tongues,” and are classic French cookies that fall into the category of petits fours secs. Apparently, they are oval buttery cookies, with a blonde centre and lightly browned edges. They sound absolutely wonderful and I cannot wait to make them after reading that description. I do want to make them, though, on the basis of their own merits. Firstly, the recipe calls for vanilla sugar, which somewhat relieves me of my massive hoard, which has been infusing sweetly and stashed away in my cupboard for at least a month now. I am always looking for ways of using it, but the sad truth is, that a teaspoon of vanilla sugar in a mug of warmed milk once every few nights has not really made a dent in my stash. I do love my vanilla sugar, though; I only wish that I knew more uses for it. Secondly, the recipe calls for vanilla extract and I do have some great vanilla extract that I love using (which is the same as the one Nigella uses in my Nigella Bites DVD); Nielsen-Massey finest quality vanilla extract. Thirdly, I have a massive bag of Italian 00 flour in my cupboard and I really love using it; it is a lot finer and more finely milled than generic plain flour and I love the texture that it brings to food.
From what I’ve read, though, it doesn’t seem to be the case that langue de chat are eaten as they are, alone. Rather, they seem to be traditional accompaniments to ice-creams or mousses. Yesterday I scoured through my cook books, looking for such a recipe which would work well with these biscuits. The recipe that I opted for is Delia’s rich chocolate mousse, which appears in her book; “Delia’s complete cookery course.” This recipe seems perfect for my ends. Firstly, it is such a pudding “eaten with a small spoon.” Secondly, what on earth can be nicer than a rich chocolate mousse? Thirdly, though, listen to what Delia herself says about the mousse; “This mousse is very nice served with langue de chat biscuits.” I think I have found the perfect accompaniment! I will include the recipe, here, for anyone that wants to make a similar pairing;

4 oz plain chocolate
2 eggs, separated
To serve:
I tbs. rum or brandy
2 heaped tbs. whipped cream
Grated chocolate and/or chopped, toasted nuts.
Tow stemmed wine glasses or ramekins

Melt the chocolate. When it is smooth and liquid, remove it from the heat. Beat the egg yolks and add them to the chocolate while it’s still hot, beating thoroughly (this cooks the egg yolks slightly).
Now leave the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes. Then beat up the egg whites – not too stiffly, just to the soft peak stage – then fold them into the chocolate mixture. Next spoon the mixture into the glasses, cover each one with foil of cling film and chill until firm (about two hours).
When you’re ready to serve, make a few holes in the top of each mousse (using a small skewer or darning needle) and spoon some rum or brandy over the surface to soak in. Then top with a blob of whipped cream and some grated chocolate and chopped nuts. This mousse is very nice serve with langue de chat biscuits.

Because I *am* serving these with said biscuits, I probably won’t bother with the whipped cream and grated chocolate and/or nuts, to be honest; but you get the picture.

Ingredients: All of the ingredients can be brought in any supermarket, but for the first time since starting this blog, I have literally everything already at home! I think I must be getting more and more bossily domestic, with such well-stocked cupboards. As I mentioned, I am using vanilla sugar, because I have this at home. If you don’t have any, then bear in mind that it is very easy to make (and see How to be a Domestic Goddess for tips), most supermarkets do stock it, although you can equally use caster sugar. I already mentioned the vanilla extract and flour of choice, so know that those are what I am using in this recipe.
You will also need a piping bag and baking parchment. I am using silicone non-stick baking parchment, which I have used for all of the biscuits, and which has worked wonderfully so far.

Price: As I mentioned, I have all of the ingredients at home - butter, vanilla sugar, egg whites, vanilla extract and flour – and so this recipe cost me nothing to produce!

(Butter and vanilla sugar creamed together)

Method: This is very easy to make, and certainly takes under half an hour. I made the mousse much earlier on in the afternoon, meaning that I could fully concentrate on these little biscuits. Firstly one creams together butter and vanilla sugar. I have spoken about creaming before, but to mention again; creaming basically means beating with a wooden spoon (or otherwise) until the butter and sugar are white, soft and airy (I provide a picture anyway). One then stirs in the egg whites and vanilla extract. Be warned; the mixture will look as though it has curdled for a short time. Have courage, though, and continue to beat (I used a wooden spoon), until the eggs and vanilla are incorporated into the mixture, which will relax into a smooth batter after a while. After that one adds the flour, and from that moment on, the mixture settled down into a light and airy cream.
I then spooned the mixture into my piping bag and began piping the mixture into strips. Now I am absolutely 100% hopeless at piping and always have been; it is a kitchen job guaranteed to make me look foolish. Once again, my piping was disastrous; meaning that half of the biscuits were short and thin and the other half were long and thick. Okay, the huge variation in sizes was not a complete disaster, but the aesthetic in me would have liked uniformity. Nigella says that she makes about 30 biscuits with the mixture. I only made 20. There are a number of reasons for this; a.) my over-enthusiastic piping lead to bigger biscuits and thus less mixture, b.) there was mixture left in the mixing bowl but I had run out of space on the baking trays c.) my OH was moaning that he was hungry. Actually, if I made these again, I’m pretty sure that I could make the specified 30; it’s just a matter of practice, after all.
Lastly, I found mine to take just over the 8 minutes specified (about 9-10 minutes) - probably because they were bigger - , and please bear in mind Nigella’s warning; they do spread enormously, so leave space between them.

(With added egg white and vanilla extract)

(With added flour)
Result: You will see from the photo that my biscuits did look ridiculously varied in shape and size; some of them were massive and some were tiny (damn that piping bag!), but I have made my peace with that; after all, as Nigella said in Domestic Goddess; “life is not lived in a lab” and I’d rather eat some of my misshapen lovingly home-cooked biscuits than perfect shop-brought ones. Aside from the variation, they are actually very attractive; golden brown in the middle and a deep caramel brown around the outside.
In terms of texture, the biscuits are more cakey than biscuity. This means that they are very light, very soft, very airy and very spongy. There is certainly a “Victoria sponge” quality to them in that they are spongy, light and delicate, and not crunchy and dense. In terms of taste; all I can say is WOW! These biscuits are absolutely divine. Honestly, I cannot rave about them enough; you must try them. They are very light and delicate and are very soft to bite into. The taste is very buttery and sweet, and there are wonderfully delicate and light notes of vanilla infused throughout the biscuits (most definitely because of the vanilla sugar and extract that I used). These are certainly heavenly and sorrowfully addictive. They are so light and delicately flavoured that I had eaten 5 before I managed to stop myself. The most prominent taste is that of vanilla, but the taste is not overpowering; rather, the notes of vanilla are more akin to a fragrant and lingering aftertaste. The darker brown “ring” around the outside of the biscuit was also lovely; it tasted in a way reminiscent of caramelised sugar, and complimented the light and delicate biscuit perfectly. For some reason – I know not what – the smaller langue de chat were nicer than the bigger ones. They were more buttery and less spongy and cakey.
I must say also, that because these biscuits are indeed so light and delicate, they made a perfect partner to Delia’s mousse. It was lovely to scoop a thick spoonful of chocolate mousse onto a waiting biscuit; however extravagant this may be. I say this, but I was so taken with these biscuits that I would make them again, to be eaten alone, so wonderful are they. I shouldn’t leave this section without also saying that Delia’s chocolate mousse was also lovely. I was initially dismayed at the small portions allocated (obviously I have become used to Lawsonian portions), but the mousse was so thick and chocolaty rich, that in all honesty, we wouldn’t have wanted more. Thanks Delia!


Other person’s perspective: My OH said that these biscuits looked pretty and bright and the smell of them cooking reminded him of buns which his mum used to make. In terms of the taste, the langue de chats were scented with vanilla, which was very nice, and there was a wonderfully sweet and vanilla aftertaste. He also said that the biscuits had a very spongy and light texture, were wonderful as an accompaniment to the mousse and all in all, were very nice indeed.

(Post-oven; and look how much they have spread)

Future changes: These are such simple, nice biscuits, that there is no real change that should be made. Aesthetically, I would like to become more proficient with a piping bag and make my langue de chat more uniform and generally smaller.

Rating: 5/5. These biscuits were light and heavenly.


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