Cooking the Books: Langues-de-Chat

Julias Cats coverCookbooks and other food writings have long been a staple of the Bas Bleu catalog. After all, if there’s one thing we like better than reading, it’s eating! So from time to time in the Bluestocking Salon, we’ll be “sampling” a recipe from one of our recent culinary offerings.

Fair warning: If you’re looking for advanced epicurean know-how or glossy food photography, you’re about to be disappointed. We’re humble home cooks, you see, like (most of) you—eternally pressed for time, with non-matching cookware and the infuriating tendency to scatter flour everywhere. To see how it’s really done, you should ask the experts. But in the meantime, we hope you enjoy our amateur culinary adventures. And if you try out any of these recipes for yourself, please report back to us!

First up: Julia Child’s Recipe for Langues-de-Chat (Cat’s Tongue Cookies), from customer-favorite Julia’s Cats by Patricia Barey and Therese Burson.

For about thirty cookies, 4 inches long and 1¼ to 1½ inches wide

1/2 stick (2 ounces) softened unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 “large” egg whites)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (measure by scooping dry-measure cup into flour and sweeping off excess)

Equipment. Two or more buttered and floured cookie sheets, the largest you have and no-stick recommended; a 12- to 14-inch pastry bag with a 3/8-inch round tube opening; a flour sifter set over wax paper; an electric beater or wooden spoon; a rubber spatula and a flexible-blade spatula; a cake rack.

Preliminaries. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and set racks in upper- and lower-middle levels. Prepare pastry sheets, assemble pastry bag, and set out all your ingredients and equipment.

The batter. The mixture here is only butter and sugar beaten to a pomade (a light and fluffy consistency), then mixed with plain egg white, and finally with flour; the trick is to keep it light and fluffy so it has enough body to hold in a pastry bag and be squeezed out. Proceed as follows: Using an electric beater or a wooden spoon, whip the butter, sugar, and grated lemon rind in a small bowl until they form a fluffy pomade—if you have softened it too much and it has turned limp and almost liquid, beat over ice water to bring it back to a fluffy, almost foamy, state. Beat the egg whites briefly with a fork, just to break them up. Pour ½ teaspoon of them into the butter-sugar mixture and rapidly cut it in with a rubber spatula, giving 3 or 4 brief scoops. Do not try to mix thoroughly because you do not want to soften the batter; rapidly cut in the rest of the egg whites by ½ tablespoons. Then sift on one quarter of the flour, rapidly cut it into the mixture, and continue with the rest in small portions. Stand the pastry bag in a cup, spread the top open, and scoop in the batter.

Forming the cookies. Using quick straight strokes, form lines of the batter on the prepared cookie sheets, making lines 3 to 4 inches long and the width of your finger, spaced 3 inches apart—they will spread in the oven.

Baking. Bake 2 sheets at a time in upper- and lower-middle levels of pre-heated 425-degree oven. In 6 to 8 minutes, when 1/8 inch around their circumference has browned, the cookies are done. Remove from oven and immediately, with a flexible-blade spatula, dislodge cookies onto a rack. They will crisp as they cool.

IMG_1615 These simple wafer cookies have just five ingredients, all of which are probably in your pantry right now.

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Don’t shy away from using the zest from the entire lemon! The cookies didn’t come out tasting like citrus, simply fresh and clean.

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I started out using a hand mixer, then switched to a wooden spoon to infuse a little extra air. I tend to be impatient when it comes to beating butter, so your batter may turn out fluffier than mine.

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My egg whites were pretty generous. I probably could have gotten away with using only one and still had at least ¼ cup to work with.

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I didn’t have any pastry bags handy, so I snipped the tip off of a freezer bag and used that instead. Using a pastry bag might produce a more uniform cookie shape. Also, I lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper rather than greasing them. The cookies slid right off. (A few may have landed on the kitchen floor. Five-second rule, right?)

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These finished cookies represent two batches. Those with the brown edges cooked for about seven minutes. Those without brown edges cooked for about five. Both versions tasted fine. The moral of that story is you’ll need to watch these treats like a hawk while they’re baking.

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Exceptionally lovely these wafers are not, but they provided a chewy, subtly sweet addition to my dish of raspberry sorbet. They would also pair well with fresh fruit, ice cream, or a cup of tea, and could be substituted for ladyfingers in some recipes.

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