A recipe from history – Cat’s tongues
One of the most interesting Instagram accounts is Symmetrybreakfast. A relatively simple idea (but then why did I not have it myself?) of photographing their identical breakfast everyday has propelled Michael and Mark into the social media wall of fame. They have a ton of followers and they seem really nice guys as well (unfortunately I have not had a chance to meet them in person yet).
Apart from mouth-watering photos of breakfast food, they really love the history of food. We exchanged a few book tips and one of the books they recommended was a very famous, classic, Italian recipe book I was not familiar with. Shame on me, because Pellegrino Artusi’s book is a major recipe book in Italian food history and it took a tweet from them to make me aware of it.
I bought myself a copy and I am avidly reading it during down time, marvelling at the old fashioned Italian grammar (vainiglia, aranci for the fruits), but also bringing back a few memories of my home country.
Picking up a recipe…
One recipe first caught my eye, Lingue di Gatto (cat’s tongues). I used to eat loads of these, with a cup of Earl Grey in the afternoon while doing my homework when I was a teenager. I do still buy them occasionally when I go home, but I have never made them so I had to give it a go.
I decided not to modify the recipe that much as the whole point was to use a classic piece. A lot of people now seem to substitute butter for vegetable oil, but I stuck with it, only just tweaking the ratio vs the flour. I just added some grated lemon zest because I like it, and dipped the biscuits in chocolate and 100s and 1000s as I remember loving the chocolate on them (who wouldn’t). I guessed the cooking time (no indication in the book) and the temperature. He indicated to use ‘countryside oven’ which I wish I had! Then again, back then most households did not have an electric oven obviously.
Lingue di Gatto
makes about 40
Unsalted butter, 80gr
Icing sugar, 100gr
Sifted white flour (farina d’Ungheria), 120gr
Grated lemon zest
A dash of vanilla essence
1 free range egg white
100s and 1000s
Heat the oven to 160c (fan) and prepare an oven tray with a silicon mat or baking paper. Place the butter, softened, in a stand mixer or, following the recipes properly, in a bowl and beat if for a while with a whisk. Add the sugar and continue to mix vigorously then add the flour, the zest and vanilla essence. Finally, add the egg whites. Spoon the mixed dough into a piping bag and pipe onto the baking tray in strips of about 8cm long, leaving space between them as they will expand during cooking.
By doing this, I baked about 5 trays, alternating between two of them. Bake at 160c for about 8 minutes. I made some round shapes too as I remember they were also sold in Napoli (and some were coloured pink or green too). They cook very quickly and are ready when the edges turn light brown while the middle is still lovely and gold. Let them cool down on a wire rack; meanwhile melt around 100gr of dark chocolate in a bain-mairie. When fully melted, coat or paint half of the ‘tongues’ in it and lie down flat on a pre-lined tray (line with silicon mat or wax paper). Sprinkle the 100s and 1000s over the chocolate. Let them rest and cool completely until the chocolate is solid again.
Enjoy with a cup of tea, as Artusi suggests…
“Sono pastine pel the, da una ricetta venuta da Parigi”