Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Palitos la reine? Oh, you mean ladyfingers!

This is what happens when one tries to recreate an old family recipe and is away from home: the secret ingredient is nowhere to be found.

To cut a long story short, I want to cook an ice cream cake. It is an old family thing. My Mother cannot remember who gave her the recipe, and has been doing this cake for as long as I can remember. Only three ingredients are needed: condensed milk, double cream and palitos la reine.

To get double cream is easy enough. There is plenty of it where I live, available in different brands, from all parts of the Swiss geography, with slightly different compositions. If anything, I would be lost in diversity.

The condensed milk proves to be a bit more of a challenge. Where I come from, condensed milk is sold by the can. A small can of 370g like this, to be precise:

But, where I live, the most usual presentation is a squeezable tube. A big tube of 250g like this, to be precise:

There are probably very good reasons to sell condensed milk by the tube. But, for what I need it, this exotic presentation is not too practical. However, the supplier offers the condensed milk density and the mass, for an accurate conversion. Meaning, one spends a few minutes with careful calculations to find the exact quantities. When cooking, one pours a bit more, just in case. Then, check for sweetness, and add a bit more at random guess (and a bit more, just in case).

Lastly, the most complicated ingredient of all, the palitos la reine. The name roughly translates to “the queen sticks”. They are light and sweet sponge cakes roughly shaped like stick or an elongated eight. In Portugal, they are ubiquitous and you can find them in all patisseries, freshly backed or powdered. Like this:

After looking for a while in the local stores for any sort of cookie that could be used as a replacement, I was about to bake my own palitos. But, during a desperate last search on the internets, I found out that they seemed to be used to do Charlotte Russe (nothing but palitos la reine with an aromatic cream of chocolate and coffee, explains the author of the entry on Wikipedia). Also, they seemed to be used for Tiramisu, as a replacement for savoiardi. A couple of mouse clicks after, I had in front of me the picture of a ladyfinger (or savoiardi) (or palito la reine).

My local bakery still didn’t have them (classical Swiss answer: “we don’t use this here”). An Italian shop assistant a few stores down the road was more than happy to sell them (“for Tiramisu, non e vero?”. Actually, no, but I was not the one to disappoint a nice young man).

Twenty-four hours latter, Mr Burnt Sugar finally tasted the much celebrated ice cream cake:

My Mother would be proud of me...


  1. it's looks awesome. here's a new challenge for you. open a can of condensed milk into a bowl. in it pour 4 plain yogurt, the creamier the better. in iceland thay sell them with 8-9% fat, though travelling to iceland just to buy yougurt may be out of the question. in the same bowl pour the freshly gratted zest and squeezed juice of 4 limes. mix...add cinnamon to taste, place in the fridge for an overnight "rest"/or freezer (if you find you have guests for dinner knocking at your door)...and eat it. let me warn you: you may experience a compulsory urge to eat it all at once. the same thing happens to me when i open a cart of cookies and cream Haagen-Dazs...so beware!

  2. This recipe is as easy as it can be. Just ground the palitos la reine with a mixer. Mix on the a bowl one can of condensed milk and 600ml of double cream or cream. Then start layering it on a pyrex pan (or a non tappered bowl you can put in the freezer. My mother uses a souffle tin). You should start and end with a palitos la reine layer. Then put to freeze overnight. It helps if you cover the pyrex walls with butter and baking paper. You just warm the walls of the pyrex a bit, and pull.

    You can see more photos of food on my alter ego blog: burntsugarblog.posterous.com