Lingue di Gatto, Cat's Tongues, are my favorite Italian butter cookies, crumbly, thin and light as air, they melt in your mouth, leaving you wanting another and then another...
Lingue di Gatto, Cat's Tongues, or Langues de Chat since they are probably of French origin, are delicate little cookies, buttery, crisp and paper thin, that owe their name to the resemblance to a cat's tongue, long and narrow, with a rough surface. But do not let the name fool you because they are the most exquisite, melt in your mouth, butter cookie you'll ever taste. Perfect alongside an afternoon cup of tea, they'll disappear quickly as you find yourself and your guests eating one after another without being able to stop.
I am not overstating when saying that Lingue di Gatto are my favorite Italian cookie. As a kid and teenager, I was crazy about them, and even now, I would have them over many other types of cookies. I'm not sure if it's only their flavor and texture that I find most appealing or the fact that are called Cat's Tongues, knowing my passion for cats. Who knows how the subconscious works? lol.
In Italy, they are part of the so-called "pasticcini da the" (tea biscuits or tea cookies), among other buttery deliciousnesses like some I have reproduced here, here, and here. They have in common a small shape, a "dry", buttery, shortbread consistency, and the ability to be devoured in seconds. Every Italian pasticceria (pastry shop) or bakery, has this kind of cookies on display. I remember on many occasions, my mother and me, entering a pasticceria and asking for a tray of mixed cookies. They would show us different sizes of trays and we would go for the big rectangle one so that we could fit as many pasticcini as we could. When the salesgirl had the tongs on the Lingue di Gatto, ready to add them to the tray, I would ask for more, just in case I had to share the tray with other people loving those cookies as much as I did. The tray would then be wrapped in a white embroidered paper and closed with a ribbon. They were those kinds of cookies that we would bring to a friend when going to visit on a special occasion like a birth, a wedding, a recovery, or to a more common tea party where I would enjoy my mother's friends company, among their lively chats, the clinking of teacups, the munching on the crumbly cookies.
I've been wanting to make them forever, but before, in my life in Italy, I did not need to, since I just had to go to a bakery or pasticceria and buy some for my indulgence. However, in Canada, they are not so well known, and I've actually never seen them anywhere, so I am "forced" to make them myself if I want to enjoy my Lingue di Gatto.
They are not difficult to make, they just require a little foresight. And they're only made with 5 ingredients:
- icing sugar
- vanilla extract
- egg whites
and an optional 6th ingredient, if you're like me, a chocoholic, and dividing the batch of cookies into plain and chocolate ones seems like the right thing to do.
The tools you need are a standing mixer with a wire whip (or a bowl and a handheld mixer), a small bowl to lightly whisk the egg whites, a spatula, two trays lined with parchment paper or silicone mat, and a sac-à-poche (piping bag) with a small plain round tip. They really take almost no time to make them, bake them, and most definitely no time to eat them 🙂 .
Some notes on the procedure:
- Use a good quality butter, a European butter with a higher percentage of fat is always better when baking. Have the butter at room temperature, cubed. Cream the butter until nice and frothy before slowly adding the sifted icing sugar.
- The egg whites have to be frothy and folded in gradually.
- The flour needs to be sifted and added slowly as well, a bit at a time until well incorporated. The final batter has to be smooth and airy and has to rest for about 10 minutes.
- Use a small round piping tip to pipe the batter onto the tray, or just snip the plastic bag at the bottom (about ½ cm diameter), if you don't have the right piping tip (a star tip won't do). The cookies have to be the size and length of a pinkie. Piping less batter and making smaller, thinner cookies, is better than having a thick and spongy cookie. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, creating sticks about 6 cm long, leaving at least double the space between one another. They will flatten and widen while baking.
The Lingue di Gatto cookies, when out of the oven, are still soft and pliable, you have to let them cool down a bit on the rack, before trying one (I know, it's hard to wait for me as well 😉 ) or before dipping one end in chocolate. When cooled, they are crispy, like wafers, rich in buttery flavor and melt in your mouth.
The chocolate version of Lingue di Gatto is relatively young, the tradition wants them just plain. But with that one end dipped, makes them more luxurious and appeases the traditionalist and the new-ager.
You make quite a few cookies with the recipe, at least a couple dozen if not more. I started munching one after another during the photo shoot, and through the afternoon. Then Loreto came back home and tasted one. And then another. After dinner, we had a few more, and the day after, between the three of us, they were gone. Lingue di Gatto didn't make it for a home delivery to the neighbors. lol.
You are going to love these small bundles of pure, crisp, thin, fun, goodness. As they hit your tongue, the flavors simple and fresh, float in, and in an instant, they melt, and you are left with the option of stopping there or grabbing another, with a not so difficult decision to make.
If you're planning a trip to Italy, make sure you try and find these delectable Lingue di Gatto. Or, in the meantime, you can make them at home and have a little taste of Italy wherever you are. You can thank us later :-).
Song of the day: "Devotion", by Coleman Hell.Print
- 100 g butter, cubed, at room temperature
- 100 g icing sugar, sifted
- 100 g egg whites (about 3 eggs)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 100 g flour 00 (or all-purpose flour), sifted
- ¼ cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the soft butter until creamy.
- Slowly add the sifted icing sugar and mix on low speed until well incorporated and frothy.
- Add the vanilla extract and mix.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites just until a bit frothy, then slowly and gradually add it to the butter/sugar mixture in the mixer and whisk to blend in.
- Add the sifted flour, a bit at a time, and keep whisking at medium speed until the batter is smooth.
- Before filling the sac-à-poche (piping bag), place the small plain round piping tip down in the bottom of the piping bag first. If using a disposable plastic piping bag, snip off the tip of the piping bag and wiggle the tip into place. Be careful to cut just enough so that the tip can slip through. Place the unfilled bag into a tall drinking glass, fold the top down around the glass, then fill the bag about ¾ of the way up. Twist the top of the bag and gently add a bit of pressure to eliminate any air bubbles.
- Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, creating sticks about 6 cm long, leaving at least double the space between one another. They will flatten and widen while baking.
- Let them rest for about 10 minutes before baking.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 7-8 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown (the middle will stay a lighter color, that is their characteristic).
- Once out of the oven, the cookies will still be soft, let them cool a couple minutes then, with the help of a spatula, transfer them onto a rack. They will harden and get crunchy as they cool.
- Melt the chocolate chips over a bain-marie (double boiler). Dip the top of the cookie in the melted chocolate. Then place them on a lined baking sheet and let the chocolate harden before serving them.
They keep in an airtight container or tin box for several days (if they last that long!).