Beyond boundaries: cat’s tongue cookies

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies

I dedicate this post to Her Majesty and not because she is my daughter but because she is that person in my life who pushes me to step out of my comfort zone and experience situations that otherwise I would never put myself in.

Hope you are ready for another chapter of my “awkward motherhood saga”! 😉 Oh well! Here we go.

Last year a mother from Her Majesty’s school approached me at dismissal. She is Japanese – Her Majesty and her daughters are very good friends and we ended up becoming friends too. She explained that she was putting together a group of mothers coming from different countries in order to be able to offer an international language program as an after-school activity. I knew immediately I was about to enter dangerous territory and then – of course – it hit me … inevitably and very hard: she asked me if I would be willing to join them and teach a class about Italian culture and language. Bam! Needless to say, the Evil Queen immediately showed her true self. I simply and firmly said … thank you, but no thank you!  Just the thought of me in a classroom teaching a bunch of kids from first grade to fifth grade made me hyperventilate. I knew it was for a good cause but I could clearly feel my temple veins start bulging and pulsing like crazy and my natural instincts telling me to get out of that situation and … get out fast. And so I did! Another mother would have gotten offended by my abrupt refusal but not my friend. I think it is because of the culture she was raised in. Haven’t you noticed that Japanese people are among the most gracious and kind human beings on earth? She sure is. She told me not to worry but gently invited me to think it over. She was going to ask me again the following year hoping I would change my mind. End of the story … or so I thought.

The new year started and there we were again at dismissal. Only this time I wasn’t by myself. Her Majesty was by my side talking with my friend’s daughters. When the fearful question was asked again, my brain was just in the process of looking for the right words of refusal but those few seconds of hesitation kind of stole my moment. The only thing that I could hear was Her Majesty’s voice saying that, yes, of course we were going to do it, that she would be my helper and we were so excited to be part in this program. Yay!!! My wonderfully social daughter! More mature than her mother in so many instances, always entusiastic of socializing and spending time with others!!! What was I supposed to say? There are moments in life when even the Evil Queen must recognize that she has been defeated and that was one of those moments!

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies

I thought about how to teach that class for quite a while. I knew I wanted to cover all the Italian basics (history, art, food and language) but the most difficult thing for me was to come up with a plan to catch and keep the attention span of younger kids for
the whole duration of the class. As always, the solution came to me in my favorite place: lying in bed with a book in my hands. Kids love fairy tales and stories. I just had to connect any subject I wanted to talk about to a legend or an anecdote and only God knows if Italian
history and culture aren’t full of them. My next step was the public library. In my “office career” days, research and due diligence were an essential part of my job. Still today, whatever I’m doing, my first thing is research. It’s just my modus operandi and I wish I could do the same when it comes to human beings! 😉 Anyway, I made an outline of my talking points, I created handouts for the kids, I let Her Majesty pick the subjects she wanted to cover and prepped her and I asked Stefano to buy a few memorabilia during his latest trip to Italy to be given to the children at the end of class. I also considered some slides but – on second thought – I realized I would have gone a bit overboard.

Eventually, my teaching day came. I’m not new to meetings and presentations. Back in the old days, I used to spend countless hours in conference rooms talking with people that would have done pretty much anything just to close a deal. So what was all the fuss about? I don’t know but I sure was a nervous wreck. Thank goodness, Her Majesty was by my side giving me the talk and telling me that everything was going to be fine. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

How did it go? Oh well, only time will tell! All I know is that Her Majesty did a great job, I survived and, most importantly, the children got out of that classroom unharmed and – hopefully – with a few notions about another culture! Sounds pretty good to me for a
first time, total amateur teacher! 😉

As a way to thank my daughter, I made one of her favorite treats: cat’s tongue cookies. These little tongues are pretty popular in Europe and Italians serve them either as cookies accompanying an afternoon tea or as a final touch for fruit salads, creamy desserts and
ice creams. Made with very few basic ingredients (powdered sugar, butter, flour and egg whites), they are super easy to make and you can unleash your creativity in terms of flavor combinations and/or dip them in chocolate ganache for a very decadent effect! The best thing about these babies? There is no magical recipe. You are just required to own a scale and follow a very simple rule: the weight of the egg whites must exactly match the weight of each of the other ingredients. In this case, I used 3 eggs whose whites weighed 98 grams.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies

Ingredients:

98 grams, powdered sugar
98 grams, softened butter (at room temperature)
98 grams, flour
98 grams, egg whites
half vanilla bean (optional)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven at 325 F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the sugar and the butter and mix until they are perfectly blended. Split the vanilla bean down its length using a knife. With the help of the same knife, scrape out the seed on both halves and add the scraped seeds to the butter mixture. Add the flour and beat until the flour is completely blended. Add the egg white and mix until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Stop and scrape the bowl.

Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Prepare a pastry bag with a medium start tip and fill it with the mixture. Create cookies long about 6/7 cm (they must be as thick as a pinkie). Make sure to leave some space between each cookie (they will grow). Cook for about 10 minutes or until the edges get lightly brown. Remove from the oven, let them cool completely on a wire rack and dust them with some powdered sugar before serving them.

I wish all of you who celebrate it a very Happy Easter!

Francesca xo

PS: I think everybody should have a person in their life that encourages them to be a little more adventurous and try out something different, maybe something they are a bit afraid of because it is new to them and out of their comfort zone. As a very wise woman once
said: if you do something, something good can happen or something bad can happen but if you don’t do anything, nothing is going to happen! 🙂

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About Francesca

I am a cook and the founder and art director of Flora's Table, the fine cooking and wine blog. Check us out at www.florastable.com :-)
This entry was posted in Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Beyond boundaries: cat’s tongue cookies

  1. Congratulations Francesca, I think it was a giant leap that took courage and I for one would have loved to take a class that you teach. Her majesty is a take charge girl and I love that. She was not going to take no for an answer. Your lingue di gatto look fantastic is that zabaglione in those adorable little cups that the cookies are standing in. Beautiful post Francesca and so glad that you taught that course and that her Majesty was not just your helper but she is I know your biggest fan.

    • Francesca says:

      Thank you, Suzanne! Yes, she has an amazing attitude towards others and life in general that will certainly help her in the future. I just wish she could be more like me sometimes instead of making me go on this continuous social roller coaster! 😜
      No, it is lemon sorbet but I tell you what: zabaglione is an amazing idea. I’ll sure give it a try next time I make lingue di gatto! 😋

  2. talkavino says:

    Great story, my friend, and I clearly see you and Her Majesty exactly as you described. Glad you overcome your fear! Can you talk to Her Majesty about driving on the highway too? 🙂 I actually have one [interesting] question – all your measures are 98 grams – does someone really need that precision or you are just having fun with us?

  3. Francesca says:

    Hahaha! I wish I could! She is growing so fast though! She will be driving me to your house before I know it!
    I would never dare! 😉 That’s just how the rule works. You decide how many eggs you want to use (just to give you an idea, with 3 eggs, I usually make about 30 cookies), you weight the egg whites on the scale and you’ll have the exact weight of the butter, the flour and the sugar. After all, baking is all about precision! 😉
    Hope to see you and Vic very soon!

  4. Mary says:

    Was so much fun seeing your post Francesca again. Loved the story and your courage, thank goodness for Her Majesty – great pairing and assignment accomplished!! Wonderful desert, well deserved. Stefano took some beautiful shots – just love them perfect for the beginning of Spring.

    • Francesca says:

      Hello Mary! Yes, mission accomplished! That’s the most important thing on my book! 🙂
      Yes, I agree! He did an amazing job! Thank you so much for your kind words!

  5. Dina says:

    Great and beautiful photo-story, Francesca. I’m so glad you managed and did so well and a big thank you to your darling daughter for being so supportive.
    “if you do something, something good can happen or something bad can happen but if you don’t do anything, nothing is going to happen!” enters my little book of gems right away. 🙂
    Happy Easter to you all! 🙂
    XO

    • Francesca says:

      Thank you so much, Dina! I don’t know if I did well but I sure managed and just that is a huge success to me! 😉
      It is a gem, isn’t it? So very, very true! I’m glad you liked it! It was love at first … hearing to me! 😉
      Happy Easter to you and the rest of the gang! xo

  6. chef mimi says:

    Great story! And the cookies are beautiful.

  7. Oh Francesca, as an introvert I absolutely loved reading your story! I’ve always felt like my time is a cherished treasure that I apportion out very carefully. Often I wonder what new challenges will arise when Matthew and I decide to take the plunge into being parents one day. It seems as though Her Majesty did the perfect job of giving you the little push to embark on a wonderful adventure. And your cookies… they look delicious! I love the concept that all you need is equal amounts of all the ingredients. This makes the recipe adaptable to any quantity you need!

    • Francesca says:

      Heather, I wish I could tell you that no, you don’t have to worry because you’ll always be able to apportion your time out the way you like but I would be telling you a lie. Your life is going to change in so many wonderful ways and it is totally worth it but you will have to kiss your treasure goodbye for quite a long time. There is no other way. My piece of advice? Enjoy it until it lasts!!! 😜

  8. Bravo, Her Majesty! And, Congratulations dear Francesca for crossing a yet another leap of courageous. Italy, rich in culture, history and culinary delights, should have been captivating for the children to listen to you. Did you take any Italian food to share with the kids? 😉
    These cat tongue cookies are so cute and look so delicious. There is a palmier like long cookie that we Iranians call tongue, and some people call them ‘mother-in-law’s tongue”. 😦

    • Francesca says:

      Thank you, dear Fae!
      No, according to school policy, we are not allowed to bring food in a classroom because of the food allergies some kids suffer from. We talked about some Italian traditional dishes, Her Majesty set the table and we talked about table manners that, in Italy, are as important as good food.
      I love the mother-in-law tongue concept! I know … not very flattering for the mothers-in-law out there but you cannot deny that the expression is quite powerful and certainly conveys the message, although I cannot speak from experience because I do not have a mother-in-law.

  9. A lovely story Francesca and very well done you. I really admire the time and effort you put into research for your teaching day. I relate to what you say at the start of your post as I don’t like stepping out of my comfort zone and mostly avoid doing so. Maybe I should give myself a little push every now and then! 😉

    • Francesca says:

      Maybe but I know I wouldn’t step out if I didn’t have a child like her. 😋
      Research is very time consuming and even frustrating sometimes but I have never regretted doing it. Plus, nowadays internet makes it so much easier. I still remember when our only sources were books and all those hours spent in public libraries! 😋

  10. Karen says:

    Just loved your story, I felt like I was standing there with you and just knew the outcome. How could you resist Her Majesty and her enthusiasm for the idea. I’m glad it all went well and I know that the lingue di gatto were much appreciated as a reward by Her Majesty. Hang on to those coat tails of hers, I can see that she will be taking you on many more adventures. 😀

    • Francesca says:

      I know I shouldn’t say that but I’m not really looking forward to my next adventure although – with a child like her – it’s pretty inevitable! 😳🙄😜
      Yes, she loves them and beyond. Every time I make lingue di gatto, I have to hide them. They are very light and delicious and she would eat the entire batch in an afternoon if I didn’t exercise a bit of supervision! 😋

  11. Antonia says:

    The cookies look delicious Francesca! I bet they are so light and delicious with the egg whites. I love this story! Her Majesty definitely earned her reward! I can feel for you…my daughter is also very social and I don’t socialize as willingly. Isn’t it great how children can help you grow? Happy spring my friend 😀

    • Francesca says:

      Thank you so much, Antonia!
      What can I say? Glad to know I’m not alone. If I’m not mistaken, your daughter is still a toddler. You’ll see what happens when she’ll be Her Majesty’s age. We’ll talk again! 😜
      In the meantime, happy spring and happy Easter to you and your family! 🌷

      • Antonia says:

        Thank you and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Easter Francesca! She is 7, but my son is younger. I am sure I have a lot of things like this to look forward to like this..lol! What are us introverts going to do 😉

  12. Oh Francesca, this would have been exactly my reaction too and only a sweet little cherub could have coaxed me into it also! You did so well my friend and should be extremely proud. Lovely that her majesty was by your side for support – these cookies are a lovely way of thanking her.

    • Francesca says:

      Hello Margot!
      I’m glad you can relate. 😋 If I’m not mistaken your children are boys (no girls). Wondering if – from an introvert point of view – life is easier with boys. My nephews are so socially different from Her Majesty!
      Hope you and your family are doing well.
      Looking forward to reading you again very soon!

  13. ChgoJohn says:

    Her Majesty is one crafty royal. She didn’t just volunteer your services, she did it in your presence, thus putting you on the proverbial spot. Obviously she knew what she was doing, Francesca. Not only did she get you to step out of your comfort zone but you made her cookies, too. She’ll make a fine queen one day. 🙂
    I hope you three had a fantastic Easter together.

  14. polianthus says:

    Congratulations, well done, I know how you fell. Her Majesty obviously has great Italian genes and thus knows how to get things done..:) Smart.

  15. Karen says:

    Just stopped by to say “hello”, I hope all is well with you and your family.

    • Francesca says:

      Hello Karen! I do apologize. My response is long overdue. We are very well, thank you! Hope you and your husband are doing fine and that Hurricane Matthew didn’t cause too much damage to your area and that you were safe and warm. Talk to you soon! Best, Francesca

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