In the afternoon, one of my baby’s pleasures is a boudoir, which is a light, melt-in-your-mouth eggwhite-leavened sugar-dusted biscuit. This is after he’s had his petit suisse, a soft white cheese a little bit like Philly. Before you stamp your foot in indignation that I give my baby something dusted with sugar after all the agony of deciding how to feed him, I will let you know his pediatrician put it in his recommended diet! My boy is expending a whole lot of energy these days. He’s going full steam learning, moving, practicing, playing and thinking very hard about the world around him from the minute he wakes up until he drops from exhaustion again, on and off like a lightswitch, all day long. If he doesn't get a boudoir, he gets a crust of baguette. I think he likes them both equally.
I started making boudoirs at home out of curiosity. I wondered about them when the baby first started eating them. They are ubiquitous at the grocery stores here in France, and marketed not only for consumption by babies, but also for making that decidedly adult dessert called a charlotte, which is often lined with boudoirs soaked in various alcohols. The thing was, when I got down to it and began digging around for information, I noticed that these days nobody ever bothers to make their own boudoirs. Like other pastries, these are left to the professionals in this country. But you can find recipes in the older cookbooks sometimes under other names, depending on the region.
I checked out a couple of pretty picture cookbooks in the French style devoted to the charlotte from the library, thinking that at the very least these books would feature a a recipe or a little bit of lore about this famous cookie and found, much to my surprise, that they don't even bother to put the recipe for the boudoirs into either book. Tucked neither into the front nor the back, boudoirs were simply an ingredient, one that busy French cooks buy ready-made in plastic sachets at the store. I did find a few recipes in my old cookbooks and scaled them down to a manageable size. This means something I can handle without baking all day. I wanted to make sure I could get these done without feeling I was going into industrial production mode. If you have a big American oven, you might even be able to get these all baked in one batch.
The recipe for boudoirs aka biscuits à la cuillère is quite straightforward and simple. It requires no special equipment other than a plastic food storage bag or if you’re equipped, a pastry sack with a 1 cm circular nozzle to pipe the batter. Once they've cooled off, you can store them in a tin. If there are any left after a few days, they’ll hold up quite well to soaking in liqueurs and syrups for many kinds of charlottes.
Boudoirs (about 30 biscuits)
1/2 cup or 115 grams granulated sugar plus a few tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of finely ground table salt
2/3 cup or 85 grams sifted flour, AP (or type 65 if you are in France)
*Note about the cream of tartar: It is optional. I have just found that the cookies hold their shape better if you do. I have done these cookies with and without it and the taste is the same. It's just a matter of preference.
*Note about the bowl size: I use the standard bowl that goes with my mixer for the egg whites, and I use a smaller bowl (the one I use to melt chocolate over a saucepan) for the egg yolks. The small bowl eventually takes the rest of the ingredients for the batter. The good thing about it is that the smaller bowl fits into a 12 inch square plastic bag, and it makes transfer of the batter into the bag quick, clean, and painless. Keep that in mind when organizing your tools to make these!
- Separate the eggs, yolks into the smaller bowl, whites into the bowl that comes with your mixer.
- Beat the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and egg yolks together until pale yellow and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, mount the egg whites with the vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
- Stir the salt into the flour.
- Incorporate the egg whites and sift in the flour and salt little by little into the egg yolks and sugar mixture, alternating flour and whites, ending with the whites. Make sure you fold it in gently and carefully and don’t stir it too much to avoid deflating the batter.
- When it it just incorporated, transfer it into the bag for forming the boudoirs.
- Cut off a corner of the bag to make a hole about a half inch wide or one cm. You can make a wider cut, but it will make flatter, wider, biscuits. I cut the hole about the width of my thumb nail for the thinner biscuits.
- On a parchment lined cookie sheet, form the boudoirs. Pipe the fluffy batter onto parchment in straight lines, 2-3 inches or 4-6 cm long, with about an inch or 2 cms between each one.
- Sprinkle sugar over the top, and lightly shake off the sugar from the parchment. The biscuits will stick to the paper, so you can pour the sugar off being careful.
- Bake at 300F or 145C for 18-20 minutes, until they are a toasty pale brown under their sugar coating.
- Remove them from the baking paper right after removing them from the oven.
- After cooling, store in a tin for up to a week. If you plan to use these biscuits for a charlotte, keep them in the tin for a few days. They hold together better when soaked in liqueurs that way.