Langues de chat are classic French cookies that fall into the category of petits fours secs (“dry” petits fours, as opposed to miniature versions of pastries with buttercream, pastry cream, etc). They used to be a frequent accompaniment to ice-cream in restaurants, in rotation with cigarettes russes, but I haven’t seen that done for a while — gavottes seem to have taken their place.
“Cat’s tongues” are oval butter cookies, with a blonde center and lightly browned edges. The packaged versions one can find at French grocery stores are crunchy all over and quite decent, but the homemade langue de chat offers a nice change of texture, with thin crispy rims and a tender, slightly chewy heart.
Langues de chat are very simple to make, and they’re a great use for leftover egg whites. I usually flavor them with vanilla — delicious with a warm apricot compote — but the other day, when my mother asked if I could bring something to nibble on with tea after dinner at their house, I decided it was high time I used the small package of matcha that had been waiting around in my baking treasure box for months, and was beginning to feel a little dejected.
I was unsure how much matcha I should use, so I just added a teaspoon and a half and hoped for the best. As it turns out, this was just the right amount for the earthy green tea notes to come through, without giving the impression that you had just swallowed a spoonful of tea leaves — don’t try this at home. The flavor was lovely in an adult kind of way, the cookies an interesting shade of olive green, and we liked them so much that I baked a second batch for us the next day.
[As for the picture, it was sheer luck: we happened to be cat-sitting Maxence's cat, who lives with his mother (Maxence's, that is). I am normally not much of a cat person but I've known this one for over nine years, and she and I cohabit courteously enough, although I hate it when she sleeps on my feet. Anyway. Just as I was shooting pictures of the cookies, she got curious ("Green tea cat's tongues? What a peculiar idea!"), came closer for a second, and I was able to tilt the camera and catch her with the cookies just before she turned her attention to some fly-chasing activity or other; I couldn't have staged it if I'd tried. Update: Sadly, Maxence's cat died last summer, not long after this picture was taken. Wherever she is now, I hope she has plenty of tuna to eat and cables to chew.]
[This post originally appeared in June of 2006.]
Langues de Chat au Thé Vert
60 grams (1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter, softened
60 grams (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
2 egg whites
60 grams (1/2 cup) flour
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 1/2 teaspoon matcha (powdered green tea)
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer, and process until fluffy. Add the egg whites and process until combined. Add the flour, fleur de sel, and matcha powder, and process until smooth. Cover and chill for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Transfer the batter in a pastry bag with a 5-mm (1/5-inch) tip, or use a food storage bag and snip one corner to create a 5-mm opening. Squeeze the batter onto the prepared baking sheet to form 6-cm (2 1/3-inch) sticks, not too close to one another. Slip into the oven and bake for about 7 minutes, until the edges start to brown but the center remains green.
Transfer the cookies on a cooling rack while still warm, and let cool completely. The langues de chat will keep for a few days in an airtight container at room temperature.
(For the classic langues de chat, substitute 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract for the green tea powder, and bake until the edges start to brown but the center remains pale.)