My Gluten Free Savoiardi Biscuits (also known as Ladyfingers) are exactly as they should be. A versatile, ‘must have’ bake in your repertoire, you’d NEVER know they’re gluten free… Easy to bake, they’re perfect for making authentic Italian Tiramisu, Charlottes or just for dipping in coffee or hot chocolate. Naturally dairy free.
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Gluten Free Savoiardi biscuits… Authentically Italian
With my Italian heritage, it was only a matter of time before I got round to sharing a recipe for perfect Gluten Free Savoiardi biscuits (also known as Ladyfingers). Well… They are essential for making authentic Italian Tiramisu dessert… right? And today’s the day!
After researching endless Italian recipes (in Italian), I’ve combined the perfect set of ingredients to make Ladyfingers that are not just gluten free, but are at least as good as the standard wheat version and equally as versatile. The flavour and texture is exactly as it should be… With no compromise!
Even better… my Gluten Free Savoiardi are simple to make with just 6 ingredients (plus optional extra vanilla)… In about an hour.
What are Savoiardi biscuits (or Ladyfingers)?
Savoiardi are piped, egg-based sponge biscuits, shaped into long fingers and baked until almost dry (with a spongy centre)… or until dry. Although best known as the sponge ingredient in Tiramisu, Savoiardi biscuits are so much more. With their uniquely light texture and simple flavour, they are perfectly structured for dunking in your morning coffee, hot milk, or a cheeky hot chocolate (without disintegrating on contact)…
Originating in the 15th Century at the Italian court of the Duchy of Savoy, Savoiardi were first created to celebrate a visit by the King of France. They now have many names… from Ladyfingers to Sponge Fingers and even the French version of Boudoir biscuits.
Ingredients needed to make gluten free Ladyfingers
Gluten Free Ladyfingers use a simple set of ingredients that you probably already have in your larder. The basics run to just 6 key ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
The primary ingredient for Savoiardi biscuits is eggs. And for best results, it is important to ensure they are as fresh as possible. The eggs will be separated into yolks and whites and each will be whisked separately with sugar, before being gently combined together with flour.
I use UK large eggs. However, be aware that eggs are sized differently depending on where you are in the world. If you are unsure about the size of your eggs, I have a handy printable International Egg Size and Weight Comparison Chart that may help. However, for consistency, I have also given the total weight of the yolks and whites for the recipe on the recipe card.
The main batter for ladyfingers has sugar that is whipped into the yolks to make them thick and also into the whites to create a meringue. I used UK caster sugar, as it dissolves more effectively and evenly into both elements. However… if you only have granulated sugar, this will suffice.
Be aware that in the United States, granulated (regular) sugar tends to be finer in texture, so is naturally closer to UK caster sugar. Given this, it is good for making gluten free Savoiardi.
White gluten free flour blend for making Ladyfingers
When I researched Italian recipes for Ladyfingers, I was curious to find that many traditional recipes use potato or corn starch in addition to wheat flour. This apparently helps to create biscuit batter that is smoother and silkier.
For Gluten Free Savoiardi, that means we are already one step ahead… because gluten free flour blends already contain starches as part of the mix.
I used Gluten Free Alchemist White Flour Blend A (which can be found at the bottom of my Gluten Free Flours and Flour Blending page). Other blends (such as Doves Freee white gluten free flour) will also work provided they are balanced and contain a portion (I suggest 50%+) of starch flour (such as tapioca/potato/corn). The recipe nonetheless needs to be made with a flour BLEND and will not work using just a single-origin flour.
Although gluten free Savoiardi can be made without xanthan gum, I chose to add a very small amount (just ¼ teaspoon) for additional structure. Again, my research into Italian Ladyfingers suggested that adding xanthan gum is more important when using the cookies for making Tiramisu. And while It wasn’t exactly clear why, I can only assume that it supports the ultimate ‘holding together’ of the dessert when cut.
If you can’t tolerate xanthan gum, it should be fine to leave it out.
Baking Powder for Gluten Free Savoiardi
Traditional wheat-based Ladyfingers do not contain any leavening agent. However, gluten free Savoiardi benefit from a touch of baking powder (just a touch!) to give them the lightest, airiest texture. Just make sure that the baking powder used is gluten free as some brands contain wheat flour.
Icing sugar (powdered sugar)
The traditional crisp top of my gluten free Savoiardi biscuits is created from a dusting of icing sugar mixed with caster sugar. This is sifted generously onto the piped batter cookies before they go into the oven. As well as giving the Ladyfingers the characteristic, crunchy sweet top, the sugar also forms a barrier during baking, that protects the batter from burning or drying before it has puffed up. It thus supports the final texture.
Optional extra for gluten free Savoiardi
While many Savoiardi recipes are completely unflavoured, others add a touch of lemon zest or vanilla. I absolutely adore vanilla. It is one luxury that I allow myself to use in everything sweet. So of course… My gluten free Ladyfingers have a little vanilla in the mix.
For the best intensity without ‘watering down’ the batter, use Vanilla Bean Paste (or powder).
Tips for making the BEST Gluten Free Savoiardi Biscuits
Making gluten free Savoiardi biscuits is actually pretty easy… providing you follow a few basic ‘rules’… This is what you need to know:
Prepare the mixing bowls…
You’ll need TWO mixing bowls to make gluten free Savoiardi… One for whisking the egg yolks and one for whisking the egg whites.
It is ESSENTIAL that you prepare the bowl for whisking the egg whites with care… It needs to be SPOTLESSLY clean and free from any residue or smears of oiliness if the whites are to whisk into stiff peaks. To be absolutely certain, I recommend that you ALWAYS wipe the inside of the bowl with a little lemon juice (and a drop of hot water) using a CLEAN sheet of kitchen paper…
Prepare the whisk heads
For the same reason… Before whisking the egg whites, thoroughly wash the whisk heads and dip them in a solution of boiling water with a little lemon juice. Allow them to air dry and insert them into the mixer with freshly washed hands.
Prepare the baking sheets and piping bag before you start
This sounds rudimentary… But pre-lining the baking sheets with baking paper and preparing the piping bag and nozzle is the sort of thing I always neglect and then I’m sent into a flurry trying to get it done after the batter is made. Once the batter for gluten free ladyfingers has been made, it doesn’t want to be sitting around while you get things sorted.
You’ll need two large baking sheets for the amount of mixture and a plain round piping nozzle that is about 1½ cm (½ inch) in diameter.
Prepare the oven
Make sure you can fit both trays in the oven to bake at the same time. Arrange the racks so they can be placed towards the middle of the oven.
Pre-heat the oven
Turn the oven on ahead of time to ensure that it has come fully to the correct baking temperature. Once the Ladyfingers have been piped, they need to be baked quickly. If they sit around, they will spread and won’t rise properly.
Use eggs at room temperature
Eggs whisk best when they are not cold. So always use eggs that have come to room temperature (not straight from the fridge). The better they whisk… the more volume they will have… the sturdier and more stable the batter for the Ladyfingers will be!
Separate the eggs carefully when making gluten free Savoiardi
When making gluten free Savoiardi, it is crucial that the yolks and whites are completely separate and that NO yolk gets into the white at all. The tiniest spot of yolk and the whites will not whisk properly.
When separating the eggs, crack them one at a time over a separate clean bowl or mug in case a yolk breaks… Then transfer to the mixing bowls when you know each white is ‘clean’. If one of the yolks breaks… use that egg for something else and grab a fresh one (and a clean mug).
Whisk the egg yolks first…
It is always best to whisk the egg yolks first because they are more stable once prepared. After whisking the yolks, wash and prepare the whisk heads carefully (as discussed above) before whisking the egg whites.
Whisk the egg yolks and the egg whites well…
Ladyfingers (whether gluten free or not) need both the egg yolks and whites to be whisked thoroughly… By that, I mean that the yolks should be whisked until very thick, pale and increased in volume… And the whites should be whisked until they are thick and glossy (stiff peaks)… Stop at this point… Over-whipped whites can become dry and have a dull appearance.
Use a robust and trustworthy whisk as it needs to work quite hard. I love my KitchenAid Hand Whisk. It’s honestly the best hand whisk I’ve ever owned (and I’ve been through a few!).
If your gluten free Savoiardi biscuits come out of the oven flat, the most likely reason is the egg whites weren’t fully whisked or that the final batter was over-mixed.
Sift the flour into the gluten free Savoiardi batter a little at a time
For the lightest, smoothest and most evenly blended gluten free Savoiardi batter, pre-mix the flour with the xanthan gum and baking powder and sift it into the mixing bowl. Add it to the bowl about a third at a time and fold through at each stage. This step-by-step process ensures the flour can be evenly mixed without losing too much air from the batter.
Although the batter will appear dry and resistant at the start, it will come together… I promise! Do not feel tempted to ‘stir’. Fold in wide, high circles throughout. My best tool for this is a Zing flexible spoon-spatula (the best kitchen ‘gadget’ I own).
Pipe the Savoiardi as soon as the batter is ready
For best rise and airiness, pipe the gluten free Savoiardi batter as soon as it is mixed. Pipe in straight lines about 10 cm (4 inches) in length and leave a gap of 2 to 3 cm between each to allow for a small amount of spreading.
The size of the piping nozzle will determine the width of the Savoiardi. For biscuits that are ‘standard’ size, use a plain round piping nozzle that is about 1½ cm (½ inch) in diameter (eg. an Atco 808 nozzle).
I also recommend using a piping bag with a good grip for the steadiest hand. The Lakeland ‘Get a Grip’ piping bags are perfect because there is no slippiness.
Generously dust your Gluten Free Savoiardi with sugar before baking
For the iconic crisp sugar top, give the piped batter a generous dusting of sugar (caster sugar mixed with powdered sugar) before baking. This will protect the gluten free Savoiardi from burning/drying too quickly… And will help them to puff up by allowing the inside to rise before it ‘sets’.
I found it easier to direct the sugar when sifting with a smaller tea strainer (rather than a large sieve).
For crisp gluten free Savoiardi, turn the oven down part-way through
The bake times are given in two parts… First, bake at 180 C (350 F). This is to cook the inside and ‘set’ the outside. Then turn the oven down to 150 C (300 F) for a little longer. This is to dry out the Savoiardi so they are nice and crisp (perfect for gluten free Tiramisu).
At the point the oven is turned down, take the opportunity to swap round the trays for an even bake… And allow a little heat out of the oven to bring the temperature down more quickly.
For Ladyfingers with a softer middle, remove them from the oven 5 to 8 minutes earlier.
How to store Gluten Free Savoiardi
Once made, gluten free Savoiardi can be stored in an airtight container. If the Savoiardi have been baked dry and crisp, they will last at least 2 to 3 weeks. Softer cookies will last 1 to 2 weeks.
Alternatively… Freeze your Ladyfingers (in airtight containers/well-wrapped) for up to 2 months.
Are these Gluten Free Savoiardi safe for Coeliacs (Celiacs)?
Yes. My gluten free Savoiardi are completely safe for people with Celiac Disease (Celiac) providing they are made with ingredients that are confirmed to be gluten free. Double-check the packaging of the flour, baking powder etc to be sure there is no risk from cross-contamination or hidden gluten.
For more information about label checking, head over to my page ‘Coeliac Disease + Food’.
Are these Ladyfingers dairy free as well as gluten free?
Yes. There are no dairy ingredients used to make gluten free Savoiardi. So they are completely dairy free.
What can I make with gluten free Savoiardi biscuits?
Ladyfingers are super-versatile. Here are some great ideas for using them…
- Tiramisu (obviously!) – they are better if they are a little crunchier for this one to soak up all the delicious (boozy) coffee. The recipe makes about 30 gluten free Savoiardi which is enough for a good-sized dessert.
- Any other trifle – Use slightly less baked, softer Savoiardi for a spongier texture.
- Make Charlotte Russe (a mousse dessert that is bordered by Savoiardi biscuits).
- Chocolate Charlotte (a chocolate version of Charlotte Russe).
- To make ice cream cake… Okay, it’s a little random. But when I was a kid, my favourite Christmas dessert was a block of Neapolitan ice cream which was bordered by Ladyfingers and then covered in soft meringue, before being browned with a blow torch! A sort of quick and lazy Baked Alaska!
- Or just pop on the side of a large scoop of Lemon Meringue Ice Cream (or any other ice cream!).
- Served with Zabaglione (egg nog).
- Dunked in coffee, hot chocolate or hot milk.
- Served with a sweet dessert wine as an aperitif or as part of a meal.
Ready to make gluten free Savoiardi Biscuits
That’s all you need to know (*I think). Hopefully, you’re now ready to make gluten free Savoiardi biscuits. If there’s anything I’ve missed or other questions, feel free to contact me. You can do this by leaving a comment at the bottom of the post… By email.. Or by messaging me on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter).
And don’t forget… We have a massive FREE Gluten Free Recipe Index just waiting to inspire you in the kitchen. If there’s anything you can’t find (or something you want me to try and create), let me know. I’m always seeking new ideas.
With my love
Other great sponges for gluten free trifles…
Gluten Free Savoiardi Biscuits (aka Lady Fingers or Sponge Fingers)
- small sieve
Flour (dry) Mix
- 150 g white gluten free flour blend (must include reasonable portion of corn starch and/or potato starch) – I use GFA blend A – See NOTES
- ¼ tsp xanthan gum (leave out if the flour blend already contains xanthan gum)
- ¾ tsp baking powder (gluten free)
Egg Yolk Mix (note from 3 large eggs – separated)
- 3 large egg yolks approx 52 to 55g weight – At room temperature – UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- 55 g white caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or powder (optional)
Egg White Mix
- 3 large egg whites approx 120g weight – At room temperature – UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- 60 g white caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 40 g icing sugar (powdered/confectioners sugar)
- 80 g white caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- Weigh and mix together the flour with the xanthan gum and baking powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
- Get ready a piping bag fitted with a 1½ cm (½ inch) piping nozzle. (If you have one, place a clip at the end above the piping nozzle)
- Mix together the two sugars for the 'Dusting Mix' in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a jug, mix a solution of very hot water with a a little lemon juice.
- Using a clean piece of kitchen towel, wipe the inside of a medium-sized mixing bowl with a little of the lemon water to remove any residual oil. Set the rest of the water jug aside (you will need it again).
Making the Savoiardi batter
- Very carefully separate the eggs into yolks and whites, placing the whites into the lemon-cleaned bowl and the yolks into a separate large mixing bowl.
- Beat the yolks with the caster sugar (portion as stated under 'yolk mix') and the vanilla, using an electric whisk until pale and thick (approx 5 minutes).
- Thoroughly wash the whisk heads with hot water and soap and then place them into the jug of hot lemon water to remove any residual greasiness. Shake off the water to air-dry (do not wipe with a drying cloth).
- Whisk the egg whites with the caster sugar (portion as stated under 'egg white mix') until they form stiff glossy peaks and the bowl can be inverted without the meringue moving.
- Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the whisked egg whites into the bowl with the yolks and fold through to loosen the yolk mix.
- Add the rest of the whisked whites and very gently fold through from the bottom of the bowl to the top in a turning motion, maintaining as much air as possible in the mix. Stop folding when the mixture is almost incorporated.
- Sift about a third of the flour mix into the bowl and fold through until incorporated (maintaining as much air as possible).
- Sift half the remaining flour mix into the bowl, folding through, followed by the other half.
- Fold the mixture until it is evenly blended with no remaining pockets of flour, continuing to be careful to maintain as much air as possible.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4
Piping the batter
- Fill the piping bag with the batter and remove the clip (if used). Pipe lines approximately 10 cm (4 inches) long onto the baking paper-lined trays, leaving a gap of 2½ to 3 cm between them.
- Using a tea strainer or small sieve, generously dust the top of the batter cookies with the sugar dusting mix.
- Place in the oven and bake at 180 C (350 F) for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, swap the trays around and turn the oven down to 150 C/ 300 F (Gas 2). Continue to bake for a further 12 to 15 minutes. (or for a softer middle, reduce the time by 5 to 8 minutes).
- Remove from the oven and leave on the trays to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container for 1 to 2 weeks.
© 2019-2024 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist