Well, I finally went and did it. I made madeleines. Two different batches, in fact: plain and earl grey. All before noon. Yep, that’s right. Before noon.
I love madeleines. Quite possibly as much as I love palmiers. Alas, making your own puff pastry is nearly impossible unless you have a commercial kitchen and lots of experience, but they are absolutely delish. I will have to see if I can find some decent puff pastry so I can make some. But madeleines, there is just something so simple and delicious about them. I first had them in France. I was staying with my host family in Perpignan, and though they were packaged madeleines (as opposed to fresh-baked), they were lovely with plain yoghurt mixed with white sugar (so sweet, so tangy!). What terribly unhealthy, but absolutely delicious way to begin the day!
I may have first had them in France, but I fell in love with them while working at a European patisserie/cafe. Not in the kitchen, alas. But I digress, here’s why I was up so early to make madeleines:
The boy and I went to a friend’s graduation party last night and I picked him and some coworkers up at work. Since we got back so late, we left his Jeep at work, and thus I had to crawl out of bed early, throw on some clothes, and drive him to work this morning. On the way home I stopped and picked up some eggs (which was prohibiting me from baking yesterday, along with the oppressive heat – it’s much cooler today). When I got back to the apartment, I pulled out my “Easy Madeleine” recipe, fired up the oven, and started mixing. I even got to use my new pastry brush to coat the pan with melted butter!
The first batch turned out well, with lots and LOTS of whisking (the dough gets quite thick), though I accidentally overfilled the first dozen (they are kind of giant) and thus didn’t fill up the second pan. I ate about three, and they were okay, but I felt they needed to be eaten with something, like the buckwheat honey I bought this morning, or cherry jam, or the rhubarb sauce I’m planning on making later today. The second batch, the earl grey madeleines, were much better plain, and would be even better dipped in a steaming cup of earl grey, but it’s too hot for tea.
For some strange reason, the madeleines stuck a little with the second batch. Not badly, they just left crumbs, whereas the first batch slid right out. Even though I washed, dried, and re-buttered the pan between batches.
Also, these madeleines are relatively unlike the first I was introduced to, which were more like sponge cake than pound cake. These ones are like pound cake with a slightly glossy, almost crisp crust on the outside.
There are millions of recipes out there, and many of them call for cake flour, which I’d like to try at some point. But until then, it’s all-purpose all the way!
Here’s the recipe, stolen from Easy-French-Food.com and modified slightly:
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 Tablespoons butter, melted & cooled
1 earl grey tea bag (optional)
Beat eggs with sugar, vanilla, and half of the milk (1/6 cup) until thick and light yellow. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda (and rip open tea bag and include contents, if desired), then add bit by bit (I do about 2 heaping tablespoons at a time, but I don’t really measure) and continue mixing until smooth. The batter will get very thick. Do not worry or add any additional liquid. That comes later. But seriously, this will get thick enough to mimic wet bread dough. Stir in the rest of the milk and all of the melted butter. This can get messy, fold in gently first before stirring more vigorously.
Grease madeleine pan (I used a pastry brush and a little of the melted butter). Spoon approximately 2 Tablespoons (or one heaping kitchen tablespoon) of batter into each mold. The batter should come up just under the edge of the mold. Like muffins, the little cakes will rise! Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees F. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 24 madeleines.
Here’s the finished result (the earl grey ones, that’s why they’re spotted)!
Aren’t they pretty? Here’s another angle.
Unlike many bakers with blogs seem to be, I am not a professional photographer, nor is it even a hobby. But sometimes, I just have to get arty.
This shot is just so you can better see the backs of the madeleines, which look like seashells or scallops.
Okay, enough pictures. If I happened to have space in my teensy little apartment kitchen, I would have busted out my blue transferware teacups, put up a pot of earl grey, pretty glass bowls of honey and jam, and taken an even more arty picture. Alas, my teacups are still packed away, it’s too hot for tea (even though it has cooled off considerably), and I’m just not that ambitious. Although, I am ambitious enough to make 48 madeleines before noon, apparently.
And now here’s my list of favorite desserts:
1. Earl grey madeleines
3. Lemon pound/bundt cake with lemon glaze
4. Gingerbread cake squares with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top
5. Any kind of clafoutis
6. Rhubarb sauce on really good sweet cream and/or vanilla ice cream
7. Grandma’s pecan pie
8. Really creamy, fattening milk chocolate
9. Plain cocoa cake
10. Almond cake (the Scandinavian kind, baked in the special ribbed tin)
Okay, ten ought to be enough, right? You’ll notice that chocolate only features twice, peanut butter not at all, and there’s not really any kind of frosting on anything. I love cake. I adore moist, dense cake. Doesn’t even need frosting. Also, I don’t like things too sweet, with the possible exception of pecan pie.
It was working at that European patisserie for a year that did it. I learned to hate over-sweet peanut buttery, chocolatey, coffee-drenched desserts they sometimes featured to please the less discerning palate. Ironically, all the bakers/pastry chefs and pretty much everyone else who had ever worked there for any length of time preferred the types of desserts I did (albeit with not quite so much emphasis on cake) and had a very toned down sweet tooth. The patisserie taught me to appreciate fat (butter, predominantly) over sugar, which is kind of good and kind of bad. I don’t care. Fruit, spices, cream, butter, nuts, and a light hand with the chocolate and frosting are all I desire.
And now, since it’s cool and overcast and I’m tired and not feeling terribly well (not from too many madeleines, I swear), I’m off to take a nap. Hopefully when I wake up I’ll feel ambitious enough to tackle potato salad, rhubarb sauce, and tuna salad (for lunch for the boy tomorrow).