This time around I really wanted to turn in a good performance for my beloved Doristas. I really did.
There can be no doubt about it that the madeleine is one inspiring baked confection. One taste and any mere mortal will surely be locked under its spell for good. Subsequent encounters will flood your brain with the romantic memories and inspiring times created at your first meeting. Even if you have never met before it is likely a well orchestrated madeleine can fill you memories you didn't know you had. Yes, when madeleines are good, they are that good.
Then I bit into one and remembered MY college lit class and recalled the esteemed French noveliast Marcel Proust's already famous ode to the madeleine. C'est la vie. Proust's narrator in his "In Search of Lost Time" has a near orgasmic spiritual epiphany after consuming just one taste of the beloved madeleine:
"She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. "The narrator's memories are so fantastic and so well written that they will just have to be mine for the remainder of this post:
"... Suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom , my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks' windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness.Just as it is not recommended to settle for one madeleine, I hope you won't just settle for my excerpts here. Please click over here to read the full piece when you get a chance. Its delicious.
"And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. "
Dorie Greenspan's gutsy tampering with this French classic could inspire us all to take more chances in our lives. I never would have thought to take the madeleine's delicate springy balance of of eggs, butter and kiss of lemon and risk overpowering it with those overused barometers of fall: cinnamon, clove and ginger. (What's next? Cranberry apple madeleines?) Don't we get enough of this marauding spice trio in just about every other fall/holiday treat these days?
I would have really liked to nix the whole idea and cry foul at this whole fall indoctrination of this classed except for one tiny thing: it really works here. The spiced flavoring (with the citrus recast as orange) is restrained and takes full advantage of the format's overlooked most positive attribute: its small size. There just isn't enough of it to get sick of. Beyond the flavor, the texture is what a madeleine should be: soft with the tiniest bit of crunch on the outside and a springy texture brought on by the thorough whip of eggs and butter. And unlike the grossly expensive madeleines brought to you by chains such as Starbucks there are no preservatives here, just tasty, perishable perfection.
And they make a good peace offering to sisters too.
And they make a good peace offering to sisters too.
Honey Spiced Madeleines
By Dorie Greenspan
Makes 12 large or more than 36 mini madeleines
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (or a little less, if you prefer)
- Pinch of salt (I don't know what a 'pinch' is but I used a big one'
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper (same here)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pepper and keep at hand.
Working in a mixer bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment (you can make this batter easily with a handheld mixer or just a whisk, if you prefer), add the eggs to the bowl and beat until the mixture is light, fluffy and thickened, about 2 minutes; beat in the honey, then the vanilla. Switch to a rubber spatula and very gently fold in the dry ingredients followed by the melted butter. You may use the batter now, but it's better if you can give it a little rest. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and chill for 3 hours or, if you have the time, overnight. (For real convenience, you can spoon the batter into buttered-and-floured madeleine molds, cover, chill, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge. See below for instructions on prepping the pans.)
Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds (or 36 mini-molds), dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. If you have a nonstick madeleine mold, butter and flour it or give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. (If your pan is silicone, you can leave it as is.) Place the pan on a baking sheet.
Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one. Bake the large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes and the minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when prodded gently. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just-warm or room temperature.