French Fridays with Dorie
I wanted to write a poetic masterpiece describing all manner of involuntary memories my recent encounter these Honey Spiced Madeleines provoked of me. That sort of thing is my stock in trade at Sis. Boom [blog!] after all and I do hate to disappoint! This perfect, tiny, fall predicting jewel of a cake slash cookie was to mark my triumphant return to the French Friday’s with Dorie parade after an unfortunate, weeks long absence due to a combination of factors such as work travel and complete disinterest (cookies and chicken? Nah.).
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.
So what could be more fun than to take a bite of this tiny, elegant puff of perfection and make love to it with words?
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.
“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. ”
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.
Honey Spiced Madeleines
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.