Mad for Madeleine? More than a name, madeleines are synonymous with ‘la nostalgie.’ Remembrance of past moments, this distinctive French cake brings back a flood of memories for me, and perhaps others. Courtesy of Marcel Proust’s work, Swann’s Way, my first introduction to this light buttery treat is found in the timeless pages of the aforementioned classic. Clearly reminiscing of days spent reading French literature ─ food scenes, in particular ─ breaking into some “petites madeleines” of my own seems pretty ideal, right about now. Only dilemma is: there are no small cakes or a local pâtisserie in sight. Fortunately, there is a ‘way’ to go from here and that’s to the kitchen ─ where the creation of nouveau memories commence.
Reliving a wrinkle in time ─ à la baking ─ I gather the necessities for the remaking of this molded plump sweet. First thing’s first, you need the right pan ─ molded madeleine cake tin ─ and the right ingredients. Similar to butter or yellow cake recipes, you’ll need all the basics: flour, sugar, eggs, butter, baking powder, salt, honey, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Following Martha Stewart’s instructions specified for ‘madeleines,’ I prepare two separate zesty batches: one to include grated lemon rind ─ like Martha’s original ─ and a second batter that solely consists of orange citrus.
While I found this madeleine recipe easy to prepare, the process involved is quite time-consuming. In brief, you must chill the batter for an hour prior to pouring it into the hollows of the buttered and floured cake pan. And, from here, you must set the cake batter-filled pan in the fridge ─ that’s right, there’s a second chilling time ─ and, not straight into a preheated oven just yet. There are plenty of recipes available, so you can definitely stick with your preferred “go-to” recipe.
On the plus side, I did like the simplicity of the ingredients required, and did not mind the multi-step procedure involved with the making of Martha’s recipe. The beauty of this recipe also lies in the delicate yet sponge-like texture of these cakes. Undeniably fine in quality, I brush the ridged surface of the finished and cooled lemon madeleines with lemon glaze for some added zing. For an alternate citrus twist, I primarily adhere to the original recipe but replace lemon zest with grated orange peel. Once baked and inverted onto a cooling rack, I lightly dab the little cakes with edible perfume ─ a.k.a. fragrant orange blossom water ─ and, as a last touch, give these perfectly individual tea time indulgences a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. ‘Et voilà,’ resurrecting the senses is as achievable as getting lost in time via the delighting of one’s very own afternoon snack.
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