Monday, December 24, 2012
MADELEINES - FRENCH TEA CAKES
One of the many things I have longed to bake at some point in my life - Madeleines. You need not lift your nose in the air, nor raise your pinkie finger whilst pronouncing them, but a lovely French treat such as this one deserves at least a lift of the tongue in pronunciation.
Pastries, tea cakes, cookies, just a few examples of the names given to this light and dainty treasure. Said to have originated in Northeastern France, this shell-shaped sponge cake has traveled far to become a favorite in many countries.
Come along, and I will show you how easy it is to create dainty pastries in little time with little more than a few ingredients and a Madeleine pan.
Step 1 - A specialty pan is necessary...
Madeleine pans come in a variety of materials including, but not limited to silicone, tin, tinned steel, aluminum, etc. Prices may vary, but my mini pan was $18.00. Now, before you balk and scoff, consider the last time you ate dinner in a restaurant. All that was left that meal is, well, sailing to sea by now, shall we say. If you had invested in a pan, you would still have the pan, and you would be making Madeleines by now, yes? So let us go shopping!
The pans are available from a number of manufacturing companies as well as countries. Gobel, Freshware, Chicago Metallic, Norpro, Kaiser, Freshware, Fox Run, Fat Daddios, Fantes,Williams-Sonoma, Silikomart, SCI/Scandicrafts, Inc. Wilton, Frieling, R & M, Martha Stewart, Lekue,Paderno World Cuisine, Ebay, Zenker, Matfer Bourgeat, Eurodib, Amazon, Flexipan, HIC Brands That Cook Essentials, DeBuyer Elastomoule, and so forth. Who did I miss?
Feel free to scour second hand stores, but I have yet to see a single pan in all of my adventures over the years. Don't forget to support your small town vendors, too! Check your area for kitchen or specialty shops. A quick phone call may lead to a short jaunt that could end up a wonderful way to spend a day. My sweet husband purchased the pans for me during a getaway weekend to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Thank you, Carol, of Tummy Ticklers Kitchen Shop.
Cavity counts vary as well. I've seen many, including 6, 9, 12, 16, 18, 20, 44, even a 100 count pan! One pan is wonderful. Two is a dream. Three is, well, just fabulous. Don't fret if you only have one pan. No problem. Simply cover and refrigerate the rest of the batter.
Step 2 - Gather your ingredients...
Powdered (confectioner's) sugar
Baking powder (not baking soda)
A list of the tools used, though some are not absolutely required:
Zesting tool (a cheese grater will work just fine)
At least one Madeleine pan, more if you have them
A mixing bowl
Mixing spoon or whisk
Step 3 - One recipe - of many to choose from!
The interesting thing about a Madeleine recipe is that there are more variations of the recipe than ways to pronounce the name of the 'cookie', if you will.
A basic (yet hardly boring) recipe typically includes flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, lemon, eggs, vanilla and butter in varied amounts depending on the size of your intended finished Madeleines. This Instructable is for miniature Madeleines as follows, with a recipe further below for the standard size.
Thank you, Dorie Greenspan and Rica Allanic for the recipes, which came from the first book in the first stack pictured on this step. Behold the power of the public library, for it can bring many wonderful things your way! Yard sales and flea markets are also great places to pick up great cookbooks, too!
MINIATURE MADELEINES - Rica Allanic / Dorie Greenspan
* 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
* pinch of salt
* 2 large eggs at room temperature
* 6 Tablespoons of white sugar
* 1 teaspoon of baking powder (NOT baking soda)
* 1 Tablespoon of packed light brown sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* grated zest of 1/2 fresh lemon
* 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) of unsalted, melted, cooled butter
* 1 teaspoon of honey
* confectioner's sugar for dusting after baking
* 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
* 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
* pinch of salt
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 large eggs at room temperature
* 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 3/4 stick (6 Tablespoons) unsalted, melted, cooled butter
* confectioners sugar for dusting
The directions for Traditional Madeleines are a bit different, though the recipe is very similar.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Rub the sugar and lemon zest together in a large bowl of a mixer. Add eggs, beating 2-3 minutes until the batter is pale and thick. Beat in the vanilla, then using a spatula instead of the mixer, fold in the flour, baking powder and salt mixture. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the batter and refrigerate at least three hours. You may refrigerate this batter for up to 2 days, but I always say fresher is better, so try to use it at least by the next day. Bake large Madeleines at 400 degrees F for 11 to 13 minutes.
Step 4 - A bit of batter prep...
A few things to get ready for making the batter, steps you will save later.
Using a cheese grater or zesting tool, scrape the rind from about half a lemon.
Crack the two eggs into a small bowl. You should always crack your eggs into a separate container than your mix in order to inspect the eggs before you possibly ruin an entire batch of ingredients. A bad egg, a yucky yolk. A broken bit of shell? Ahem. Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter, allow to cool a bit, just so it is not hot. Measure and set aside your dry ingredients such as the flour, salt and baking powder.
Step 5 - Batter up!
Having played softball when I was younger, the phrase 'Batter up!" reminds me of another saying, often yelled at the person up to bat. "Hey, batter, batter, batter, swing!" at the moment the crowd thought you should. I hated it, and would often hesitate to swing for that very reason. So we won the sportsmanship trophy. Bah. Explain that to a group of kids.
But back to the Madeleines.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and the salt. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together the two eggs and both sugars until smooth. Whisk the dry ingredients into the egg and sugar mixture, then add the vanilla and lemon zest. Gently whisk in the butter, don't get carried away, you don't want to overbeat the batter. Now add in the honey. The batter will be thick, smooth and shiny. Refrigerate for at least half an hour, or see the next step for other options.
Step 6 - Chill the batter, clean the kitchen. Anxiously await morning...
One of the things I absolutely love about this recipe is that it is so easy. Because Madeleines are best consumed when fresh, you could simply make the batter, prep and fill the pans, cover with plastic wrap and toss into the refrigerator until the next morning. When that sudden 'company is coming' call comes in, preheat the oven, pop them in, and when company arrives, Voilà! Perfect with tea or coffee!
This gives you plenty of time to clean up any mess you might have made, clean the kitchen, and sit back knowing there is only easy left to do.
You can also simply cover the batter by laying a piece of plastic wrap over the batter, then refrigerate, but I didn't care for this method, as the batter naturally sticks to the plastic, and just seems a bit messy.
I prefer to load my cake decorator with the batter, (see step 8) then prop it in the refrigerator with the spout facing up so it doesn't leak. The next morning, squeeze batter the prepared pans and bake away.
Step 7 - Prep the pan(s)...
My greatest fear in making Madeleines was based on the number of times I'd read a recipe with someone mentioning the difficulty in removing the little boogers from the pan. The words 'pry, poke, push, pull and prod' did not seem to fit where a defenseless little cookie was concerned.
Ah, Ne vous inquiétez pas (do not worry), for I have perfected my own method, and can assure you, the cookies will fall out of the pan with ease.
Just before baking, use a lightweight plastic glove (rinse and recycle, please) to butter the pan. Dip your fingers into a small bowl with about a tablespoon of melted butter. Use your fingers and the plastic to move a small amount of butter around in each and every shell-shaped cavity. Yes, use plenty of butter, but do not leave a pool of it at the bottom section of the cavities.
While holding your well-buttered pan over a sink, or even better, outdoors - weather and nosy neighbor permitting, dust the pan with flour. This is easily accomplished by placing a small amount of flour in a squeeze-handled sifter, or if you have one with a crank handle, simply set the pan down on something clean so you will have both hands to sift with. Go ahead, sift away, thoroughly coating the pan. Once complete, hold the pan by the edges so as not smear butter all over your fingers, and dump out the excess. Tap the bottom of the pan if necessary to ensure there are no clumps of flour. And yes, I meant to type ensure and not insure. There is a difference.
Parfait! (perfect) Your pan is now ready for batter and baking. * NOTE * This is a very important note! While dusting the pans with flour is perfectly acceptable, my picky palate detected a blandness about this step. I highly encourage you to replace the flour with powdered sugar. The sugar blends with the butter in the mold crevices to give the Madeleines an ever-so-subtle crunch about them, but nothing one would call 'hard'. Delicious, delicious, delicious!
Step 8 - Fill the cavities...
For those who may happen to follow my blogs and Instructables, you know I'm big on pushing particular kitchen gadgets. No, I am not a paid spokesperson. ;-) Making yet another appearance is my handy-dandy pastry gun from step 9 of my Meatless Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms Instructable:
Please note, a spoon will suffice for filling the molds, I just like the ease of this gadget, which delivers a perfectly filled Madeleine cavity with a particular number of pumps on the pastry gun. You will have to experiment with your own gun, as I used five full pumps for each miniature cookie.
Don't get carried away, only about a teaspoon is necessary for the miniatures. If using large molds, fill almost to the top. * NOTE * Filling the large molds half full does not constitute a miniature Madeleine. Please use the appropriate amount of batter for your mold, no matter what size it is.
Step 9 - Bake for 8-10 minutes...
Step 10 - Release from the pan(s)...
You may often see a recipe that calls for 'rapping' the pan against the counter to remove the Madeleines. The first time I made them, I did precisely that, sending the little things sprawling everywhere, including the floor. If you have prepped your pans according to the directions in step 7, you should only need to do little more than gently tap the pan, if at all.
Silicone pans, while I have not yet used them, are said to provide better indentions and definition of the shell shapes due to the fact that butter and flouring are not required. Perhaps I'll give them a whirl, and if I do, I'll report back with an update. Please don't fret if your Madeleines do stick a bit. Once they are removed (try using a spoon if you must) don't worry about any blemishes. After all, you can always dust that side with the powdered sugar, and who is going to know. ;-)
Step 11 - Dust with powdered sugar (if desired)...
After the Madeleines have been removed from the oven and the pan, you may dust them with confectioner's sugar if so desired. Feel free to experiment with different methods. I like to put them back into the pan, then dust them. Try not to touch too much when placing them on your serving dish, so as not to mess up the pretty snowfall of sugar. The miniatures remind me of snow covered peach pits. Step 12 - Serve. Beam with pride. Blush with giddy glee!
Hubby was outside when these came out of the oven, which is a good thing, because I was dancing and singing and parading around the kitchen as though I'd just won the lottery. Little things in life make me so happy. Madeleines popping out of the pan in pristine condition, well, that is just such a moment. After playing around with different techniques and slight alterations to the recipe, I feel that I have found yet another treasure to share with family and friends, especially during the holidays. A quick note, though, Madeleines are not intended to be left over, or made in advance. They are a tiny cake best eaten soon after baking. If they are allowed to sit around, the texture is not as pleasing. Should a time lapse occur, one could always dip half of the cake into, say...chocolate! This would sidetrack the tongue, activate salivary glands, and before you know it, your brain doesn't even register that you might be eating (gasp!) leftover Madeleines.
Step 13 - Bon Appetit!
Not so long ago, after a busy day of shopping, my husband and I were heading home, when I happened to notice a restaurant named, of all things - La Madeleine. Oh my gosh, stop the car, go back, go back! Here I am completely enthralled with the idea of a Madeleine, and there, right before us, is a restaurant within reach. A quick call, and sure enough, the restaurant served the cookies! We arrived in time to purchase the last three lemon Madeleines. They were prettily packaged, and I skipped on my way out the door!
My lust for these little tea cakes has taken me to many a library, many magazines, many internet searches and even to the point of perusing restaurant menus.
I've found everything from Honey Madeleines to Orange, Fluff-Filled Chocolate, Earl Grey, Traditional, Lavender, Rosemary-Orange, Spiced, Lemon (Mini Madeleines Au Citron), Citrus, Lemon-Almond, Lime-Pecan, Orange-Chocolate, Orange Spice or Orange Walnut.
(Takes a deep breath and continues...)
Cherry (using maraschino cherry juice instead of orange liqueur when called for) or Berry (using raspberry flavored liqueur), Fresh Corn Madeleines, even Madeleines a la genoise - made from genoise cake batter!
While looking in the index of cookbooks, don't give up if you don't see Madeleines. Sometimes they are listed under tea, sometimes under cookies, even a quick glance under the heading of 'French' may yield results.