Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Few of My Favourite Things

I love Madelines. I don't make them often enough because G doesn't like them. In fact, many people don't because, well, essentially they are made to be stale-ish hot out of the oven. My theory why people don't like them is because when they first see the warm, dusty Venus shaped cookies they expect a soft, moist and fluffy cake like item. Instead what they get is a kind of cross between a sweet biscuit and a dryish, airy cookie. Essentially, they are pissed because although they got something toothsome, it isn't quite cake-some. And to a North American palate, seemingly stale-some.

And that is why I like them. They are not what they seem.

I suspect if you were from France, these little dainties are cake-some since the recipe is essentially a genoise; one of the mainstay cake recipes in a pastry chef's repertoire. When constructing a cake with genoise layers one usually drenches the cake layers with a sweet, boozy syrup. Perhaps that is why I like eating these cookies with a dessert wine.

When I am making Madelines, I get to use most of my favourite kitchen things. Pretty much everything you see in these photos are my tool kit of the kitchen. I don't really like to go anywhere without them. Except of course the butcher block, which I would love to take with me everywhere, but my back couldn't take it. The only thing I didn't include, although it is represented by my cup, is my coffee maker. I usually am not able to take it either – but I have a stand in plunge pot that is far more portable. Yet again, I digress.

Let me preface this recipe with a few notes. First, you have to have a madeline pan. There is something about the shape that makes one want to eat them. Even G eats them, all the while mentioning that he doesn't like them. I suspect the shell shape has some primal sexy thing going on that we can't resist. The recipe is based on the one found in Williams Sonoma Baking Book, (2009). I have made little changes, mostly for convenience and to accommodate my own little quirky habits.

For example, I used whole eggs instead of two eggs and two egg yolks because I have way too many bags of egg whites stacking up in my freezer. A friend of mine (Little Red Hen, organizational monarch of the kitchen!) taught me how to save egg whites in a space-economic way – put them in zip lock bags, label them, (this is key to their economic usefulness. I am always saving them without labelling them, telling myself I'll remember. Yea, right.), press out any excess air and freeze them on a cookie sheet or some such thing that is flat and level in the freezer (another challenge in this house). Then, once frozen you can save dozens of these sheets of egg whites in a very small amount of space. Until, of course, you have saved so many that they overtake the space. Hence...I am using whole eggs.


3 eggs
¾ cup white (death) sugar
½ lemon zest, minced
splash vanilla
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder – Ok, I'm going to fess up here, I use two pinches, or a shy half of a little silver spoon that I really like (thanks Silver Fox!), depending on my mood.
½ cup melted butter


Melt butter, melting a little extra so you can pour it off into another container and use it for the Madeline pan.

Butter and flour Madeline pan.

Break eggs into a mixer bowl, and beat with the sugar for three to five minutes (I generally wander off and do the rest of the prep while this is going on), until the egg sugar mixture has doubled in volume and looks thick and creamy.

If you don't have a mixer, rustle up some children to do beating duty. You will need quite a few...they tire or get bored with such a mundane job...that, or they eat too much of the eggy-sweetness and totally ruin your flour to egg mixture ratio. I highly recommend a mixer over children).

Add the lemon zest and vanilla to egg mixture, stir.

Add the flour, stir in using the whisk attachment until just mixed. Then stir in the melted butter using the whisk attachment until just mixed. If necessary, give a quick scrape with a rubber spatula to mix any residue from the sides.

Scoop a heaping tablespoon full of batter into each Madeline mould.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 375, or until just browned on the edges and spring back when lightly touched. The more you brown the Madelines, the more toothsome and less cake like they will be. I prefer them a little browned, like in the pictures. I tried some that were just cooked and pale...they were more cakey, but did not have the nut like flavour that comes from letting the Madelines brown a bit. Warning: they brown fast, so don't walk away near the end of baking time. Don't take phone calls, don't blog.

This is a photo of the second batch being measured out. I have included it because the batter changes dramatically from when you first scooped it out. Just didn't want you to startle; the butter has hardened up a bit now and the batter will feel more foam like (in a firmish kind of way). It is ok, the batter will smooth out when it hits the heat of the oven.

Remove from the pan while still warm, cool on rack.

Meanwhile, brush out the recently used pan with a dry cloth, then re-butter and flour. Repeat this procedure after each batch. Continue baking.

You can dust the Madelines with icing sugar just before serving – although I just eat them as is. Great with tea, also great with dessert wine. Nice foil to biscotti if you are serving them with wine after dinner. We don't do that much around here these days, but if I was, I would do both so that there was a nice combination of textures on the plate and in the mouth.

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