Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bonjour, Madeleines! ...

When I was in elementary school, the mother of one of my classmates came to the school one day a week and a few students, including me, met with her in the "media center" for French lessons.

I'm not sure why the mom did it and I'm not sure why I was one of the attendees (perhaps only a handful of us showed any interest), but it was kind of her to do and I learned a wee bit of French.

So, of course, many years later, in high school and college, I studied ... German.

Yeah, don't ask. Because other than knowing that the German teacher, Frau Hodson, was a nice woman (because one of my brothers had taken her class when he was in high school, too), I had no interest in German. Well, no, that's a lie. To this day, I'm a pretty big fan of Haribo gummi bears.

My point is, instead of studying a romance language (I would have taken Italian if my school had offered it), instead of studying a language that contains words like "croissant" and "amour" and "café" (I chose those randomly, but they relate nicely), I instead chose a language whose principal property is that every utterance sounds like someone clearing their throat.

So, here I am, later in life, and my German has all but evaporated out of my mind. (Curiously, whenever I try to recall any of my German, the first word that always pops up is the word for "peas.")

If I were to find myself in France and someone was taking attendance, I could respond in two ways, thankyouverymuch, and I could tell them my name and I could ask them if they speak English, while really hoping that they speak English. But if I were to walk into a patisserie or boulangerie, I would be just fine. Forget love; the international language comprises all the words for all the baked goods in France.

The other day, I got to thinking about madeleines, specifically that I hadn't made madeleines in a very long time, and I don't know why, because they are ridiculously simple and contain nothing but staples, unless you don't usually have a lemon on hand. In which case, start keeping a lemon on hand.

And invest in a madeleine pan – metal, please, not that silicone business – and whip these up some afternoon when you're in the mood for something a little sweet to go with a warm beverage. Cafe au lait, perhaps. Or, if you must, tea.

I made a recipe from Bon Appétit via Epicurious, but most basic madeleine recipes are basically the same.

(Published by Bon Appétit, January 2000)

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

Powdered sugar

Beth Note: I used a little more than a teaspoon of lemon zest, because that's how much I ended up zesting and because I like lemon. I'd recommend using at least that much. A half-teaspoon wouldn't offer enough lemony oomph, in my opinion.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter and flour pan for large madeleines (about 3 x 1 1/4 inches). Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla, lemon peel and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

Dust cookies with powdered sugar.

Further Beth Note: This recipe makes about 20 madeleines. Do your best not to consume them all in one sitting. It's difficult. They're tres, tres bon.


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