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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Madeleines

It is so nice to be home. Don't get me wrong, I love going back home to Washington to visit. I love seeing my family, I love seeing my mountains, and I normally love the weather. I have to say, though, yesterday, I was never so happy to sleep in an air conditioned house. Which was good because the summer in Florida ain't no slouch either.

One of the first things I had to do today, after going to the grocery store of course, was to find something to make that involved the oven. These little Madeleine cakes fit the bill. They're easy to make, absolutely divine, and they don't make so many that I'm in trouble if I eat them all by myself. (Which is a really good thing, since here we are 55 minutes after they came out of the oven and I have already eaten almost more than half of the little devils). They sure are good! You just can't turn up your nose at little sponge cakes!

Don't those look good!?! They are so light and spongy and the flavor so delicate. And, please, pretend that the photo hasn't been rotated to the vertical when it shouldn't be. If I messed with it any longer, there were going to be small parts of my laptop flying every where. Sometimes, you just have to concede that your computer can outwit you...

Anyway. So these little cakes are traditionally made in a special shell shape. My pan makes twelve cakes. The recipe I use fits one pan perfectly. If you have more than one pan, you could easily double or triple this recipe to make a large batch. My pan is non-stick, but don't let that fool you. I learned the hard way: with Madeleines, butter it anyway!

While there are all kinds of flavorings you can use for these little things, my favorite is lemon. It just takes a little bit of zest to give these cakes a delightful citrus zing.

Simply sift your cake flour, cornstarch, and salt together into a small bowl. Then stir in your lemon zest. Adding the zest to the flour mixture helps to more evenly distribute the zest. Don't forget to preheat your oven to 375 degrees F as you get started. You want to put the cakes into the oven as soon as they're mixed so that they don't deflate too much.

Beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until they become thick and pale and leave a ribbon across the surface when drizzled from the beater.

Fold in the flour mixture in a couple of batches. Then add the cooled, melted butter. Stir gently so that the eggs deflate as little as possible. Today, I almost forgot to add the butter. We were in middle of a crazy thunderstorm and in between periodic checks online with the National Weather Service, a call from my husband saying a tornado had been sighted in town, and a rush to get them in and out of the oven before a potential power failure, I darn near forgot! Fortunately, I remembered before I had filled up too much of the pan! Fill up the molds all the way. They will puff slightly on baking but will not overflow the molds.

They bake for only ten minutes. They should have a nice golden rim around the edges. This indicates that when you pull them out of the pan, the molded side (shell side) will be nice and golden too.

Let the cakes cool for just a few minutes before using the point of a sharp knife to lift them out of the molds to place on a cooling rack, flat sides down. Handheld perfection!


Madeleines
Yield: 12 standard size Madeleines
adapted from Patisserie of France by H. Walden, 1988

2 eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 TBS cake flour
2 TBS cornstarch
pinch of table salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest
4 TBS unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the Madeleine pan (even if it is non-stick) with butter. If you do not have a Madeleine pan, you can use a mini-cupcake pan.

Beat eggs and sugar together at medium-high speed until thick and pale, about 4-5 minutes. A ribbon should form on the surface when the beater is lifted. Sift together the cake flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add the lemon zest to the flour mixture and stir thoroughly. Fold the flour mixture into the eggs in two or three batches, being careful not to deflate the batter. Lastly, gently stir in the melted and cooled butter.

Spoon the batter into the Madeleine molds, filling them completely. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pan onto cooling rack.

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