I sit here with a cup of tea and a freshly baked Madeleine. In Proust approved fashion, I dip my Madeleine into my tea. The spongy cake absorbs the tea in a flash. One bite. I’m hooked.
I am a daily tea drinker. But I would never have dunked a cake into my tea before now. The thought of crumbs in my cup really turned me off, but I need not fear with a proper Madeleine.
I’ve just recently stumbled upon the blog Blue Kitchen Bakes and blogger Jen’s monthly Classic French Challenge. Classic French is an opportunity and motivator to “explore and celebrate the joys of French patisserie.” April’s challenge is Madeleines. I, sadly, had never even tasted a Madeleine before this challenge. I’m confident I have not even been in the same room as a Madeleine. So this was a completely new experience for me. Step one was to order a Madeleine pan. I bought this one. Step two was to open up my gorgeous copy of Anne Willan’s Country Cooking of France. This book is exquisite. I brought this book home from the library and devoured it. I read it from cover to cover and was so sad when it was time to return it. So, when I received it at Christmas, I was thrilled. Anne’s book takes us across France and through its many pays, that is, specific regions in France and their produits du terrior, (products from a very specific area.)
Not only does Anne’s book give you authentic French recipes, but it also delights with beautiful photos, superb commentaries on regions and towns, descriptions of local foods, and what and who make French country cooking so enticing. It is a massive book, and I have not even begun to describe how wonderful it is. It will give you daydreams of France.
Here are a few photos I took of this book to tease you into wanting your own copy.
First Catch Your Snail—best recipe title ever!
La Truffade—Potato Cake with Cheese and Bacon, what is not to like?
“No two French markets are alike.”
So, what have I learned from my first encounter with Madeleines? First, I believe that the double buttering of the pan is not optional. I would not have trusted this pan, nonstick though it may be, to have parted with them as willingly if not for the double buttering of the pan. It’s kind of fun anyway. Second, refrigerating the dough is a must. Although I did not document it, my Madeleines had the coveted hump on the underside. So how do they taste? Honey sweet with just a hint of lemon. Buttery. Crispy and soft at the same time. Anne’s recipe makes 18, my pan is for 12. I filled them just a little too full, but not by much, I think they may have spent a minute or two too long in the oven as well. With time and practice, I will be turning out even lovelier Madeleines. Being my first experience, they did turn out nicely and I look forward to trying different recipes. But I think I will always come back to this one; my children loved these. Sophie said they were “too good.”