Friday, April 26, 2013

Classic French: Madeleines

 

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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.) 

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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.

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First Catch Your Snail—best recipe title ever!

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Truffles

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La Truffade—Potato Cake with Cheese and Bacon, what is not to like?

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“No two French markets are alike.”

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Viennoiseries

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Fruits Glac├ęs

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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.”

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Click here for the delicious recipe for Honey Madeleines from The Country Cooking of France.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Forever Nigella: Colourful

 

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Admission: I have only ever had pasta sauce in the colours of red, white, or yellow.  Is that sad?  I don’t know.  Well, today that changed.  The ushering in of Spring and its parade of colours has inspired me to name this month’s Forever Nigella #25, (which I am hosting), “Colourful”.  Thumbing through Nigella’s recipes I came across a beautiful pasta dish with green sauce!  My attention had been captured.  It was lovely, colourful, fresh, and inviting.  And it’s a relatively easy and quick recipe too! 

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Pasta Alla Genovese

Click here for the recipe.

So what gives this its gorgeous green hue?  Basil!  And it smells divine.  This was a beautiful switch from my normal sauce.  The basil and parmesan give the sauce a classic Italian taste, while the potatoes and beans add texture to the dish. 

Next time I make this, (and there will be a next time), I may put the beans in at the same time as the potatoes.  Although I found the beans just perfect, my family prefers longer cooked beans.  I’m ok with that.  I may also not allow the potatoes to cook as long as I did this time.  Perhaps it was my choice of potato, (Idaho), or the size of the chunks, but they cooked quite quickly and started to turn to mush.  It was still delicious, but I may have lost some of the potato when I drained the pot, I should have trusted my instincts on this one. I also would add a pinch of salt to the pesto next time, just to boost the flavor a little. One more thing:  the recipe calls for both olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.  I thought I had both, but only had the extra virgin olive oil.  So that’s what I used.  Brian said it was ok as long as I didn’t use olive oil with a questionable reputation. Sound advice.

Note for American readers: Silly me. Of course I would choose a theme word with a different American English spelling. Don’t freak out! I decided to spell it the British English way in this post, (since Nigella would spell it that way, of course.) If you don’t like it, just blame Noah Webster for making things terribly confusing for us all. Also, the recipe calls for “fine beans”. The all knowing internet told me that’s just green beans. Skinny ones perhaps work the best for this recipe, but use whatever fresh you can find.

A big thank you to Sarah at Maison Cupcake for organising the Forever Nigella blogging event, and allowing me the opportunity to host this month.  We would love for you to join us this month by whipping up something colourful from Nigella Lawson’s recipes and then blogging about it, (see rules below).  Please link up to your post using Linky Tools below.  All entries will be eligible for a drawing to win one of these colourful beauties:

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The winner will choose the colour of choice.  The second scoop goes to the winner of the raffle below.  International entries are allowed.

Link your Forever Nigella blog post here: 

Enter here for the Ice Cream Scoop Giveaway:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here for the round-up and winners!

Forever Nigella Participation Rules

How it works:

Events run 1st to 30th unless otherwise stated.

Events are to be announced on host’s blog on the 1st with round ups on 1st of the next month signposting the next host and theme.

Blog checking lines:
Forever Nigella #[number] is being hosted by [name] of [blog]. This month’s challenge is to prepare and blog any Nigella Lawson recipe [describe theme]. Forever Nigella is organised by Sarah at
Maison Cupcake.

1. Blog by the deadline showing:
a) current Forever Nigella badge
b) link to the current host’s announcement post
c) link to Forever Nigella page:
http://maisoncupcake.com/forever-nigella-faq

Entries should have been published during that month.

2. Remember copyright.
Please do NOT reproduce Nigella’s recipes verbatim. Say which book it was and/or link to it online (see likely places below). If you’ve adapted the recipe i.e. changed at least two ingredients or amended the method then it’s ok to publish the a recipe in your post but you MUST write directions in your own words.

3. Submit your post via the linky tool – if there is no linky being used email the host cc’ed to sarah AT maisoncupcake DOT com. Tweet posts using #forevernigella and @maisoncupcake and Sarah will try to RT all those she sees.

The Forever Nigella page has a list of Nigella resources, future hosts and links to past themes and round ups.

Nigella Resources

No Nigella books yet? Search these resources online: