I made these madeleines for reading group recently; they are easy peasy. You do need a madeleine mould, though. I got an uncoated one, because it delivers a tiny bit more capacity and sharper detail in the moulding shape.
Despite a huge number of cook books in the house, a few of them specifically French, I could not find a madeleine recipe – very disconcerting – so I trawled the net and put together this one after reading about a dozen. It worked well.
It is such a pleasure when the form of food is not only pretty but functional – like a spiral pasta shape that invites sauce to cling to it. In this case the scallop-shell madeleine shape delivers fine crispy edges and a plump, buttery centre. Delicious.
100g plain flour + extra for dusting (tin, not cakes)
three quarters of a teaspoon baking powder
100g castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon very finely chopped lemon or orange zest
125 grams unsalted butter, melted, cooled + extra for buttering tin
1 – 2 tablespoon icing sugar
Sift flour, baking powder with pinch salt.
Beat sugar and eggs till thick and fluffy.
Gently fold in the flour, vanilla and zest.
Gently fold in the melted, cooled butter.
Cover with gladwrap and chill mixture for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 200/C fan forced.
Butter well and lightly flour the madeleine tin.
Spoon mixture into mould (small tin: approx one heaped teaspoon per madeleine.)
Bake for 6 – 7 minutes, until golden, and springy to touch.
Tap tin firmly to loosen; tip onto cake rack.
Dust with sifted icing sugar and serve warm.
The chilling step is important: the mixture thickens and aerates during this time.
The occasion for making madeleines was a long-delayed discussion of our reading, and rereading, the first volume of Proust. It was so interesting to read a different translation this time around. Twenty odd years ago I read the C.K. Scott Moncrief translation revised by Terence Kilmartin (Remembrance of Things Past), this time the recent translation by Lydia Davis (The Way by Swann’s).
Here, from the first translation, a little of the famous ‘petites madeleines’ dipped in lime-blossom tea passage:
‘No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.’
And from Lydia Davis’s:
‘But at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with cake-crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening in me. A delicious pleasure had invaded me, isolated me, without my having any notion as to its cause.’
Such different interpretations – in the first passage, the isolation relates to the nature of the pleasure itself; in the second, the pleasure isolates the ‘I’ narrator. What a daunting number of choices must be made on every single page. I preferred the more recent translation, and its editor’s and Lydia Davis’s introductions provide a fascinating discussion of translation in general, and her approach to Proust’s language compared to that of Moncrieff in the earlier translation.