Bonjour à tous!
It’s that time of year again – it’s Autumn in Melbourne, which means it’s time to curl up inside with some good books, a cosy fire et bièn sûr, some delicious treats.
These gorgeous little cakes carry fond memories for me. During my last stay in France I stayed with a family in a beautiful village outside of Grenoble, just at the foot of the French Alps. This is classic French countryside, with snow-capped mountains, ancient cathedrals and hidden chateaus.
To my delight, the family I stayed with carried my passion for food, and were excited to show my friend and I dishes from all over the country. One morning, I wandered down from the little attic to the delicious smell of the buttery little cakes. Mais non – my host was very apologetic, she had overcooked the madeleines!
The French love their madeleines. Shaped like a cute little shell, they are a sort of hybrid between a cake and a biscuit, crunchy on the outside, and soft and moist in the middle. They are also extremely versatile, and could be flavoured with any citrus fruits, berries or cherries.
The madeleine is said to originate from Commercy and Liverdun, communes not far from the city of Nancy in the Lorraine region. A rather famous cake, the madeleine was chosen to represent France in Café Europe, a cultural initiative of the Austrian President of the EU on Europe Day 2006.
The madeleine will go well with cup of tea, or if you’re like me, will provide the much needed inspiration to get you through that large pile of work that’s been piling up.
A word of warning first though, the madeleine is delicate, so to avoid the same mistake as my host (quelle catastrophe! But really, they were still delicious…) make sure you have a timer on hand when baking them.
The following is a basic recipe for lemon-scented madeleines from Rachel Khoo’s beautiful “Little Paris Kitchen”:
Makes about 15 madeleines
Baking time: Approx 40 mins prep + several hours to rest + 22 minutes to bake
-200g plain flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-Zest of 1 lemon
-200 grams melted butter, cool
-Icing sugar to serve
Beat eggs and sugar until pale and frothy. Mix flour and baking powder in separate bowl and add lemon zest. Mix honey, milk and butter then add to eggs. Very slowly add the flour. Cover mixture with cling-wrap and refrigerate for several hours to overnight.
Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius. Butter and flour a madeleine tin (the tin is important, you will see why when they are baked).
Spoon batter into each madeleine shell until almost full. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn oven off for 1 minute to allow madeleines to form their peaks. Turn oven to 160 degrees celsius and bake for further 5 minutes. When cool enough, transfer madeleines to wire rack and repeat baking process with remaining batter. Dust madeleines with icing sugar and serve immediately.