cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Madeleines D'Automne

Cinnamon Madeleines de Commercy

The toaster oven has been tamed, I am now the master. So I say unto it: spit forth the pretty little cake iconic of France, the simple yet sophisticated treat known as the madeleine. If you, the reader, have been following my charades in the foyer kitchen stocked with non-savvy and archaic appliances, then you understand my tart gayness at finally--and successfully-- manning the oven. Toaster. Not, an oven. Madeleines for an October in Paris, and to honor les ├ęspices de la saison--cinnamon, as I am lacking in cloves and cardamom. After losing myself in an early morning run from Luxembourg to Montparnase, to the Tour Eiffel, and then home, I was inspired by the mini-city tour to re-attempt the classic French cake--and it was not at all a coincidence that I needed a birthday cake for a darling upstairs.

The madeleine is a traditional cake originating from the small village Commercy, in northeastern France. There are varying versions of the tale outlining their creation, but most agree they are named for Madeleine Paulmier, an 18th century chef for the father-in-law of Louis XV. Paulmiers use of shells as cake molds is the defining characteristic that denotes a madeleine from any other butter cake, for a madeleine is not a madeleine unless in the shape of a shell of St Jacques. A sponge or pound cake is all the cake is. No more no less. Though, there are myriad ways to dress it, spices, perfumes, chocolate, seeds, nuts, what one does with a sponge one can do to the little madeleine.

The plan this time, varied slightly from the last. This time, measurement would be taken more seriously, and the oven watched on par to a vulture eying an interstate. The measurements: a jam jar. The jar read 370g--my measuring cup. The oven this time, not foolish enough to attempt 220 degrees, was set at a low 200. Success. The resident black lab of the foyer, Reglieuse, wholeheartedly beamed in approval of the sweet cinnamony perfume that filled the halls, indicating through the sharpest of the senses the presence of autumn and the impending holiday season.

Cinnamon Madeleines:
  • 3 eggs
  • 140g sugar
  • 150g flour
  • 1 packet baking soda
  • 125g softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • extra sugar for dusting
Whisk together the sugar and eggs until frothy, add flour, soda, cinnamon. Mix. Add softened (not melted) butter. Butter or spray madeleine pans, fill shells 3/4 full. Baking times will vary as I used a toaster oven. Just watch them closely. Once removed from pans, pat shell side in course sugar.

The madeleines were fitting for a birthday in France, though a bittersweet celebration away from friends and family. If a recipe or an attempt is a failure, do not let it win. Attack it, prove to it you are the chef, not the cook, the chef. And while pitted against an oven, a sack of white powder, or a lump of lard, it is you who has the upper hand. Hopefully. Failure is rewarding, for success proves your ability to manipulate food, to bend it, and to make it your own.

A bient├┤t

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