Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Episode of the Madeleine

It's true. Memories register with different senses, and taste is a big one. In A La Rechereche Du Temps Perdu, Proust's protagonist, Marcel, eats one of these little cakes and can't help but be transported back to his childhood. He calls it "involuntary memory". I like that. I eat these cakes and am transported too; certainly not to Marcel's Combray, but instead to my Tehran of the 1990's where corner stores sold little cakes and individual bottles of chocolate milk. It amazes me to think that my brain has packed so much in with the simple taste of a sweetly dense sponge cake, but it has, and I can't help indulging in these lovely recreations.

Recipe: Lemon Glazed Madeleines

3 large eggs (room temperature)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup pastry or all purpose flour
1 tspn baking powder
zest of one whole small lemon
9 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for the molds

For Glaze (which is optional, but recommended)
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbspn freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tbspn water

First brush the insides of the madeleine molds with melted butter, dust with flour, shake excess and put in freezer. Do not take this step lightly, because these little things will stick.

Using an electric mixer or egg beater, whip the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt for 5 minutes or until thick and frothy. Sift the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Sift/sprinkle the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, gently folding them in with a spatula. Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter, then pour the butter into the batter, a little bit at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate everything. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Scoop a rounded tablespoon of batter into each mold, leaving the batter in a mound (it spreads itself out in the heat). Bake 10-12 minutes or until the cakes are puffy and golden brown. While the cakes are baking, mix the ingredients for the glaze and set aside. After removing from the oven, and as soon as the cakes are cool enough to handle, dip them into the glaze. They should be warm when you do this. Allow excess glaze to drip off and set them on the cooling rack and wait while they cool and the glaze sets.

Serve with coffee, tea, or milk, and see where they take you...