“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines …” I have always had a slight obsession with this little girl, from the time when I was a young girl.
She was a kind of “black sheep” among the other girls, brave and the most outgoing as we see in the first story when she shows off her appendix scar. It was such a magical idea to me, when I was read my first Madeleine story – to live in a faraway place like Paris, to have a teacher like Miss Clavel, to live with nuns (I told you I was the black sheep!), and to have a dog that would go to school with me and entertain my friends with juggling and math! That would be the life, especially for an eight year-old girl!
From that time on, Madeline was certainly a French icon for me. It’s possibly why I am completely obsessed with Madeleines! This is a perfect place to point out the grief caused by the difference in pronunciation between Madeline, the storybook character and Madeleine, the delicious baked treat on the schedule for French Fridays with Dorie this week! Madeline – the storybook character is pronounced “mad-eh-line” by Americans, the French spell and pronounce Madeleine more formally and accurately as “mad-eh-len;” this all inevitably wrecks havoc when it comes to correct spelling!
There were fireworks, obnoxious tiny shreds of confetti falling from the sky, people cheering and the theme song from Rocky playing while I ate my first Madeleine, which only prompted me to propose and begin my lifelong affair with these petite, fluted, perfectly golden and puffed cakes. It got so if I saw them in a store, I would buy at least a handful, if not more – and thank goodness Starbucks sells them in pairs!
Once I moved out into my own apartment and began buying things to make my little home “complete,” I would pass longingly past the long, Madeleine pans often picking one up and carrying it around, viciously debating with myself if “today was the day” to finally bring home the pan so I could aspire to make some perfect, fluted cakes in my own oven? But I always decided that it was an extraneous expense, one that could not outweigh the bank-breaking expensive textbooks I needed each quarter for my college classes (often amounting to $700 per quarter!), not to mention making them seemed quite difficult! It is one of those culinary items that spur much debate and conflict among pastry chefs, home bakers and many a Frenchman.
But I really wanted to own a pan, so that I could make them (or at least try my hand at them) on a lazy Sunday type day and the opportunity did not really show itself until last week. When this came around on the French Fridays with Dorie schedule, Mei and I made a special trip to the cooking shop in the next village to buy ourselves some Madeleine pans! I was just so thrilled that I bought two! My goal was to buy two mini pans and two regular sized pans, but they only had the regular sized pans in stock so that is what we brought home with us. They are a good quality pan, non-stick, heavy and beckoning for batter and warmth.
I was sure with Dorie’s guidance and careful instruction, we could make delicious Madeleines, mimicking the one I first fell in love with.
I was right!
To give you another little window into my obsession with these little puffy cakes, I must tell you I made two different batters. One “regular” or plain, however you like to think of them and the second one was the honey-spiced one from Dorie’s cookbook, Around My French Table. This did mean that I had to wash the pans between batches, but it also meant I wound up with 48 Madeleines!
When they came out of the oven, they all had a bump, some bigger than others but enough to make me proud! “Bumps” are such a unique feature of Madeleines, such as the “feet” are to macarons and the cooling of the pans and the batter seem to have an effect on the height of the “bumps” – check out Dorie’s blog for some tips for creating a pronounced “bump” on your Madeleines! With the first batch of Madeleines, I greased, floured, and tapped out the excess flour out of the pan which produced cakes without a very distinctive fluted marking, and not quite as golden as they should be, but quite pale in comparison and the bumps were not quite that high and fairly “hit or miss.” So for the second batch, I cleaned the pans and set them in the freezer for thirty minutes, then greased the pans, poured in the batter and this seemed to reliably produce a “bump” on each Madeleine – still of varying heights, but a “bump” nonetheless and each cake was a light golden color on the fluted side and on the side with the “bump,” the edges were a nice golden brown.
The cakes made my house smell simply divine! The anticipation, fear and sheer joy that had been mounting up to this moment when I would bake my first batch of Madeleines (and successfully so!), melted into complete submission as I made my way through my first Madeline. It was perfectly moist, buttery, light, spongy and delicious. Better than any other Madeleine I had previously eaten anywhere ever before!
The only Madeleine that could possibly compete now are the ones I might eat in Paris, while walking with some other ladies in two straight lines…
That said, Dorie’s honey-spiced version is a perfect Madeleine for the fall and winter months! Each bite fills you with the warmth that is emitted from the combination of cinnamon, ginger and cloves and leaves you with the hint of orange and honey, it is simply Madeleine’s very attractive brother or cousin vying for a place in my heart that possibly overshadows my twenty-or-so-years affair with Madeleine!
All I know is that I will be making these often for a little breakfast treat, for as deceptively simple and all-consuming as they are! My Madeleine pans will get plenty of use!
“That’s all there is; there isn’t anymore.”
To see what my fellow Doristas thought of these gems, click here. Once you have clicked, you can also choose to join our cooking fun by picking up a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table and cooking-along as you like and posting your photos and experiences for all of us to admire and drool over!