Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Madeleine Project

Some very wonderful ladies share the same name, although spelled differently.  I am big fans of all alike:

Madeleine Peyroux, musician
Ludwig Bemelman's Madeline

Madeleine "Cookies" image,

All three are equally elegant, classic, sweet, and somehow decidedly French in style.  All three make me smile and can blow the clouds from a gloomy day.  The third, however, is particularly inspiring to me since I first set teeth on them at everyone's favorite coffee shop. 

I always look for them when I go in for my steaming liquid treat, and they're so popular that they sometimes are sold out.  Three in a pack, shaped like a long seashell, and coming only from heaven's beaches...the delicate cake that is eaten like a cookie, The Madeleine.

I don't know why I never thought of making them at home before.  They look so fragile, so delicate, and so wrapped in coffee house mystique that I felt unworthy.  Sounds silly, but I had a fear of trying these myself. 

Then I decided to create this blog, I wanted a new challenge for the new year and decided to conquer my fear.  I decided I would no longer be a slave to that coffee shop and wait like a dog for a bone for their three-pack.  This must have been brewing in my head for a while, because I asked Santa for a Madeleine pan for Christmas, and through his elf (my muse) I got one. 

I did some research and pulled up several recipes online that were all different in technique.  I started with the easy one because that's how I build my confidence.  This one from is where I began.

This recipe is so basic, with so few steps, I thought I was going to fail.  It could not be this easy.  I read through all three chosen recipes and decided to start this one with three tips:
  1. Start with all ingredients at room temperature.
  2. Use weight measures wherever possible for consistency.
  3. Work for the classic, "humped" center.
I had all mise en place and involved my little helper.  She loves to "add ingredients" and all was well until she poured both eggs just shy of the mixing bowl, landing them on the counter and her hands.  Cleanup was not a problem and we are persistent girls.  This did leave me with one dilemma - rewarming new eggs to room temperature quickly so I could proceed.  I used the warm water bath method and it only cost me an extra 10 minutes.  We got back down to business and the batter was ready.

My pan holds 12 scallops which left me with half the batter in the pan and the other half waiting.  This recipe does NOT say to chill the batter at all, but the others I researched did.  Experiment #1:  Cook the first batch out of the bowl and chill the remaining batter during wait time for batch two.  Would there be any difference?

Batch #1:  Total cook time, 10 minutes.  Batter was smooth but spread slowly in the oven to fill the shells.  With 3 minutes of remaining cook time there was a decent sized hump formed.  When cooled, there was a good outer crust.  They were a bit dense and a bit dry but quite good.

Batch #2:  Total cook time, 10 minutes. Batter was very thick but spread quickly, filling out the shells more evenly.  With 3 minutes of remaining cook time, there was a larger more classic formed hump.  When cooled this batch was equally crusted on the outside but seemed more moist and tender. 

End review:  it made a difference to chill the batter. 

Most recipes advised eating these within 24 hours or freezing them to keep them fresh.  I intended to do the latter after tasting a few, but they didn't make it past our mouths to the freezer. 

I give the Satisfaction Meter 4 out of 5 stars, these were great; a perfect substitute for the ones from the coffee shop, but I didn't have to work very hard.  I'm leaving the fifth star for the next of the three test recipes, which is much more high maintenance. 

Will the more difficult recipe result in better Madeleines?  Stay tuned to find out!

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