Madeleines & eating well

It’s all about the hump

 

Medeleines are the French iconic small sponge cakes. Marcel Proust had a famous “episode of the Madeleine,” in his widely respected novel, In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past), published in early 1900s. A flashback caused by the exquisite pleasure of tasting a madeleine returned Proust to his childhood at Combray. The drama of the novel unfolded from then on.

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me.”

 

Madeleines have a way of transporting me back to Paris

My episode with madeleine is nothing quite like what Proust had described, but madeleine invariably transports me back to Paris. I had the most cherished and vivid gastronomic experiences in (and outside of) Paris. If I have to reduce my French food experiences to one sight or thought: it would be the revelation when I read this menu posted in front of an elementary school on the Left Bank. This luncheon menu has made an indelible impression on me. It’s clear that young children in France eat very well, everyday during the school-week! Eating well and healthfully starts early in life. What better time to start conditioning your palate and habits? A compelling approach, but not as common as we’d like elsewhere.

Eating well starts in elementary school in France

 

Corn, tomato, Emmenthal cheese salad with grape-seed oil
Breaded filet of fish and lemon
Cauliflower in white sauce
Raspberry apple compote
Vanilla flan

See what’s on the menu? How I wish I could join in for lunch.

Too brown?

Madeleines not only evoke memories in the past, but also the hopes and dreams for the future of our modern food culture.

Enough diversion. Let’s get back to the lemon madeleine recipe which comes from Dorie Greenspan.

I made these mini madeleines in batches, with and without the lemon glaze. I like them both. I baked two batches in two different ovens. With the second batch, I mistakenly selected the conventional oven setting – not convection. It took a few minutes longer, the cakes did not brown as much and the humps were not as pronounced as those baked with the convection setting, at which hot air circulates continuously. The dough inside was cooked; the toothpick came out clean. I guess thermal shock is critically important in searing the crust quickly, pushing out the bumps while keeping the inside of the cakes moist.

Dorie Greenspan’s recommendation to load the madeleine pan in a preheated sheet pan in the oven works well. Honestly, the recommended 400°F temperature is too high for these mini cakes in my ovens. I lowered it to 375°F and may be it’s still too high. The baking step is mission critical. The proper look of a madeleine depends on it. A convection oven seems to do a better job in baking madeleines. Recipe like this also reminds me how crucial it is to ensure the precision of oven temperature each time you bake. That’s on my to-do list: calibrating the oven temperature.

Note: This is my first time baking along with Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) group. TWD is an active and diverse community of bakers. Good to know there is always someone out there with the right tips in decoding and perfecting the recipe. It’s worth a visit to check out other lovely madeleines baked by other participants. Click here.

Time for tea

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Margaret @approachingfood
    April 1, 2015 at 4:28 am

    Baby madeleines! They look so yummy! Also, welcome to the group! (And I really wish I was a French schoolkid. Those menus!)

  • Reply
    steph- whisk/spoon
    April 3, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Welcome–I hope you'll continue to bake along with us! Thanks for tip on using the convection fan to get a good bump. My oven has that option, but I so rarely use it.

  • Reply
    Cathleen | My Culinary Mission
    April 6, 2015 at 1:14 am

    Yes, welcome! Lovely looking madeleines. 🙂

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