Nov 11, 2011
Writing about California wore me out a little. After a long break, I was planning on a ground breaking comeback with one beautiful, exquisite recipe. That recipe I specifically picked for the occasion was far beyond the reach of my talents and experience I had to admit yet again, while I was dumping 3 days worth of my efforts into trash. An unanticipated visit to Paris last weekend reminded me of my most favorite things in French cuisine and recipes I had to discover, learn, master and share. The failed attempt in question belonged to one of such. As soon as I discover where and why I screwed up, I will resume and share it proudly-and quiet flamboyantly- here.
For now, find comfort in madeleines as something simpler but equally French. The idea to make madeleines didn't appear out of the blue; that doesn't happen in my blog: we spent our only evening in Paris at Atelier de Joël Robuchon watching the “students” of Robuchon cook while we sat and ate at the bar circling the open kitchen. The deliciousness of warm, orange flavored madeleines served in their metal mold straight from the oven after dessert (yes after dessert we were offered madeleines, not mini-madeleines, generously-sized madeleines) reminded me of my very own mini-madeleine mold which I eagerly purchased months ago and left in the cupboard with other moulds of many shapes and sizes. Next day, I purchased Joël Robuchon's fall-winter recipes cookbook, possibly the most boring and dull looking book in the whole cooking section but what the hell, I needed that madeleine recipe.
Frankly, I find classic madeleines quiet uninteresting. Madeleines are merely sponge cakes in the shape of sea shells and they get as interesting as that, their cute shape. So I thought. My acquaintance with madeleines in general was limited to the types sold at supermarkets in plastic bags and had never laid hands on true madeleines.
Once you start looking for recipes you'll see that there are numerous ways to bake madeleines. Some include almond flour some don’t; some contain whole eggs, some only egg whites. Clarified butter is typical but in some recipes I saw that butter is not only melted to be clarified but cooked further for a couple of minutes to bring out its nuttiness. Robuchon's recipe is one of the most unorthodox madeleine recipes I came across. To taste its contrast with a classic madeleine, I tried the most basic recipe I could find, that of the orange flavored madeleines from Elle à Table’s last year’s November-December issue. Almond flour and egg whites are distinctive ingredients of Robuchon whereas Elle à Table’s uses whole eggs, no almonds and cooks butter until it lightly browns. I was hoping for the latter to outperform Robuchon's recipe because I wanted something completely different than any one of my previous recipes. (See the ginger financier recipe.)
It turns out, my attempt was in vain. The moment I tasted the madeleines at Atelier de Joël Robuchon I knew they were as good as madeleines can get. Even a tablespoon of almond flour transforms the simplest form of dough into an irresistible and fulfilling piece of pastry. The same thing goes for whipped egg whites. So it's no miracle that when you involve these two, the outcome will give you the most exquisite madeleines you can ever bake.
Lemon zest used in the original recipe reminds me of my elementary school days when we were fed on greasy cakes with bitter lemon peels as thick as toothpicks in the afternoon tea hour. The memory of it still turns my stomach upside down and hence can't stand lemon zest in cakes. I used orange zest instead which is more fragrant and winter-like. Another note: although I used a mini-madeleine mold, they are neither handy nor necessary. Do use regular molds if you like fulfilling, satisfactory bites.
Orange Flavored Madeleines
Recipe: Recipe: "Joel tout Robuchon Robuchon, Volume 1, Recettes Automne-Hiver
Makes 12 regular madeleines or 48 mini madeleines
- A 12 piece regular madeleine mold or 48 piece mini madeleine mold
- 100 g butter + 10 g to butter the mold
- 100 g (3/4 cup) powdered sugar
- 40 g (little less than 1/2 cup) flour
- 40 g (1/2 cup) almond flour
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 tablespoon aromatic floral honey (like lavander honey)
- 1 teaspoon orange rind
- Thoroughly butter and flour the madeleine mould.
- Melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
- Pass flour and powdered sugar through a sieve and combine them with almond flour.
- Beat egg whites to a fluid consistency in a separate bowl. Add powdered sugar-flour -almond flour mixture and beat to obtain a smooth batter. Keep beating while you add melted butter, honey and orange rind.
- Distribute the batter to moulds and place in the fridge for 1 hour for the batter to firm up.
- Preheat your oven to 200 C/290 F. (To 180 C/350 F if making mini madeleines.)
- Bake them for 12-15 minutes, until they are golden in the middle and slightly browned on the sides. Turn the mould upside down and gently tap the mould to let madeleines fall on a surface. Use the tip of a knife to remove them. Leave to cool on a cooling rack. (Although the recipe suggests that they be consumed when cool, I enjoy madeleines the most when they are straight out from the oven.)
They remain fresh for up to three days in an airtight container.