I don't usually advocate recipes that require very specialized equipment. Most of us don't have enough storage as it is, never mind filling it up with a plethora of seldom used gizmo's. But of course rules are made to be broken, and when my sister (vintage magpie!) gave me a lovely old french madeleine tin for Christmas I was rather pleased.
These lovely little cakes were made most famous by the French writer Proust. In his novel "In Search of Lost Time" the narrator refers to them in a passage about involuntary memory. On tasting a madeleine he is instantly transported back to his Aunt's bedside, where as a child he tasted the little cake dipped in her tea.
I cant honestly say they hold any such associations for me, mine was a childhood of lamingtons, pavlova and mellowpuffs, but I think the idea is entirely valid. Whenever I make the spiced fruit biscuits Mum used to make for our school lunches I am right back sitting on a bench at playlunch, throw a mince pie into the mix and it really is school days all over again......
Essentially these are a very delicate tender sponge cooked in tins shaped like a shell. I made this recipe up as I had great limes to use and wanted a slightly tropical flavour. I would like to try a version using coconut also, maybe in place of the ground almond. The nuts add a moistness, but can be left out if you cant/wont eat nuts.
Madeleine's don't keep well, so I would not suggest these as a tin filler, but for a special treat, maybe afternoon tea, or with coffee after a meal they are just right. And very easy to make, using no special equipment other than your lovely tins.
Lime Vanilla Madeleine
This recipe makes 24 little cakes
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste (or use vanilla sugar and omit the paste)
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tbsp ground almonds (optional, use an extra tbsp flour if you don't have almonds)
1 tsp baking powder
Grated zest of a lime
95 grams melted butter
Preheat the oven to 180C
Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. Add the vanilla paste if using and beat again.
Sift in the flour and baking powder, the add the almonds and lime zest (they wont go through the sieve) and fold the mixture together gently. I have come across a few recipes that say beat in the flour but I think this gives you tough cakes and funny peaks when they are cooked.
Add the melted butter and fold in. Spoon about a dessertspoon of the mixture into your tins, which you have first buttered and floured. I just use a pastry brush dipped in the melted butter and brushed all over the tins. Then using a tea strainer or a teaspoon sprinkle over some flour and shake the excess out over the sink. This stops the cakes sticking.
Cook for 7-10 minutes until the cakes are coloured but not too dark. They will start to pull away ever so slightly from the tins. Leave to cool for a few minutes before using a little knife to gently loosen the edges, before you lift the madeleine's out. You will think they have stuck, but don't stress, they will peel off the tin.
The sponge is beautifully tender, and the delicate shell pattern is really pretty. Not flashy like a cupcake, but understated and not overly sweet. The lime flavour comes through against the vanilla, and the ground almond gives a moistness also. I ate four with a cup of tea, bliss.......
You can buy madeleine tins at kitchenware shops, but do keep a lookout in vintage shops , online auctions and Hospice and Salvation Army shops. Both of these organisations do amazing work in New Zealand, and by shopping at their shops you are supporting that work. I have had recent personal experience of the help Hospice can be at a difficult time, and they deserve every cent that comes their way.
So take along unwanted items, old clothing, books, housewares etc. You get some extra space, and someone else ultimately benefits. I recently sent along about a hundred food magazines from the last few years. Mind you Mr PK's language was not very charitable when he tried to lift the box into the car.........
Check out this guide to vintage shops in Auckland