Would I commit a sacrilege by the following outrageous query? Are we over cupcakes yet? Really, isn’t it what we do best – pounce on an idea and WA-LA …. too much of a good thing?
I predict the next over the top obsession will be about macaroons. In fact, the wave has already begun. Soon macaroons will creep into your vernacular with shops on every corner. And consider this – the proliferation of macaroon vendors will promote easy calorie increases with an availability of flashy hybrids, which as we know, is what not leaving well enough alone is all about.
My intention is never to rain on your Christmas parade, but to stimulate taste glands in the casting for a more exotic choice of sweet. I submit – the often unknown or even forgotten petit bite….the Madeleine.
A tiny cake like cookie, the Madeleine, is baked in a special pan molded into individual shells. Quite interesting to note that they are, like so many things of beauty, a result of French sensibilities, becoming a fashionable fetish in 18th century France.
Marcel Proust enshrined them in Remembrances of Things Past when he spoke in particularly sacred tones after ingesting the delectable sweet: “At once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence or rather this essence was not in me, it-was-me. I had ceased not to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal….”
And while you may require a dictionary to decipher the flowery language of dining days gone by, rest assured…Proust guarantees a life altering experience with your next tray of homemade madeleines.
I find them a tool of ministry. They console and celebrate. Most consequentially, they do not require a pile of tasteless icing or bizarrely colored sprinkles to take the edge.
Madeleines are a brilliant dessert, chic with divine overtones. Could it possibly be their royal origin that sets them apart? Then again, perhaps their humble appearance when sprinkled with powdered sugar and resting demurely on a silver tray, that smacks of the sacred?
Their simplicity would never pass a focus group for mass production. Somehow, that makes them my kind of something wonderful.
When fresh from the oven, I anticipate a bite of madeleine Christmas cheer knowing that such a ceremony will promote an internal swell of the Hallelujah Chorus.
And hey, Handel lived in the 18th century. Did that snack of madeleines given him the writing kick in the pants that rings out even today? Well….I think so.
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose
½ cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and lightly flower two Madeleine pan wells.
In a double boiler over simmering water, beat the eggs and sugar together for 2 minutes, or until warm and blended.
Place the top of the double boiler in bowl of ice water and continue beating for 5 minutes.
Remove from the ice water and alternately blend in the flour and the cooled melted butter and lemon zest.
Stir only until blended.
Use one tablespoon of batter for each Madeleine or follow pan manufacturer’s directions.
Bake for 13 minutes.
Let cool for 1 minute in pan.
Unmold and let cool on wire racks.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar to serve.