There is much debate over the origin of the little French sponge cake, the Madeleine, however there are two things that are certain; that the small French town of Commercy in the Lorraine region, proudly stake their claim over the shell-shaped cakes; and, that Madeleines have earned their timeless place in literature in Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things. In the beginning of his autobiography, Proust is overwhelmed by a stream of childhood memories after he tastes the citrus-infused Madeleine with a drop of tea.
“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the [Madeleine] crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me...But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
Today the Madeleine remains loved for its simplicity and delicate citrus flavour as if kissed by a lemon tree.
This is my second attempt at making Madeleines. The first time was miserable. What should have been an airy, soft cake with a slightly crisp exterior was dense and dry. After my first attempt I shied away from trying again and hid my Madeleine tin in the back of the cupboard. This was about a year ago.
It wasn't until recently that I was browsing on the Quince Handcrafted Cuisine website in Vancouver when I saw a Saturday afternoon class promising to teach students how to make the best hot chocolate and Madeleines ever. I enrolled immediately and headed off for an hour of tasteful education.
From Quince owner and chef, Andrea Jefferson, I learned how to make perfect Madeleines. It's all about finding the right balance between the whisking and folding of the batter while keeping it aerated with millions of tiny bubbles. Chef Andrea has a straight forward, no-nonsense approach to cooking. She is only particular about those things which require precision; baking measurements is one of those things.
On her recommendation during the class, I have only included the ingredient measurements in grams. While 130 grams of eggs was approximately 3 medium eggs, the size of eggs may vary from country to country, so my advice? Buy some scales and they don't have to be expensive. Mine were $16.
I've put together 10 step-by-step instructions to Madeleines you'd be mad to miss. Enjoy!
For more inspirational cooking classes check out Quince at:
Quince - www.quince.ca
1780 W3rd Ave Vancouver