En français ici.Two days ago in a moment of what I can only describe as blind insanity, I decided to read A la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust's 7-volume novel and one of the paragons of French literature. I feel calling it a 7-volume novel is unfair, when two of the tomes are published in 2 parts and the first volume has a tangentially-related fiction stuck in the middle and often published separately (that makes 10!). But, for the sake of argument, 7-volumes. In French.
Not only did I make this decision, I then proceeded to start reading and have now read 150 of the 465 bajillion pages (give or take a few) left to read. But this is not a literary blog, so I'll get to the point. The point is madeleines, "those squat plump little cakes...which look as though they ha[ve] been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell" (Swann's Way ). This is probably one of the most famous passages in French literature, and it's about food. That is why I love the French.
So I decided to learn about Proust's madeleines. Although the expression "la madeleine de Proust" is now used to designate any small action that brings a strong memory or emotion, as the madeleine crumbs in his tea do for Marcel, it turns out MP knows a lot less about his little cakes than it would seem. In his wonderful account The Way the Cookie Crumbles: How much did Proust know about madeleines?, Edmund Levin describes his failed attempts to reenact the scene in Swann's Way and explains why we might want to look somewhere else for a decent recipe.
Having already made yummy Almond-Cinnamon Madeleines last year when my sister gave me (blue!) madeleine pans for Christmas, I was happy with my method, except for one thing: it wasn't traditional. So I started from scratch looking at recipes and decided that I liked the idea of simple lemon ones. However, being absolutely obssesed with butterscotch, especially since I started making Butterscotch Pudding, I wondered if I could add that flavor to my madelines.
I started by making this absolutely wonderful recipe for Butterscotch Sauce from Simply Recipes, complete with step by step pictures. Then...
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200g) sugar
zest of one lemon
1 3/4 cup (265g) flour
1/4 tsp salt
a little extra butter for buttering the tins
1/4 cup butterscotch sauce
Melt the unsalted butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they lighten slightly and add the lemon zest. Fold in half the flour and the salt. Add the melted, cooled butter and fold in the other half of the flour (thanks to Camille for calling on her lunch break with this piece of emergency madeleine advice - now there's a true foodie!).
Refrigerate 1 - 1 1/2 hours. (Good quality Proust-reading time if temporary insanity strikes.)
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
Butter the molds and spoon in batter. Make a small depression in each madeleine and add a dollop of butterscotch sauce. Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans and let cool.
Enjoy warm while reading french classics - or something else ;-)