05 September 2009

Not Proust's Mother's Madeleines

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...

Lemon-Butterscotch Madeleines

3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter

4 eggs
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 ;-)


Cicero Sings said...

Well it seems like you like things BLUE in your kitchen ... even a blue Madeleine pan. Now I've pondered on making Madeleines and have wondered if they were worth the purchase of a pan. It seems that they are ... so maybe on my next foray into a kitchen shop ...

As for blue in my kitchen ... I just have my blue enameled cast iron pot ... and a very pretty blue it is too. I did see I was tagged and I'll get there one day.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A very pleasant combo! Those madeleines must taste heavenly!

Cheers and have a great weekend,


Hopie said...

Cicero - It's funny, I never noticed how much blue I had until I got that tag! Your blue cast iron pot sounds beautiful. Maybe you have more blue things than you think! I think madeleines pans are worth it. They're fun little cakes!

Rosa - They certainly brighten up the weekend! Have a good one!

Anonymous said...

I read Du Côté de Chez Swann in college, but have never touched the rest of it. (Found Sartre more intriguing.)

Love the butterscotch madeleine idea - glad they came out! :)

Hopie said...

Camille - Well thanks for your help. The butterscotch addition was yummy.
Apparently Du Côté de chez Swann is the most difficult to get into so I'm determined to keep going one or two books further. (Though if he mentions the bell tower in Cambray one more time, I might have to hit him.) Plus I'm a huge fan of Virginia Woolf and I can see why she liked Proust (well actually, she said reading Proust made her feel suicidal because there was nothing left worth writing - but this is Virginia Woolf we're talking about ;-)).
I don't think I have an existentialist bone in my body, though I'm sure that's sacrilege for a French major. I find Sartre bearable, and Camus makes me want to fill my pockets with stones and walk into a river - and not because I want to write like him! Pure heresy, I know, but there it is...

Sam said...

I love the butterscotch idea, the madeleines looks incredible.

It looks like you have a lot of blue in your kitchen, everything in mine seems to be red! I never really paid attention to the colour of things until you posted that tag!

Katharine said...

You made butterscotch thumbprint madeleines - you can't fool me! They look divine. Love, Mom
PS Imagine with raspberry jam! Mmm :)
PPS That is indeed a noble (foodie) deed on Camille's part - brava!

Nicole said...

Mmm, madeleines. They look scrumptious

Hopie said...

Sam - Thanks. Well perhaps you'll have to do a red version!

Mom - Hehe, yes, although if you actually try to stick your thumb into madeleine batter, you just get a sticky thumb! I used the handle of a spoon. With raspberry jam...mmmmm!

Nicola - Thanks! They certainly are yummy.

Mini Baker said...

YUm yum yum! Lemon and butterscotch sounds delicious :)
I just found your blog and I love it. And I'm very jealous of your life in Paris!
Happy Baking,
Mini Baker

Hopie said...

Mini Baker - Well thank you. I'm off to check out your blog. With a name like mini baker, it sounds good already :-)

Arabic Bites said...

I always love madeleines so I'll give your recipe a try soon.
Thank you for sharing :)

zainab :D