Back home in Illinois, my maman keeps her sewing needles, thread, etc. in a thin wooden box. On it is the logo of a French all-time favorite, the Madeleines de Commercy.
Hailing from the small town of Commercy, madeleines are one of those 24 hour snacks: you can have them in the morning for breakfast, in the afternoon for tea, or in the evening as dessert if you wish. They're moist but have a very subtle taste, making them suitable for every occasion. Plus, the shape gives them a special something that simple financiers and other French snacks lack.
A few months back, I was with my sister and aunt Mimi in a cooking store in the Vosges, and we stumbled upon the most adorable pale pink Fauchon silicone pans. There were muffin pans, financier pans, but the cutest were by far the madeleine ones. Just looking at the color of the pan makes you want to bake madeleines.
That's why a couple evenings ago, with nothing much to do, I decided to bake some madeleines and bring them to work the next day. For some reason, I felt like adding extra flour than the recipe called for, which wasn't such a good idea. My madeleines were still really tasty, but they were a bit more dense (I seem to have a problem with that!) than usual.
That said, nothing beats the fun of watching the center of a madeleine grow taller by the minute in your oven, dense as it may be.
The recipe is part of the "family cookbooks" and is really so simple it's hard to go wrong if you follow it perfectly.
Madeleines - makes 36
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional, but really adds something to it)
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
Oven temperature: 375°F.
In a double boiler, beat eggs + sugar + vanilla + orange blossom water until thickened. Remove from heat, and beat until cool. Add flour and butter, without overmixing.
Scoop into madeleine pan, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
There you go--easy to make and attention-grabbing all at once. I thought people would look at my madeleines like any other snack, but I got quite a number of ooh's and ahh's; I guess it's all about the shape!