It's four in the afternoon on a cold, dreary day in France.
Children run out past the school gates, towards their mothers, fathers, siblings or nannies, and all await one single thing: le gouter. In France, the after school snack is something of a national tradition, and very rightfully so. After a long day of learning conjugations or the name of all the rivers in the country, children have built up quite an appetite. While some families choose a daily stop at the boulangerie for a warm pain au chocolat--bakeries time the availability of warm pastries according to when school ends--others opt for a snack at home.
The afternoon snack is an important moment of the day: students around the country mellow down, have a seat, and chat about their day. It's a great opportunity to talk about what went well or what went wrong, and why. Sitting at the kitchen counter, a mug of hot chocolate between my cold hands, I cherished the conversations I had with my Maman during my four o' clock snack.
Besides the ubiquitous pain au chocolat, another after school staple is the madeleine. Its shape--shell-like, golden, with a beautiful bump in the center--makes it attractive from the first look. Next comes smell: warm butter, a slight citrus aroma. Irresistible, if you ask me.
Held between the index finger and thumb, it is moist yet holds its shape. After the first bite, it becomes nearly impossible to put down. You can only hope that there are more where that came from, because stopping after only one madeleine is like refusing a free pair of diamond studs. Wait, where did I even get that idea? My ears aren't even pierced, so actually I could, in theory, refuse a free pair of studs. Never mind, then.
Few treats compare to a madeleine when the subject of afters chool culinary joy is evoked. One of those treats might just be chocolate mousse. For many Americans, chocolate mousse is a fancy dessert, beloved by French-inspiration restaurants. In France, however, mousse au chocolat is just the opposite: a simple dessert eaten straight out of a large bowl or slathered onto a thick slice of fresh buttery brioche.
If you put two and two together, an amazing after school snack comes to life: madeleines dipped...in chocolate mousse. Although I have a classic, easy-yet-delicious recipe for each, I couldn't resist trying out something new. Juste pour voir.
The end result? Rich madeleines infused with lemon aroma, fluffy like a dense, brand-new pillow. A silky chocolate mousse, delicate yet with a powerful chocolate taste. Together, they form a tasty duo: complementary flavors, complementary textures--something you might want to try for your next after school snack.
Oh, one more thing: I had my after school snack at ten at night. Does anyone ever tell you, when you're eight years old, that school won't end at four forever?
zest of 1 untreated lemon
80g / 1/3 c. + 1.5 TB granulated sugar
85g / 3/4 c. + 1.5 TB all-purpose flour
10g / 1 scant TB baking powder
80g / 5.5 TB unsalted butter, melted
15g / 2TS honey
Make batter the day before baking.
Combine granulated sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. Rub together to release lemon oils from zest. In another bowl, sift flour and baking powder togather.
Add eggs and honey to bowl, beat until foamy. Gently incorporate flour mixture. Add melted butter and stir. Do not overmix. Refrigerate batter overnight or at least 12 hours in a closed container.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
Butter and flour a madeleine pan if using metal. Fill each hole 3/4 up.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Let cool in pan five minutes and invert onto a wire rack.
Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.
serves 4 to 6
180g / 1 c. / 6.5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 TB whole milk
10cl / 1/3 c. + 1.5 TB whipping cream
10g / 3/4 TB unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
3 eggs, separated
1 TB granulated sugar
Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
Bring milk and cream to a boil in a saucepan. Pour over chocolate and whisk for one to two minutes until mixture cools down to 100°F/ 40°C. Whisk in butter.
Beat egg whites with sugar to stiff peaks. Add egg yolks a few seconds before you stop the beaters.
Incorporate one fifth of egg mixture into chocolate ganache and mix. Pour back into the remaining egg whites, and incorporate delicately until combined.
Refrigerate until serving, but no longer than 24 hours.