There's a cafe in Fes, where our Moroccan half of the family lives, called La Villa. It's a state-of-the-art, trendy place in the Ville Nouvelle or new city, with wireless Internet, tile and mirrors everywhere, and air conditioning. It was there that I first had truly amazing madeleines. Morocco has a long tradition of great pastry making, some of which they inherited from the French, but I noticed that people referred to almost anything that was muffin shaped and cakelike as madeleines. But when I finally tried the real thing last summer in La Villa, I understood what made Proust so nostalgic. There are a few different varieties of madeleines, but the ones I'm talking about have the consistency of cornbread, the taste of the crust of a good lemon poundcake, and get their leavening from eggs alone. They are often described as cookies but to me are some intermediate form between cookies and cake. I recently decided to learn how to make them - and though the results haven't yet been beautiful, the taste is out of this world. With the help of Julia Child, I found the ideal recipe - now if I could just get my pan seasoned enough that they would take the scallop shape they are supposed to assume after baking, all would be perfect.
I first consulted two of my favorite food blogs, where one posted an attempt at madeleines that didn't turn out so well, while the other had a recipe that was claimed to be out-of-this-world. Bypassing the first, I attempted the second, which had 4 eggs in it and came out extremely eggy and gross. I decided then to look for a Julia Child recipe and discovered the perfect one. I had ordered a madeleine pan from Amazon.com since I couldn't find one locally, so perhaps the new metal pan just needs to be seasoned to keep them from sticking. Julia's solution is a butter-flour mixture to grease them with, which I tried, but to no avail. They still came out intact, but just not with that beautiful, golden-brown scalloped surface. Nevertheless, the pan and the recipe are great investments, since I will certainly be making them again.
Madeleines (from Julia Child)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. flour + 1 T for preparing pans
1 1/4 stick butter (5 ounces)
pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon, or slightly less (they were a little lemony- I will probably do less than this next time)
1/2 t. vanilla
Preheat oven to 375. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and let it simmer until it starts to turn caramel colored. Then reserve 1 1/2 Tblsp of this butter in a separate bowl, mixing with 1 Tblsp flour to grease the pan with. Set aside. Place the rest of the melted butter in a glass dish over a bowl of ice water to cool off, stirring from time to time so it doesn't congeal.
Beat the eggs lightly, then divide in half (should be about 1/4 cup each). Set aside 1/4 cup, put the other 1/4 cup in an electric mixer with sugar and flour. Blend until mixture is sandy. When butter is cool, mix with remaining eggs and add to flour mixture, along with lemon, zest, and vanilla. My batter was slightly looser than cookie dough, not as smooth as a cake.
Grease madeleine pans, place about a tablespoon of the mixture in each form, and bake for 13-15 minutes. Dust lightly with powdered sugar.