Monday, October 22, 2012

Madeleines, Mousse and Truffles

One of my sweet 7th grade girlies brought me sweets today.  Lovely little chocolate truffles carefully wrapped up in aluminum foil.  Aren't they beautiful?  I strongly encourage my students to cook.  I even give them a few points extra credit for doing so.  They can bring their masterpieces in to share with the class or they can just simply tell us about it and show photos of the process.  I always ask for the recipes, though.  I want to make sure they are homemade and, well, I love recipes.
Last Friday, another girlie made both mousse au chocolat and madeleines to share with her classmates.  She made a presentation about desserts in France.  With her mom, she watched Julie and Julia, a wonderful movie based on Julia Child's story, My Life in France, and Julie Powell's book of the same name about cooking her way through Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  And silly me, I took no photos of her treats. I hope it was a mother-daughter bonding experience.  Perhaps someday I will have a couple of daughters-in-law who like to cook... One can hope, n'est-ce pas?
I bought these at Intermarché last January.  Mme P recommended them as the best grocery store brand. They are really good for breakfast with tea or coffee.

Julia's recipe doesn't look too complicated and they are really delicious.  I think I will try them.  I have my very own pan now, ordered from William-Sonoma with a gift card a student gave me a couple of years ago.

Commercy is located in the Lorraine region and the Meuse département of France.  It seems that these madeleines made famous by Marcel Proust are its claim to fame.  I understand why!

Little shell-shaped cakes
From Julia Child's The Way To Cook

This is presumably the true madeleine from Commercy, the one Marcel Proust dipped in his tea.  It's a charming little cake, perfect with tea, sherbets, and fruits.

Manufacturing note:  A strange method, this-- it was developed by the bakers of Commercy to insure a little shell-shaped cake that humped in the middle.  You can buy madeleine molds in most gourmet shops or through mail-order catalogues-- or you can bake them in scallop shells.  You can also bake the batter in muffin tins, and would then call them Commercy Cupcakes.  --JC

For 24 madeleines, 3 inches long

2 large eggs, lightly beaten in a 2-cup measure
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled) plus 1 Tbsp. extra for preparing the molds
5 ounces (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
A pinch of salt
The grated rind of 1/2 lemon
Drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Drops of pure vanilla extract
Confectioners sugar, for sprinkling

Special equipment suggested:  (Julia was nothing if not thorough!)
A mixing bowl and wooden spoon; a bowl with a tray of ice cubes and water to cover; a pastry brush; 2 madeleines pans, 12 cups each; a large cake rack

The batter:
Measure 1/4 cup of the eggs into a bowl, then beat in the sugar and the cup of flour.  When thoroughly blended, let rest 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 6-cup saucepan, bring it to a boil, and let it brown lightly.  Place the 1 tablespoon of flour in a small bowl and blend in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the browned butter; set aside for preparing the madeleine pans.  Stir the rest of the butter over ice until cool but liquid; blend it and the last of the eggs into the batter along with the salt, lemon rind and juice, and vanilla.  Preheat the oven to 375˚F and set the racks in the upper and lower levels.  

Paint the madeleine cups with the reserved butter-flour mixture.  Divide the batter into 24 lumps of a generous tablespoon each, and drop them into the madeleine cups.

Bake in the preheated oven until cakes are lightly browned around the edges, humped in the middle, and slightly shrunk from the cups, about 15 minutes.  Unmold unto a rack.

Serving and storing:
When cool, turn shell side up and dust with confectioners sugar.  They will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two in an airtight container and they freeze perfectly.

Bon appétit, budding chefs, M. Proust, and Julia!

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