14 February, 2011

The modest madeleine, modified.

By the time the kids were clambering into the schoolbus, the vast fog had already drifted in.  It settled across our little valley and onward toward the next village, imposed a dozen shades of grey and upturned the rest of the color palette.
The routine walk later with the dog took on a certain element of magic.  Dakar's a Weimaraner,  a shimmery, ghostly shadow himself; he disappeared into the wall of fog in half a moment.  Rounding a curve of the road, there he was again, bounding into view, wisps of mist curling away at his mad, laughing, young-dog gallop, so utterly in his skin and in the moment. 

Maybe that should be my plan for 2011; to be more dog-like in the year of the cat.
The neighbor's horses ignored him, or at least they tried to, and we continued our wet rambling.  Today though, I didn't dally overmuch: I had something to hurry home to.
I scored a whole pile of organic blood oranges on sale this morning.  You may know my weakness for blood oranges...but, seriously, what's not to love?
In this damp month, too often dreary, weary, the solid dominion of coughs and sneezes, the spectacularly assertive color of blood oranges and their antioxidant-fueled kick keep us going.  Doesn't the sight alone of that color and sparkle revive you?
Try telling that to the kids, who're happy to look and smile, pleased with a glass of juice, but whose bellies really clamor for an after-school snack. 

I played around with an archetypal (and simple) French treat, adding a subtle citrus twist, and voilà! 
Madeleines aux miel et au orange sanguine (Blood Orange and Honey Madeleines)

Makes 24 madeleines.  You will need two madeleine pans.

120 g (1/3 cup) butter
180 g (1 3/4 cup) flour
2 large pinches of salt
80 g (1 scant cup) finely ground almonds or hazelnuts
250 g (1/2 scant cup) superfine/castor sugar, divided
6 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons orange flower water
2 teaspoons honey
finely grated, minced zest of 3 blood oranges*
juice of one small blood orange* (about 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons)

Grease the madeleine molds thoroughly, using softened butter; make sure you get into all those little grooves to avoid any sticking later.  Flour and set aside. 

Make a beurre noisette (browned butter):  melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally. As the butter begins to foam, it will chortle, snap and pop happily; it knows what's coming.  Just as quickly, the little concert will come to a close, to be replaced by a wonderful, deeply nutty scent.  The butter's ready when it takes on a golden-brown tone, and you see a light brownish sediment.  Remove the pan from the heat--don't delay--because the butter can quickly burn at this point, and the sediment then goes from being heavenly to carcinogenic.  Pour the browned butter from the pan into a separate small dish to cool.

Combine the flour, ground almonds, half the sugar and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to high, soft peaks.  In a third bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining half of the sugar until the yolks are pale and ribbony.  Add the browned butter, the flour mixture, the orange flower water, honey, zest and blood orange juice, mixing well.  Mix one fourth of the egg whites into the yolk to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites, just enough to blend.  Fill the molds two-thirds full, and allow the two pans to rest in the refrigerator.  The madeleines really need to chill at least one hour, preferably three.

Preheat the oven 350F (180C).  Pop one pan in for about fifteen minutes. The little cakes will be ready when the edges are brown and the top springs back gently when touched.  Remove from the heat, allow to rest for a minute, then tap the pan on the counter.  The madeleines should tumble right out of the pan.  Don't forget to pop the remaining pan in the oven...Madeleines are best when eaten the day they're made.  Fully cooled, they will keep for two days in an air-tight container.
* Of course you can always use regular oranges, but add in a touch of lemon or lime for a bit more complexity.  And keep the finished product out of the reach of any dogs...


  1. It's working now, Tammy. Yippee! I probably won't attempt these lovely darlings until I have company. I would feel obliged to eat them all before their one day expiration date!

  2. Hi Delana!
    Something tells me your guest(s) won't be disappointed...have fun making them!

  3. I have to trust you that they are easy to make.
    I am ready your blog after reading David Lebovitz's "whole lemon bars". These citrus madeleines must be wonderful. I am going to post the recipe on Facebook.

  4. Hello Nadege,
    You have to strike a delicate balance with a recipe: don't overwhelm, but put in enough information that anyone (over 12) can manage.

    Seriously, my kids' eyes went cartoonishly big when they tasted the final batch of these (that zest packs a punch!), and they headed off with seconds and thirds (thus losing their appetite for dinner). Thanks for sharing the recipe with others! Let me know if you get any feedback...

  5. Tammy,
    Those blood oranges are gorgeous. And your madeleines would be great with a cup of tea.
    If only I could find good tea...

  6. Hello Aidan,
    I've never seen good tea in regular markets, but have you ever tried natural foods stores? I find they have some very good teas.

    There's always the internet, of course, where you can find French producers/shops such as Cha Yuan (which I previously wrote about because I visited one of their shops, in Lyon). Another good shop with an online presence is Palais des Thes; if you're hesitating over their large selection, you could also visit their Facebook page, where customers have reviewed their favorites...Happy drinking (soon, I hope)!


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