Monday, March 12, 2012

Paddlin' My Madeleines Home. The Cookies You Can't Forget.

   See those cookies up there? Those my friends are madeleines. Those are the cookies that so wigged out the great French writer Marcel Proust, that he spent the last 12 years of his life in a cork lined room just thinking, writing about, and probably eating them.

   Maybe that's one of the reasons he never left the cork lined room. Today he'd probably be on Oprah (Special Edition) or the World's Biggest Loser, or maybe even Hoarders. Definitely there would be an intervention of some sort. Dude, put the cookies down. Step away from the madeleines.

   Growing up I never ate a madeleine. They were not in my world which was definitely not Swanns Way. More like My Way or The Highway as my dad would say. And since the Stella D'Oro people and those guys that put cookie dough in a tube you whack on the sink to open, never came up with easy-bake madeleines, it was years before I actually had one in hand.

   When we lived in Santa Monica, I used to run every morning. Up at 6 A.M.. Do The Famous Steps,

...then run along the Santa Monica Palisade down to the pier, out to the end and then back again. It was during one of those runs that one of the women I worked out daily with, told me about Proust. It seems that she was reading it in French. Way out of my skill set, but the talk of all that obsession intrigued me. I bought the full set of books and read them. What did I get out of it? Well, this is what I took away from it. Proust liked to be tucked in by his mommy when he was little, he was fascinated by Swann, he was the ultimate "get offa my lawn" kid and he loved nothing more than a nice hot cuppa and a tasty madeleine. And that's the secret. Because the taste of the madeleine was responsible for his being able to remember like some cracked out Jeopardy champ everything that had ever happened to him. This is where the term "pristine rush" comes from.

   Where had those magical cookies been all my life? Not too far away as it turns out. Most chain coffee places (cough cough, Starbucks) have a rack of little plastic baggies of individual hard spongy things they call madeleines sitting next to the register. All those things would remind me of was that I had had two dollars when I walked in the joint and now I didn't. If those "madeleines" had been what Proust had been served, a lotta high school seniors and people in AP English classes would have caught a break. Believe me. That small scalloped 2 dollar hockey puck sealed in a baggie that was called a madeleine set me off  on my own obsessive quest to learn how to make those cookies myself. There had to be a better way!

   Okay, so that sounds good. Unfortunately my attitude toward baking those Proust cookies was the same as most peoples toward actually reading Proust himself. I talked about it all the time, I thought about it. I bought a madeleine pan, I bought another madeleine pan. Did I bake any madeleines? No.The madeleine pans became the baking equivalent  of those Exercycles with clothes draped over them.

   Until today. I actually baked madeleines. Why in the middle of #Indianfoodpalooza would I start baking French cookies? My friend Laura, alarmed by the sudden freezing temperatures we've had here in Sonoma, picked a mass of Meyer lemons off her trees in order to save them, and I was lucky enough to be given a bag.

   These are just a few of the Meyer lemons I received, and I wanted to put them to good use. I'd been thinking of making a lemon meringue pie, something else I've talked about but never done, a Shaker pie, a lot lot of things. But yesterday I was feeling very lazy and it all just seemed to much work. After a week of working on the TV pilot we're writing, I wanted something simple. Who knew it would be madeleines?

   When I bought my madeline pans at Williams Sonoma, I also got a recipe from them for a basic madeleine cookie. It seemed fairly straight forward especially for a madeleine virgin. I was in!

   The ingredients are simple. In fact I didn't have to buy anything extra. Always a plus. I decided to take the basic madeleine recipe and tweak it in a lemony direction with a dash of cardamom. Did I mention they're easy too? Make these and you can be eating them in less than an hour.


Lemon Cardamom Madeleines

Here's What You Need:

2 eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of flour (sift it first then measure)

1 tsp of grated lemon zest
1/2 stick of unsalted butter melted and cooled
A bit of extra melted butter to grease the baking pan
A bit of extra flour of dust the cookie molds
powdered sugar for dusting the cookies
1 madeleine pan

Here's What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Take a pastry brush and brush the mold in the madeleine pan. Make sure every ridge and corner is coated.

Dust the inside of the molds lightly with flour to prevent the cookies from sticking.
Tap away the excess flour.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar and salt.

Use a whisk or a handheld beater and whip everything on a medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture is thick, pale and fluffy.
Add in the vanilla.

Beat it in.
Sprinkle the sifted flour over the mixture and beat it in at low speed.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the lemon zest...

...and half of the melted butter.

Mix it together well, then add in the other half of the melted butter.
Drop 1 Tbs of batter into each mold.

Pop them into the preheated oven.

Bake the madeleines for about 8 to 12 minutes.
While they were baking I took out my banjo and played a bit of "Paddling Madeleine Home."

Seems like Proust once had the same idea himself.

You'll know the madeleines are done when you give them a little poke and they spring right back.
Turn the cookie pan upside down and watch the madeleines tumble out .
Place them on a wire cooling rack and let them chill for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle them with the powdered sugar.

Be careful.  If the powdered sugar is put on cookies that are too warm, the sugar will just melt.

Serve them up with a pot of tea,buckle up your seat belt and get ready for the pristine rush. I made chai but had the idea after it was already too late to try and make a bit of chrysanthemum tea ice cream. Ah well, there's always next time. I know I'll remember.

   Meanwhile, my friends Creative Culinary , Indian Simmer and I are having an #Indianfoodpalooza. Visit our blogs and check it out. Whether you always cook Indian food or have never cooked it before, we're inviting you this month to come join us in some culinary adventuring. We have recipes, cookbook recommends and more....psssst..prizes!  Coming up next around here, it's back to a great South Indian side dish perfect for any Western style meal too. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Oh, well done. 'remembering like a cracked out jeopardy champ' comment I have read about Proust. AS for the madeleines, if I ever take up baking I will be 300 pounds in a year. Sometimes I am very grateful for the intensity of my wheat allergy....

  2. I ADORE madelines - especially lemons! I can't believe you ran up ROCK!

    1. Ha! Yes, nearly every day..Half of SAG and the WGA is running up those steps on a daily basis.

  3. The cookies look out of this world! I plan to drizzle some chocolate on them.



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