Catholic Recipe: Madeleines
While we are celebrating the feast of St. James, let's claim for him the Madeleine. This may seem a trifle pushy: the recipe for these delicious little cookies dates from the mid-nineteenth century, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the great Apostle (or with Mary Magdalene either). Madeleines get their name apparently from the name of the cook who first baked them. But the shell-shaped mold in which Madeleines are baked is, after all, the traditional cockle shell--the coquille St. Jacques--just slightly slimmed out, á la française.
Marcel Proust begins as follows one of the most famous scenes of his Swann's Way:
My mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea .... She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been molded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell. And soon . . . I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake.Let's eat Madeleines in St. James' honor, and in honor of all pilgrims, all pilgrimages.
Madeleine tins are available at most cooking-supply stores and at some department stores. Brush them with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Melt the butter and allow it to cool. Sift the flour with the salt and the baking powder.
Beat the eggs until light and lemon-colored. Add the superfine sugar gradually, beating constantly. Beat with an electric mixer until the mixture falls in a thick heavy ribbon. Stir in the flour gradually, folding it in gently but thoroughly. Stir in the melted butter, the vanilla, and the lemon rind. Pour the batter into the tins, filling them about two-thirds full.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the Madeleines are lightly browned around the edges and a toothpick stuck into the center of one comes out clean. Dust them with confectioners' sugar, if you wish.
Yield: about 30 Madeleines (tins vary in size)Recipe Source: Continual Feast, A by Evelyn Birge Vitz, Ignatius Press, San Francisco , 1985