2015. A new year.
I’ve been trying to write this post for several weeks, now. When the year started, I had big plans. So many things I was excited for, and couldn’t wait to share them with you! I felt like the new year was a fresh start, and the beginning of bigger and better things. Then, on New Year’s day, a pipe burst in our ceiling (the very same pipe which burst in our ceiling LAST YEAR, and we had fixed). As it turned out, our boiler wasn’t working properly, causing the pipe to freeze (we’ve had it “fixed” about a dozen times now, and it’s ability to keep our house warm is still iff-y). To make matters worse, the whole pipe-burst fiasco was quickly followed up by the worst flu I’ve had in years — the kind where you build yourself a little nest of blankets on the bathroom floor, and you don’t even care when your husband has to step over you to brush his teeth in the morning.
Needless to say, that wasn’t really how I had planned on starting off the year, and it put a serious damper on my excitement. There were so many things I wanted to be doing, but couldn’t. I felt like I was falling behind, and letting myself down. (Um, it’s been how many weeks since my last blog post? I’ve missed you guys!) Thoughts like those made me uber sad. It made me wish there were some kind of “refresh” button, so I could go back and start the year over again, only this time without the frozen pipe and nausea.
So, let’s try this again. Happy new year! Let’s make 2015 (minus most of January) the best year ever. Starting with Madeleines.
Madeleines, in case you haven’t had them, are buttery little French cakes, baked in a special pan which imparts not only its unique seashell shape, but also the requisite crisp, golden edges which make Madeleines so wonderful. They are lightly sweet, tender, and fragrant — I flavored mine with vanilla and fresh orange zest, but you could just as easily use lemon, or ginger, or any other flavor you like — and make the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee.
For as fancy as they seem, they are incredibly easy to make at home. They’re best within the first few hours out of the oven, before the crisp exterior softens, which is a rare treat you won’t find in a store-bought box. That isn’t to say they aren’t still delicious the next day, though — we doused our remaining cakes with a drizzle of rum, which entirely made up for their lack of freshness, and added a whole new layer of flavor and texture. A splash of grand marnier or amaretto would have worked equally well, or you could simply dunk them in a mug of coffee, or hot cocoa.
There’s something very zen about baking. Butter, sugar, eggs, stir. Flour, salt, leavening, mix. Then again, perhaps it’s the resulting deliciousness that makes baking so therapeutic. Either way, I’m happy to say that these madeleines have brightened my mood a great deal, and revived some of my excitement for the year to come. There are several big projects I’d like to tackle this year, which, if things go smoothly, I’ll be able to share with you all soon. (Hint: one of them might, maybe, possibly be an e-book of some kind. I can hardly believe I’m saying this out loud, because I haven’t even gotten started yet, but I’ll keep you posted as things start to take shape!)
Many of the things I want to do this year are big, time consuming projects, and my hope is to be able to work on them steadily, while still keeping up with regular recipes and updates here on the blog. It may take a little while before I have anything to show for it, but when I do I promise you’ll be the first to know.
In the meantime, let’s make some madeleines!
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 TBSP orange juice
- 1 TBSP orange zest
- 1 tsp. Good vanilla extract
- the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
- ¾ cup all prupose flour
- ¼ cup cake flour
- 1 tsp. Baking powder
- small pinch of salt
- plenty of extra butter for greasing the molds, very soft
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Begin by greasing the madeleine molds with butter. I suggest using two or three pans, this way you can bake more madeleines at once without having to cool and re-grease the molds multiple times. The butter should be very soft, but not melted, this way you can get a nice thick layer of butter to prevent sticking. I recommend using your fingers, or a pastry brush, to smear the butter into each mold.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. This is easily done by hand, or with an electric mixer. Beat in the orange juice and zest, vanilla extract, and scrapings of one vanilla bean.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together both of the flours, baking powder, and salt. Add this, along with the melted butter, to the bowl with the egg mixture, and mix until just combined.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap, or a damp tea towel, and let the batter rest at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. (You could also refrigerate the batter for up to a few hours -- keep in mind that chilled batter will take longer to bake.)
- When ready to bake, spoon about one TBSP batter into each mold, or enough to fill each about ¾ full (the amount will vary depending on the size of your mold). To make this easier, you can transfer the batter to a piping bag, or large ziptop bag, and pipe the batter into the pan.
- Place on the center rack of the oven, and bake for 10-13 minutes, or until lightly golden and risen. Remove from the oven and let cool for five minutes before removing from the pan.
- Serve as is, or with a dusting of powdered sugar. I like my madeleines alongside a cup of strong black tea, or with just a bit of rum or other liquor drizzled over them. Enjoy!