Archive for the ‘French’ Category

Lemon Madeleines

Posted: May 19, 2017 in baking, Breakfast, French

 


Picking sleep out of my eyes, ruffling my bed hair and negotiating my slippers, I shuffled to the kitchen and made myself a cup of coffee.  The morning silence broken only by the sound of the swifts catching their breakfast.

What was I going to ‘catch’ for my Sunday breakfast?

I didn’t fancy toast; anyway I’d forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge last night and even though I had some smoked salmon that would have been lush with scrambled eggs and smashed avocados, I didn’t fancy that either.  And then it hit me… lemon madeleines.  I know, I know, only I can go from toast to baking madeleines as my alternative breakfast at 8am on a Sunday morning!  Anyway, once I had the idea in my head there was no turning back.

Madeleines are ridiculously easy to make, as can be seen in the clip below.  Still in my PJ’s I set about preheating the oven and weighing out the ingredients.

Mix everything together and let the lemony batter rest whilst the oven comes up to temperature.

 

Madeleines are best served warm, so once you’ve got them out of their pan and cooling on a wire rack, make yourself another cup of coffee and your lazy, relaxed, weekend breakfast is served.  This amount of batter makes 12 madeleines – I scoffed 4 without even feeling guilty about it and later had another one with a cup of tea…

…the raspberries make it one of your five a day…don’t they?!

Note: even though madeleines are very easy to make (and even easier to eat!) I wouldn’t necessarily want to make these on a work day where you’re generally following a regular morning routine and you’re up against the clock.  Maybe having the batter in the fridge from the night before and the minute you wake up turning the oven on might be too organised even for me!  The recipe is perfect for morning shuffling, plodding around the house, listening to your favourite radio station; waking the house up, slowly.

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I walked up to my front door to find that there was a bright red present tied with white and blue ribbon waiting at its feet.  It felt as if I had just received my first valentine card…the excitement, the joy, the intrigue.  Ripping through the wrapping, I found myself faced with a metal madeleine tray with 12 scallop-shell shaped moulds staring up at me.  Now if like me, you’re a food obsessive, you’d know what to do with it – otherwise you’d be taking it down the beach to decorate your sandcastles with.

the excitement, the joy, the intrigue

But I still hadn’t figured out who left it there!

The card that accompanied the tray made everything clearer; it was a gift from my friend, Pie.  On the card were suggestions as to which madeleine recipe to follow and who to youtube should I need direction, so that I too could enjoy the delights of a fresh, warm madeleine with a cup of coffee as a weekend breakfast.

I must place this in a context for you; my friend Pie, bakes delicious madeleines (or so she tells me as she’s never managed to invite me round for Sunday breakfast!)

So what is a madeleine?


A madeleine is a French patisserie favourite.  A small, buttery sponge cake to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.  Classically they will either be lemon or almond flavoured, however, they now come in a variety of different flavours; dunked in chocolate or filled with jam/fruit/curd.  But what sets a Madeleine apart from a standard sliced tea-time sponge cake, is the scallop-shell impressed pan they are baked in.

Having taken Pie’s recommendations and done some research myself – Michel Roux Jnr’s recipe is a good one to start with:

Madeleines

Ingredients:
2 eggs

100g caster sugar

100g plain flour + extra for dusting

1 lemon

¾ tsp baking powder

100g melted butter

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.  Brush the Madeleine tray with melted butter, shake in a little flour to coat the shells and tap out the excess.

2nd: Prepare your dry ingredients in a bowl and the lemon zest.  Pour the lemon juice into the melted butter and set aside.

3rd: Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy.

4th: Pour in the melted butter and lemon mixture and lightly whisk in the flour.  Leave to stand for 20mins before carefully pouring the batter into your prepared madeleine tray.

5th: Bake for 8-10mins until risen in the middle and fully cooked through.  The madeleine should be golden brown around the edges.  Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Madeleines are best eaten within the hour – barely warm and sprinkled with icing sugar.

I recommend you set your timer for 8mins and then watch the madeleines like a hawk as they’ll go from pale and white to dark brown within the 2mins left!
Renowned food writers, such as David Lebovitz, who is known to “pop a few for breakfast” drizzles honey into the mix and gives his batter a generous wait time.  Rachel Khoo, from Little Paris Kitchen, drizzles in some honey and prods a raspberry into the centre of the batter mixture before baking, then piping lemon curd into the centre of the baked madeleine.  Julia Child’s recipe calls for salt, vanilla extract, 2 drops of lemon juice and 2 drops of bergamot extract as well as boiling the butter first to turn it brown – why would any home cook want to have to go through all that?!

I followed Michel Roux Jnr’s recipe adding more lemon juice than expressed.  Next time I’d like the madeleine to have a stronger lemon taste therefore adding more juice or perhaps adding some lemon curd to the batter mixture.  I prepared the batter before I went out the night before and placed in the fridge.

Make sure not to fill the moulds too much as they will spill over and engulf the madeleine next to it if you’re not too careful.


I suppose, like the old Chinese proverb: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  Pie has provided me with the tools and wisdom, so that I too can eat madeleines as often as I want.

Cue accordion music

 

On Thursday evening I was treated to a wine & tapas tasting event at El Capote, Gibraltar.  Organiser and host, Ian Gareze, informed us by email that:

“the food & wine matching evening consists of 6 french wines accompanied by 6 tapas designed to best compliment the characteristics of the wine and  vice versa”

I replied immediately and booked myself in knowing how popular these evenings are.

I was really looking forward to this!

Having arrived on my own I wasn’t really too sure where to sit but was quickly reassured by our host that it was a mash-mash of people with the idea being to mingle with like-minded people who enjoy good food and good wine!

Tables were laid out as one long table, banquet-style, along the length of the room with chairs placed on either side of the table (it’s an intimate venue.)  Wine glasses stood proudly along the table accompanied by water jugs.  Apparently so as to rinse out your wine glass before trying the next wine.

As people arrived and took their places at the banqueting table it was evident that this was not to be one of those pretentious evenings where people talk about the bouquet of the wine whilst spitting half of it out into a bucket!

This was simple – 6 wines, 6 tapas, enjoy yourselves!  It did exactly what it said on the tin.

1) Bouchard Pouilly Fusse (white) with Moules Mariniere and Sautéed Calamares

All three components of this course were very well balanced.  The wine was chilled but not cold.  It had a delicate herbal note that was reminiscent of recently mown grass which was very well matched to the thyme in the sauce in which the moules were bathing.  This sauce was flavoursome yet light.  The calamares – something which can sometimes become tough and rubbery through over cooking, were tender and exquisite on the tongue.  My only complaint was that there was no bread at the table to mop up the herby, garlicy juices that remained at the bottom of the dish.  But my panic was immediately abated by the waiting staff as they swiftly came round leaving bowls of rustic, chunky, Spanish bread for everyone to get their fill of the juices.  De-licious.

2) Maison Brotte Rose Tavel (Rosé) with Cheese and Potato Nests

Not generally a fan of pink wines (probably because I drank copious amounts of Mateus Rosé in my youth!) I was slightly hesitant about trying this wine.  However after my first sip I was in danger!  This wine was so quaffable; I couldn’t get enough of it.  I could imagine myself sitting in the sun guzzling glass upon glass of this wine.  It had a robustness and lingering finish that I would never have associated with a Rosé.

The birds nests were prepared with brie and lardons (to stay in the french vein).  I thought this combination might not work with the wine, as the saltiness of the lardons would interfere with the floral notes in the wine.  A vegetarian at our table had her own lardon-free nests.  For research purposes I tried both with the wine and surprisingly, the lardons made the wine taste sweeter and almost intensified its flavour and finish on the pallet.

With the white and rosé unscrewed and consumed we moved onto the reds.  Two Bouchard Burgundy Reds were on the menu – Fleurie and Morgon harvested from different villages within the Beaujolais region.

3) Bouchard Fleurie (Red) with Chicken Liver Pâté and Goats Cheese Pâté

Chicken liver pâté with caramelised onion chutney was beautiful.  I must confess I do have a weakness for any pâté on crispbread but the star here was the goat’s cheese, with its mix of herbs which gave the dish a shimmer of sophistication.

This was matched with the Bouchard Fleurie.  This wine was deceptive.  It had a slightly shocking pink hue to it but was still full bodied.  The creamy goats cheese and the velvety mouth-feel of the wine were in great partnership but I was intrigued to see if the white wine we tried at the beginning would have been as good a partner to the goat’s cheese pâté as the Fleurie?  Food for thought (pardon the pun!).

4) Bouchard Morgon (Red) with Coq au Vin

Classic Coq au Vin deconstructed and presented en brochette.

The chicken itself had been marinaded in the Bouchard Morgon overnight.  And you could taste it.  The eternal worry with cooking chicken is always presenting it underdone and even worse nuking it within an inch of its life.  Our host apologised for the length of time we had to wait for this to finish cooking but to be honest we had been plied with so much wine by now that it really wasn’t a worry!  Everyone was mingling and chatting away as if we all knew eachother previously.

As instructed by our host, we removed the pieces of the brochette onto the plates provided.  The chicken was succulent and tender.  The marinade had been reduced to make a sauce to go over the chicken.  This was packed full of flavour and finished the dish off perfectly.

I was very impressed by this take on a classic dish.

5) La Fiole Du Pape – Chateaunuef Du Pape with Boeuf Bourguignon

The megastar of the evening in both the wine and food was the matching of La Fiole Du Pape with Boeuf Bourguignon.

La Fiole is surprisingly soft on the palate but its strong tannins lead to a powerful almost majestic finish.  It is full bodied but silky and smooth at the same time.

The boeuf bourguignon was melt-in-your-mouth tender!  The intense red wine flavour coming through with every mouthful.  I must mention the dumplings; these were a clever addition to this dish as more bread to clean the plate with, at this time of the proceedings, would have literally been gut busting!

6) Ochoa Moscatel (White) with Chouquettes

Fair enough – Moscatel is NOT a French wine!  I know.  We all know.  Unfortunately we were meant to try a French variety of this wine but alas it was not possible.  According to the professionals though, the only difference between this white and the French version was the label and hence the price.

Chouquettes, as there name implies are choux pastry sweet treats.  I had to research these online as I had never heard of them before.  Fellow food blogger, David Lebovitz, refers to them as:

“Cream puffs covered with crunchy nuggets of sugar”

So close your eyes and imagine a profiterole in your mind.  Erase the chocolate coating on top.  Now remove the cream that’s inside.  Sprinkle some coarse/pearl sugar over, and presto you have a choquette.

Parisians would have these in the afternoon as their le snack with a cup of coffee.

However, being neither Parisian nor the  afternoon we were jovially chomping our way through these sweat treats drinking copious amounts of sweat white wine.

My tip: dunk these in the sweet wine.  Not only did it serve to help restore some moisture to these cream puffs but they symbiotically sweetened eachother creating a tantalising dessert that relinquished their secret juices with every bite.  It had me going back for more!

A perfect end to what was a truly a enjoyable experience.

Next time, barring epidemics and natural disasters, I shall also go on my own, unfazed by the prospect of being alone,  knowing that from the minute I get there I will be in the presence of good food, good wine, and good company.

Here’s to the next one!