Spice and Chocolate Madeleines

by Jenny

{photo from my trip to Paris ‘09}

Happy 2012! Is there any better motivation than the promise of a fresh start the new year brings? Being a lover of lists I take great pleasure in working out my resolutions, and in the naive optimism that this year might be the year that I keep them.

I like to come up with 12: one a month for the year.  Most of them are average: eat better, exercise more, lose weight (hopefully helped by the first two), read more books, finish more projects; but some are exciting, which I will hopefully be able to share later this year.  Ultimately, all of them aim to shape me into the adult I wish to be.

In my mind the perfect adult is sophisticated, chic, well-read, and well-travelled; the latter being, to me, the most important and appealing.  I grew up with tales of my parents’ adventures, both of whom had travelled around and lived abroad before they met, settled down, and had a (huge) family.

It wasn’t until I reconnected with an old school friend (who is now my lovely boyfriend) through the wonder of Facebook that my longing to see the world was reignited. Together, we’ve visited three continents, eaten food that I can only describe as ‘pests’ (snails and pigeon rate highly), driven across state lines in the USA, and had a late night picnic in Parc du Champs-de-Mars watching the Eiffel Tower light show.

{traditional shell shape}

Paris became my favourite place in the world as soon as I stepped off the train.  Everything felt magical, stylish, and almost cinematic; it’s no wonder I drive my boyfriend mad rewatching Julie and Julia; food and Paris is everything I love crammed into just under two hours.

It’s a constant struggle not to fill my flat with Paris-themed trinkets (this blog was not spared, with Parisian font being used for both the logo and each title piece), which is why I was thrilled when I unwrapped a Madeleine tin on Christmas morning.

Known as French butter cakes, they are actually made from an Italian genoise sponge, which differs from traditional sponges as it lacks a raising agent.  The noticeable bump in the middle of the cake is caused by whisking the eggs and sugar together, which traps air in the mixture and causes the sponge to rise.

There are many stories of how these little shell shaped cakes came into existence (I’m not sure I have ever researched so much into the history of a cake before!), but my favourite theory was voiced by Paul Child, husband of – you guessed it – Julia Child!  He believed that early versions of this treat were baked in cockle shells, which gave them their legendary shape.

I would like to call it my own creativity that caused me to vary from Julia Child’s recipe, rather than the urgency of scouring my cupboards after discovering that I had forgotten to buy two flavouring ingredients.  Lacking in lemon and vanilla, I substituted them out for more seasonal spices, and a generous swirl of Nutella, which added both flavour and pattern.

{decorate with a simple dusting of icing sugar}

Spiced Chocolate Madeleines
Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe from ‘From Julia Child’s Kitchen’
Makes 12

Ingredients (all at room temperature):
1 egg beaten
1/3 cup of sugar
½ cup plain flour
2oz butter
pinch of salt
1/2tsp ginger
1/2tsp cinamon
1tsp nutmeg
1 generous dessert spoon of Nutella

Mix flour and sugar in a bowl with ¾ of the egg.  Beat with a wooden spoon until it forms a heavy cream, if it’s very stiff add a little bit of the remaining egg, one drop at a time.  Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

Bring the butter to boil in a pan until it begins to brown, mix a tablespoon of butter with one and a half tablespoons of flour to make a paste and use this to paint the madeleine tin.  Cool the rest of the butter in a cold water bath until is chilled but still liquid.

Mix the rest of the egg into the batter, followed by the spices and the butter and finally carefully fold in the Nutella so it leaves streaks throughout the batter.

Leave both the batter and the tin to cool for an hour in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 170, divide the batter into the tin, but don’t spread to fill the mould.

Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden.

{delicious tea time treat}

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