My bakery merchandising class, which just ended last week, was interesting, fun, and a lot of work. One of my final projects involved baking, packaging, displaying, and promoting a selection of madeleines to be sold in the culinary school's retail bakery. We were allowed to make just about anything we wanted to, with our teacher's approval, and most of the items we created sold really well. There were neopolitan marshmallows, chocolate dipped meringue cookies, coconut macaroons, small decorated layer cakes, three-dimensional cookies that looked like the Eiffel tower, mocha brownie whoopie pies, petit fours, and mini-tarts. Along with all of that was the usual bakery fare--breads, pies, pastries, cookie bars, you name it. In light of all that was offered, I was astonished that the madeleines, which were packed in small boxes of six, sold out in a couple of hours. Because of their out of the ordinary flavor profiles I expected they might not fly off the shelf, but luckily that wasn't the case.
I made three varieties--honey and lavender (made with dried culinary lavender and mild clover honey), orange blossom (made with orange blossom honey, orange flower water, and orange zest), and vanilla rose petal. After baking about 150 of the petite and tender cakes, I lightly glazed them and, once dry, carefully tucked them into boxes atop a frilly paper doily. The boxes were tied with narrow organdy ribbon (lavender, pale orange, or pink, depending on the flavor) and each was given a pretty label. They were on sale in conjunction with a festive Paris-themed dinner that was open to the public.
Have you ever made madeleines? They're simple to prepare but have their own idiosyncrasies and, contrary to what one might think, the assortment of recipes available to make them is pretty diverse. Some formulas make a big point of requiring that you chill the batter for hours, while others don't bother with this step at all. Some emphasize egg yolks, while others may require beaten egg whites. Some say that almond flour is de rigeur, others don't even bring the topic up.
And then there's the controversial hump on the back of the madeleine: does its presence signal a better madeleine, or is the debate just a tempest in a teapot? I guess it's cute . . . as bumps, humps, and lumps on cakes or cookies go . . . but why all the hoopla? I cranked out many experimental batches of madeleines over the last several weeks and, as far as I can tell, that little hump--present or not--doesn't impact taste or texture one iota. In my humble opinion, you haven't failed if your madeleines don't emerge looking pregnant on one side, so don't worry. (Today's recipe is non-hump, just fyi.)
About this recipe . . .
Adapted from a plain madeleine recipe found in the Cook's Illustrated website, this gives you a soft little cake. The use of dried rose petals, along with rose water, was my idea; I am crazy about them. They both smell so beautiful. I ordered these dried culinary roses from an organic farm in Ohio, and they were remarkably inexpensive. To grind them finely, I pulsed them in a clean, small, coffee grinder that I often use as a spice grinder.
Have you ever baked with roses or rose water? No doubt about it, they don't show up in typical American baking very often, but they're absolutely worth a try. To the uninitiated, their perfume may seem startling. And it feels strange, at first, to put something that smells so floral into food (also true for orange flower water, or lavender), but it's the purity of the scent that wins you over. They smell like the genuine essence of the flower itself, not soapy or synthetic. Use each sparingly, as a little of either ingredient goes an extremely long way.
Carefully butter and flour a 12-cavity madeleine pan. (I use inexpensive pans from a company called Fox Run; they work just fine. I butter and flour more than just the cavities. To be entirely on the safe side I prep the entire top of the pan. Biggest potential problem with madeleines is getting them out of the pan. Take no chances!)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Ingredients for batter:
2 large egg yolks, not cold
1 large whole egg, not cold
1/4 granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. rose water
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1 pinch kosher salt
3/4 tsp. crushed or ground culinary rose petals (dried)
1/4 cup melted butter, not hot
Ingredients for glaze:
Approximately 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tsp. crushed rose petals
1 tsp. rose water, or adjust amount to taste
About 2 Tbsp. plain water (more or less depending on how thick you want your glaze)
To make the batter:
In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, salt, and ground rose petals. Set aside.
Using the whip attachment on your mixer, beat the egg yolks, whole egg, vanilla, and rose water on medium-high speed until frothy and fluffy, about three minutes. Slowly pour in the sugar, beating on medium-high speed for about five minutes or more, until you can see a ribbon of batter in the bowl when you stop the mixer and and lift the whip attachment. The batter should be very light and fluffy.
Take the bowl off the mixer. Gradually fold in the dry ingredients using a spatula. Fold very gently and carefully.
Then do the same with the melted butter.
Spoon the batter evenly into the madeleine pan, filling the cavities all the way. It's okay if the batter mounds over the top a bit. Don't bother smoothing the batter; you don't want to deflate it, and it will smooth out on its own in the oven.
Place the pan on the middle rack and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden and the madeleines spring back when lightly pressed.
Spread out a clean dishcloth on your work surface. When the madeleines come out of the oven, turn them out right onto the dishcloth. You need to get them out of the pans while they're still very hot. Do not let them cool in the pans.
While they're still warm, glaze them. Make the glaze by whisking the sifted confectioners' sugar with the crushed rose petals. Stir in rose water and plain water and keep stirring until the glaze is lump free. I think it's best to make the glaze pretty thin. The madeleines are delicate when warm, so they're easily broken. The heavier the glaze, the more likely they'll be damaged. I glaze mine by holding some glaze in a large spoon over a small bowl of glaze, and I dip just the shell-shaped top in the glaze.
Let the glazed madeleines dry on the dishcloth. Store them tightly covered after they're dry and fully cooled. They're best when very fresh, but are pretty good for about the first two days.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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Visit the PBS site to reminisce about 2013's best food trends. They've assembled an entertaining look at what we foodies focused on--what we ate, cooked, read, watched, and blogged about--throughout the year. Click here!
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Timeson the resurgence in demand for the skills of professional pastry chefs. (It seems we still need them after all . . .but you and I have always known that, haven't we?)
The IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) announced winners of its 2013 IACP Food Writing Awards. Have a look at the list. (No surprise that the gorgeous Bouchon Bakery cookbook won for photography and styling; took about a dream of a book! It's gorgeous.)
Food journalist and cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang, writing for Publisher's Weekly, shared her thoughts in the article "10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know." Chang clarifies, in a nutshell, what differentiates a great cookbook from an awful dud. I found myself nodding in agreement with every point she made.
An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
. . . made with Grand Marnier, sweet black cherries, pomegranate juice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Dutch apple cake . . .
. . . it's divine!
What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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