Saturday, January 8, 2011

Orange Blossom Madeleines . . . Are They On Your List?

This seems to be the time of year for lists. Lists of what we'd like to change, what we want to try, lists of last year's best and worst--you name it, someone's got a list for it. I had a list of bread and pastry items I wanted to make, along with a list of unusual ingredients I wanted try, and I managed to cross quite a few things off over the last twelve months.

One of the items on my 2010 list of  baked goods, that I had intended to make at home but never got around to, were madeleines--those spongy little French cookies/cakes that novelist Marcel Proust immortalized almost 100 years ago. Why I never got around to doing it last year I can hardly fathom; they're not difficult or complicated. But as my 83  year-old dad enjoys pointing out, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. (He typically says this with a half-smile, as if he secretly believes it's one of the funniest aphorisms he's ever heard but isn't sure he should let on.)

Hard to argue with the philosophical truth of a statement like that, but I did at least manage to make madeleines in school a couple of times last year. Still, I never feel like I've made something on my own until I've done it at home, without a white-garbed professional chef hovering nearby. There's all manner of support and oversight in my baking and pastry classes but there's nothing whatsoever to fall back on at home. That's why it's often far scarier for me to embark on an intimidating recipe while I'm in my own kitchen than it is to do so in a culinary classroom.

Luckily, madeleines require nothing in the way of back-up and they shouldn't strike fear in even the most rudimentary baker's heart. In fact, they can be whipped up inside of an hour without the least stress or strain. No need for even an electric hand mixer. All you need is a bowl, a whisk, and maybe a pen so you can cross this one off of your list, too!

About this recipe . . . 

This recipe is from Nick Malgieri's book, Cookies Unlimited. (And you know how I love his books--they've never let me down, not once.) I changed it only by adding in a bit of orange blossom honey and I reworded the instructions, throwing in my own two cents, as usual.

If you don't have any orange flower water on hand, don't worry about it, but if you can get your hands on a bottle, I recommend you use it. Why? Because it's captivating. Its fragrance is perfume-like and slightly off-putting at first, especially when you consider that it's going to be added to food. But taste a couple drops before you decide against its use. The flavor, once it has a moment to rest on your tongue, reveals its origin in orange blossoms. It's like a beautiful potion. Even the bottle is pretty. I think you need to try it in 2011. So there.

Orange Blossom Madeleines
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour the cavities in a madeleine pan. This recipe makes at least 12 large madeleines, with a little batter left over.  (If you have two pans, I'd suggest you prepare both of them.)

2 large eggs, room temperature (Warm your eggs by placing them in their shells in a bowl of very warm water for a few minutes; works wonders.)
1 pinch salt (I used regular salt.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, minus 1 Tbsp.
1 Tbsp. orange blossom honey
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1 tsp. orange flower water (Okay to leave out if you don't have it. Could substitute a tiny bit of orange extract instead.)
1 cup all-purpose flour (Malgieri's recipe doesn't dictate that you sift, but I siftted.)
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (But not hot!)
Confectioners' sugar for finishing (You'll need just a couple tablespoons, really.)

In a medium sized bowl, using a hand whisk, beat the eggs and salt until they're bubbly; this should take only about 15 seconds.

In a thin stream, whisk in the sugar. Whisk in the zest, and orange flower water, then the honey.

Fold in the flour using a rubber spatula, then add in the melted butter, folding until well combined.

Use a large spoon (Malgieri recommends a soup spoon) to fill the cavities of the prepared pan about 2/3 of the way full.  

Bake the madeleines until they've risen, feel firm to the touch, and are lightly golden. Immediately remove the madelienes from the pan; they'll fall right out when you turn it over. 

Put them on a rack to cool. Dust them very lightly with confectioners sugar before serving.

 (If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Anonymous said...

Oh, I adore your Madeleines. I just took some out of the oven 5 minutes ago. They didn't like the altitude, so I will have to adjust the recipe and try again. They are also made with orange zest and the taste is fantastic.

tasteofbeirut said...

I was attracted by the title of your post because as a Lebanese-American I use orange blossom in everything sweet! I even have friends in Lebanon who make it themselves and sometimes we luckily get a bottle. I was also intrigued by this bottle as I have never seen this Lebanon valley brand before. Anyway, the madeleines in my humble opinion are made for orange blossom!

Dinners and Dreams said...

I bake with orange blossom water a lot. I love the taste and it reminds me of my childhood in Morocco. My mother often baked with it and that's how I got to love it too. The madeleines look beautiful.


Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

I really love making madeleines. They are really quick, as you said! But I've never tried them with orange blossom even though I've been meaning to try it. You're so right; I always just write lists but this year I want to really accomplish it. Thanks for the recipe, and the inspiration :)

Jane said...

Hi MK in the Rockies,
Must be a psychic baking connection! I wonder how many other folks are out there making madeleines all at the same time! ;) The little cakes (or are they cookies??) have so much appeal, it's understandable.
Jane :)

Dear Taste of Beirut,
Oh my gosh! You may not believe this, but I thought of your blog when I was preparing these! I remember, when I first discovered Taste of Beirut, and I must have seen recipes within it that used the flower water. I do think it's just a gorgeous and wonderful ingredient. This bottle, that I photographed for the post, was given to me by my mother-in-law. There are lots of Middle Eastern families and fantastic restaurants in this area, so it's not hard to come by this ingredient, luckily! I'm so happy you stopped by and left a comment. I love your blog.
Thanks so much,
Jane :)

Hello Dinners and Dreams,
Just the phrase "my childhood in Morocco" evokes the most extraordinary and exotic images. I can only imagine the delightful foods your mom must have baked for you there. I can see how orange flower water--the scent and taste--could easily remind you of long-ago memories. Many thanks for visiting and for your lovely comment.
Jane :)

Hi Les Reves,
Oh yes, do put orange flower water on your own 2011 list! Isn't it remarkable the number of variations one sees for madeleine recipes? I am interested in trying all sorts of them now, Someday, if I'm lucky, I hope to taste one while sitting at a cafe in Paris. That's going onto my list of things I want to do before I die!
:) Warmly,

Anonymous said...

I've never made Madeline's before and have always wanted to! Thanks for the recipe!!

une cuillère pour les délices said...

hummm your madeleines look delicious! Can I have one?! =)
I love you site!
XoXo Clém'

Candy Girl said...

Your madelines look beautiful and delicious! I love the photo of your mis en place and am going to try and track down a bottle of orange blossom water.

SaraH said...

I bought a couple of madeleine pans years ago, so I guess they were on my imaginary list of "Things I Want To Try Baking." Thanks for the photos and encouragement. I WILL do it!

Hanaâ said...

These look adorable, Jane. And I have that same bottle of orange blossom water. When I made my first madeleines late last year, I used orange blossom honey which was wonderful. And I agree. Nick Malgieri's books are awesome. I'll have to look up this recipe and put a sticky note on it :o)

Lisa said...

I have a list of things that I've been wanting to bake too. Your madeleines came out so pretty and fluffy. Orange blossom sounds like a great flavor for them.

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Oh, I love orange flower water! Usually I think it works better with uncooked or quickly-cooked things like custards or syrups to flavor tea with, but I love madeleines so I'll have to try this recipe. The orange tree in the back yard is blooming right now so I have orange blossoms on the brain!

Cheesetomato said...

Your recipe is the only one I found that doesn't require an electric mixer! Can I ask, what's orange honey? Will regular honey do? Thanks!

Jane said...

Hi there Cheesetomato,

Orange-blossom honey is honey that is created by honey bees that pollinate orange trees in orange groves! (A charming image, yes?) It can usually be found in health food stores and gourmet food shops, but I was also able to find it at a regular grocery store. It may be a little pricier than typical clover honey, but it has a subtle flavor difference that's very nice.
Thanks so much for visiting Jane's Sweets, and happy baking!

Jane of Jane's Sweets