Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Madeleine and the 99¢ pan
Some of you who've been reading this blog awhile are aware of my difficulties in learning to bake madeleines. These are those classic, centuries-old French cakes with the famous scallop shape and ribbed design, baked with lemon or orange zest and often enjoyed dunked in tea or coffee. Back in the fall I baked numerous experimental pans of the things, but they never popped out of the pan with the pretty shell shape as they should have. Tired of eating what amounted to Lemon Crumble Cake, I gave up for a while.
The madeleine pan I was using was one I found at the local antique mall. It was just a few dollars, it was vintage, it was French ... and it never worked for me. Not even when I generously buttered it three times, freezing the pan between butterings to get every nook and cranny of the pan covered well. Then one day, I found in a Ross store a Wilton, non-stick madeleine pan for just $4.99. Somehow, when I got up to the register the sticker had non-stuck to the pan. (And no, I didn't remove it, for bargains wouldn't be any fun if you got them by cheating!) I didn't realize this at first, so I was puzzled when the clerk scanned the 99¢ clearance box of tea I was buying a second time. She told me the pan's sticker was missing and asked if 99¢ was OK for the price. "Well, yes, that'd be great!" I said. My goodness!
I didn't try baking madeleines again over the holidays because I didn't want to risk another baking failure. But Sunday morning, with church called off because of snow and a tea party coming up that afternoon, I tried again. Using a recipe I found in "The Perfect Afternoon Tea" book, a very simple recipe that called for confectioners' sugar rather than granulated sugar, I fired up the oven. I even (on the advice of my DH) sprayed the non-stick pan, just to be on the safe side. From the first lemony madeleine to the last, they poppped out of the pan just picture perfect, and these will now be a lovely addition to my repertoire of easy-to-make teatime treats. (I also have a New York Times madeleine recipe thoughtfully supplied by a reader of this blog, and if I can remember to actually print it out before my next baking session I want to try it using the new pan as well.) If you want to try baking madeleines for yourself, please do yourself a favor and begin with a new, non-stick pan!