I have been attending a creative writing class for several years. The group meets once a week and is led by a young woman who is an incredibly gifted poet. A new group enrolls every four to six weeks, and although there are always new members, there are several regulars who have become good friends. The class includes a professional actress whose writing is filled with beautiful language and images; a retired Orthodox priest who tells and writes wonderful stories about his adventures among Native American tribes throughout the West; a scientist who writes passionately about the environment and climate change; a retired journalist who makes us laugh with his stories about growing up; and a political activist who has a famously unfinished novel about feral pythons in the Everglades.
Our current series of workshops comes to a close this week. I thought some kind of snack would be a good way to say goodbye to all of the current participants. It seemed to me that nothing would be more appropriate for the group than some Proustean Madeleines. We won’t have any tea to dip them in and will have to make do with bottled water. I decided, though, that maybe rather than ordinary vanilla-flavored cookies the group might enjoy some made with Mandarin orange (actually “Halos” from my refrigerator) and poppy seed. Here’s the recipe. It is amazingly easy, and the only challenge is to find a French Madeleine pan. Never mind if you don’t have or can’t find one. Muffin tins will serve as fine substitutes. The batter is, after all, a French Genoise
Mandarin-Poppy Seed Madeleines
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- zest from one clementine
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 1 tablespoon orange liqueur
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 cup flour
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly + 2 tablespoons for preparing Madeleine molds
- juice from one clementine, strained
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Add the sugar and orange zest. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until it is foamy and has expanded at least three times in volume, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the salt, vanilla extract, orange blossom water, orange liqueur, and poppy seeds.
- Pour the flour into a large sieve, and sift about half of the flour into the batter. Fold in. Then add the 8 tablespoons of melted butter, and stir to incorporate. Sift in the remaining flour and fold in until well mixed. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, heat the oven to 400°F and prepare the Madeleine mold by brushing the remaining melted butter into the mold cups, making sure that the surfaces are well coated.
- By tablespoonfuls, transfer the batter into the prepared Madeleine molds. There should be enough for 24 individual Madeleines.
- Bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes or until the edges of the Madeleines are golden brown. Remove from the oven, loosen the edges of the individual cakes with a fork, and transfer to a cooling rack.
- Prepare the glaze by mixing the clementine juice and confectioner’s sugar to form a smooth liquid about the consistency of heavy cream.
- With a pastry brush, paint one side of each cooled Madeleine with the glaze. Let rest until the glaze has firmed, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container for up to 2 days.