Tag Archives: Fannie Farmer Baking Book

MADELEINES AND PROUST

Every week I meet with my writing group to read some interesting poems, write some poetry, and read our work to one another. Sometimes we read bits of really classic writing. Seems like a good platform for reading a little of Swann’s Way from Remembrances of Things Past and thinking about madeleines. Also a good excuse for baking some madeleines. Years ago, I tried making them from one of Julia Child’s recipes, and they were a total flop, so I have never been brave enough to try them again until now. My recipe is a tweek of the version in Marion Cunningham’s Fannie Farmer Baking Book. If you follow the directions carefully, it is an easy effort. You should also have all of the ingredients assembled and equipment at the ready before you start. (remember, mis en place.)

Also, I’ve never read Remembrance of Things Past, so I was anxious to find out what the fuss was all about. Here’s a quote from Proust:

 Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray… had any existence for me when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea…She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell.. I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shivver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me.  An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with not suggestion of its origin… I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature.

No wonder everyone wants to  be transformed by a madeleine with tea.

None of the group writes as well as Proust, but I thought we might get some inspiration with a fresh madeleine.

RECIPE

Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour placed in a flour sifter
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter. melted
  • 4 tablespoons soft butter to coat lining of baking forms
  • confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Method

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest. Set the bowl in a pan of simmering water. Be sure the level of the water is above the level of the egg mixture. (See my post on seven-minute frosting.) Using an instant-read thermometer, beat on low speed with an electric mixer until the temperature is 130 – 140° F. If it is too cool, the batter will not come together. If it is too hot, the eggs may scramble and you will have to start again.
  2. Remove the bowl from the water bath. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is tripled in volume and is light and fluffy – about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and salt.
  4. Sift half of the flour over the egg mixture and fold in with a spoon or spatula. Pour in the melted butter, and sift in the remaining flour, folding in gently until the batter is smooth.
  5. Spoon the batter by generous tablespoons into madeleine molds that have been greased generously with the remaining butter. There should be enough batter for 24 regular-sized molds.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes in the middle of an oven that has been pre-heated to 400°F. The edges of the cookies should be golden and lift easily from the molds. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. The cookies should be served within a few hours or wrapped and frozen. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

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PALMIERS – COOKING WITH KIDS, PART ONE

We had two of our grandchildren visit us for a few days before their parents came to take them back home. The kids wanted to do some cooking while they were here, so I tried to think of recipes that would be not only easy but also tasty. The latter is sometimes a bit of a challenge with kids who are in the process of forming their own likes and dislikes.

I remembered a leftover sheet of puff pastry in the freezer. What could be easier and tastier than a batch of palmiers, the crisp sugary  French cookies? Problem one solved.

The kids and I prepared dinner for their first evening with us. Palmiers would be the dessert, and nachos would be the main dish. All of that seemed simple enough.

We made the palmiers first so that they would be ready as soon as we finished eating the nachos.

We used a recipe from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984, p 262). The only ingredients are puff pastry and sugar. That made it fun for the kids to roll out the pastry dough on a bed of sugar, fold them up, slice them, flatten them a bit with the rolling-pin, and bake them for only a few minutes. The hardest part of the process was resisting eating them before we made the nachos.

RECIPE

Palmiers

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry dough, thawed
  • granulated sugar (about one cup)

Method

  1. Thaw frozen puff pastry over night in the refrigerator according to package instructions
  2. Sprinkle a generous layer of granulated sugar on the work surface. The sugar should be spread to a larger size than the sheet of puff pastry
  3. Unfold the thawed puff pastry on the sugar. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch thick using a rolling-pin and being careful to maintain the rectangular shape of the pastry.
  4. Sprinkle the top generously with more sugar.
  5. Fold the two long sides of the pastry sheet so that they meet in the middle of the sheet. Then fold one side onto the other.
  6. With a very sharp knife, using a sawing motion, cut the pastry roll into ½ inch slices. Then place each slice on one of its cut sides, flatten with the rolling-pin, and arrange on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat cooking mat.
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes or until the cookies are crisp and lightly browned and the sugar is caramelized.
  8. When the cookies are baked, remove from the oven, and transfer to a cooling rack.

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