|Lemon Tree...and Feline Guardian!|
And enthusiastic cooks like me eye the laden branches with mingled speculation--and acquisitiveness! Because lemons are among the most versatile of ingredients, finding their way into all kinds of dishes: hot, cold, savory, sweet, liquid or solid. Whether it's avgolemono soup or lemon cream pasta or lemon meringue pie, lemon enlivens any springtime menu.
Today I'm sharing a recipe for madeleines, those pretty scallop-shaped cakes that you can now find as overpriced three-packs at your local Starbucks or Trader Joe's. Previously, your best bet was a French bakery--or between the pages of Proust's In Search of Lost Time (aka Remembrance of Things Past), in which the narrator relives his childhood while snacking on a madeleine dipped in tea.
I bought my madeleine tray some years ago and inflicted madeleines of various flavors on my family: lemon, almond, chocolate (the last a little dry, I regret to say--the recipe needed refining). After a certain point, though, I fell out of the habit of madeleine-making--a book contract may have had something to do with that--and my tray languished half-forgotten in the kitchen cupboard.
|Madeleine Tray, Buttered, Floured, and Ready for Action|
Until last Christmas, when I uncovered it while searching for something else--and promptly succumbed to a Proustian-level fit of nostalgia for these treats! And as it happens, the hero of my current WIP turned out to be very fond of madeleines himself, especially the almond ones. But in keeping with the season, it's lemon madeleines this time around!
5 tablespoons of butter or margarine (melted)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup of flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter--otherwise you can omit)
Combine the last 3 ingredients in a bowl, mix well until blended.
Beat eggs and sugar together in mixing bowl, add melted butter (after cooling slightly), beat until blended. Add by turns the dry ingredients, the lemon juice and zest, and vanilla. Batter should be smooth and spreadable.
Cover bowl with clean towel and let batter stand for an hour. Grease and flour madeleine molds.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. Texture should be tender and slightly spongy, like little cakes. Remove from oven, let cool a few minutes before loosening madeleines from their molds. A butter knife is a good tool for this. Put madeleines on plate, dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm. Makes about 18-24 depending on the size of the molds.
|The Finished Product...Yum!|
They're actually very easy to make. It's the prep work that's the most time-consuming aspect, but the results are worth the hassle. If you have any left over, wrap in foil and reheat in a conventional oven before eating. Or pop them in a microwave for a few seconds. They taste much better warm--the texture turns rubbery when they're cold. (I also don't recommend dunking them in your tea--unless you have a passion for all things Proust. But these are moist enough without immersion!)
Enjoy! What are some of your favorite springtime dishes?