Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A TASTE OF SPRING(Recipe) by Pamela Sherwood

Lemon Tree...and Feline Guardian!
Just as there are certain colors and smells that you automatically associate with specific seasons, so are there particular flavors. So if autumn tastes like pumpkin, ginger, and cranberries, winter like peppermint and chocolate, and summer like strawberries and peaches, spring--at least to me--tastes like lemons. And right now, with the warmer weather coming in, Southern California's lemon trees are putting out bumper crops of sunny yellow fruit!

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)
2 eggs
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.

Madeleine Batter 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees about 10 minutes before baking. Stir batter until fluid again and fill madeleine molds about 2/3 to 3/4 full. You can use a butter knife to spread the batter closer to the edges of the mold.

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?


  1. These look so good! I need to try to bake them :) Thanks for this one Pamela :)

  2. Those look so yummy! I guess I like some of the pastas with avocado and lime. That makes me think of spring. Jasmine is blooming all over here. The smell is pure spring!

  3. Christy, you're welcome! Hope your attempt at madeleine-making is a delicious success!

    Shana, lime is another lovely spring ingredient. And jasmine--of both the oficianlis and star version--is coming out here too. The scent is downright intoxicating, especially in the morning!

  4. Oh, I do love lemon and those look so delicious that I have to try them. We love freshly squeezed lemonade at our house in the spring...and Husband does a fantastic job of making it for us!

  5. Those look so good! I remember my lemon tree when I was living in California. Nothing is so good as fresh fruit!

  6. Carolyn, there's something wonderfully clean and sharp about the smell/taste of lemons. And you can do so much with them. Fresh-squeezed lemonade is a delight in hot weather, especially with a touch of mint.

    Amanda, fresh fruit in the spring and summer is an unalloyed delight!

  7. These look delicious! And lemony! I look forward to fresh fruits and veggies in spring.

  8. Sherri, the farmers' markets are overflowing with fresh fruit and veggies in the spring! I look at them and start devising menus in my head.