If you think of a French dessert chances are you think of macarons (meringue based cookie not to be confused with macaroons or coconut macaroons) or madeleines. Madeleines are the shell-shaped butter cakes that are excellent for soaking up tea.
I remember, while on spring break in Paris my senior year in high school, walking by a bakery that had its windows full of epicurean delights including powder coated madeleines. There were hundreds of these petite confections just waiting to be consumed.
I have long wanted to try to make madeleines, and I even own a madeleine pan which still had the wrappings on it. The ingredients were few and on hand, so I thought I would give it a try on a recent Sunday afternoon.
My husband and I had had a light lunch with plans for a light dinner. We had had a heavy lunch and dinner the day before, so we were trying to even out. It was a cold but beautiful day, one that was made for looking out the window as opposed to being outside. I decided that day was my day to bake some madeleines.
I prepared the confections, which took only about 35 minutes from start to finish. I am slow, so another person could probably do them in 30 minutes. They bake for only 10 minutes.
I gathered my teapot, tea, cups, saucers, and small plates. Once the table was set and the delicacies prepared, I asked my husband if he would like a cup of tea and a madeleine. Anticipating his decline, I was prepared to enjoy tea alone. However, with the chill in the house and the delightful smell of an unseen wonder in the kitchen, he accepted my offer.
The cakes were probably a bit more done than they should have been, but they were delicious! I had overfilled the shell-shaped wells just a tad as the cakes rose during baking and created domed backs. The cakes ended up looking like small speedboats. My recipe, which stated it made 12 cakes, probably makes 14 or 15 in my pan.
It was only a 30 or 40 minute break from the preparations for the work week, but it was a delightful time spent with my husband…just talking, sipping, eating and, every now and then, dunking.
Tea needn’t be elaborate multi-course adventures. A hot cup of tea and a tea cake will delight child, man or beast! I chose to use an ivory bone china with gold trim, but our regular morning mugs would have been just fine!