Monday, March 31, 2008

This past week, we celebrated Spring Break. In that spirit, though we never left Chicago, Jacob and I switched our morning coffee routine to strictly stovetop esspresso maker and pulled stools up to the kitchen counter to eat, and felt strikingly "depayses" in our own home. We rode bikes in the drizzly grey city, immersed ourselves in authentic Austrian goodness at Julius Meinl, and spent evenings in book stores dreaming up new schemes, made a string of pizzas with friends, and piled stacks of blueberry pancakes on a cake stand for my sister's college girlfriends post sleepover.

AND, I got a bob, a bicycle, and a new blue dress.
(Surely a triptych of these life-brightening novelties is in order. Stay tuned.)

Meanwhile, I must make note of a couple of the week's lessons.

Wednesday I learned that lemon-glazed madeleines are heaven (I don't know if I'll ever make them any other way but Mr Leibowitz'). The aforementioned college girlfriends ate them all up despite their initial declarations of fullness from a trip to Letizia's Natural Bakery.

On Saturday, I discovered the granola recipe that may put my old recipe out of commission, (thank you once again, Molly.) Step aside wheat-germ.

There, just when you think you know a thing. You make your own neighborhood a getaway and cross off two of your sworn-favorite recipes.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

...comme une madeleine.

I know, that was a mean trick, posting those 2 photos all alone with no words and no recipes.

Rediscovering the Madeleine, when I think about it, makes me want to cry. They're a childhood treat I had all but forgotten about until one day, at *$ of all places, there they were, two little ones of them, for a whole two dollars and twenty-five cents. I switched my order from an americano to hot chocolate and lost myself in memories of rainy afternoons in Paris. I must have been pretty cute, actually--as a kid that is--in my navy wool coat and little leather mary janes. I think my hair was usually primly half-ponied (thanks for keeping things classic, Mom), a refreshing sight in the reverse chronology of my hair history. I never had the head shape to pull off that pixie cropped and dyed black look. Anyway, the sweet reminded me of home, and of my current semi-transplantedness, despite being small and dry and not at all like a real Madeleine. It was a mean trick for corporate coffee to play on a girl so susceptible to childhood melancholy, and I fell for it.

Last spring I discovered there had been this reasonably authentic looking Madeleine recipe slumbering in my copy of The Paris Cookbook for, like, three years. It was time to have a madeleine pan imported (never mind their ubiquity in US retail stores). My dear friend Kate was on her way to Paris and I carefully described to her how to find the infamous E. Dehillerin.

Then I got caught up in wedding flurry and forgot all about the pan until one of those delicious August vacation days when I made my first batch, alternating forces with Jacob to beat the eggs and sugar (we didn't have our stand mixer yet). They were perfect, and somehow, now that I have Baby Kitchen Aid (when I got home from the store with the machine, Jacob, who must have been more excited than I thought, had created an impressive "WELCOME HOME BABY KITCHEN AID!" sign.) I still beat the eggs by hand with a whisk. Nostalgia.

This is Patricia Well's recipe with a few mods. You'll get 1 dozen golden goodies the length of my index finger (2 1/2 inches) from this recipe.

2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
splash of vanilla extract
3/4 cups a-p flour
1/8 tsp salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled
Butter your madeleine pans, dust them with flour and pop them in the freezer.

Whisk together your eggs and sugar until thick and lemony hued. Add the zest, then flour and sea salt, and finally the butter, stirring.

Chill for an hour, and heat the oven to 375. Fill the madeleine molds to nearly full and bake until they're just browning on the edges and the tops are golden yellow. Tap onto a rack to cool, and make yourself some hot chocolate for reminiscing...

So, the whole story is, that when I made these a couple of weeks ago for my long long time friend Elizabeth's suprise birthday, I also made a lemon meringue tart that was a total fiasco, especially since another friend piped in mid-serve and slicing, as I was chirping away about how I made all these lemon treats because I know how much Beth loves all things lemon, with a terrible, "but Beth, I thought you didn't like lemon!" He was right. I was humiliated. I mean, people get Beth and I confused we're so close (or is that because we supposedly look alike?). Trauma.

I'm back now. I'm going to tell you soon about my other love from the aforementioned cookbook. Walnut bread. But be patient, I'm new to bread.