This blog seems to be unintentionally morphing into a photo-baking blog. The purpose after all was to discover myself and the things I enjoy and these two pasttimes (baking & phography) are certainly ranking on the top of that list. After all, opening my own bakery has always been a dream. If I do not tire of this amateur side-profession I am currently pursuing (as I typically tend to), perhaps it is time to reawaken the sleeping beauty that is my dormant business plan and to reactivate those ideas.
As a departure from the American baking I have done over the past few weeks and in memory of my recent days in Paris, I decided to try my hand at the famous interpretation of the French “cookie” – the Madelaine.
France’s incredibly popular Madelaine is a scallop-shaped tea cake that is in fact nothing too out of the ordinary – just a light, buttery, spongy yellow cake easily identified by its unique shape. But, as is the case with most French foods, there is no doubt a charming history to accompany this delicacy.
There are several different versions surrounding who made the first madeleines and why. In one version, Madeleine was a young servant girl who had been requested to create a special treat for Stanislas Leczinski, the deposed king of Poland who had sought refuge in France in the 17th century. Special cakes were supposedly made to soothe the spirits of the poor unwanted king and when asked who had baked these wonderful delicacies, she gave him her name and so he decided to name them after the young maiden: Madelaine de Commercy. It is said that Stanislas was so fond of these madelaines he sent a dozen to his daughter Marie who was married to King Louis XV. Madelaines were hence popularized by the nobility in Versailles and have grown to become of mass appeal.
In a different version of the story, another girl, also aptly named Madeleine created the special cakes in the shape of a scallop to feed to pilgrims making their way to Saint Jacques’ burial site. The scallop shell was a sign of protection which has long been associated with Saint Jacques in France.
Whatever the true origins of this treat, both stories carry much whimsy and evoke strong history. Today, Madelaines can be found in most French or Parisian bakeries or patisseries and while they started as a basic lemon-flavored cake, they have evolved to many different flavors and colors: pistachio, chocolate, orange… Most famous for them is Fauchon, the fabulous French brand.
My Madelaines – fresh out of the oven.
They turned out to be just perfect. Spongy, buttery and bursting with flavor from the lemon zest. Unfortunately this batch produced only 10 large-sized Madelaines.
Note to self to double the quantity next time!