Madeleines seem like a good place to start. Both a cake and a cookie, they satisfy on all counts. And these delicate Orange Cinnamon beauties are the most tender, melt-in-your mouth madeleines you will ever taste.
And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory...
writes Proust in that famous bit of In Search of Lost Time reflecting on the power sensory objects have to flood us with vivid memories. While I have no specific Sunday mornings at Combray to relive, I certainly can relate to the part about the vicissitudes of life becoming indifferent to me when I bite into a perfect madeleine.
Made with cake flour instead of all-purpose, these skirt the debate between the no-baking-powder-purists and those who prioritize the authentic underside bump via some very non-authentic baking powder altogether by adding a different ingredient for lift: whipped cream. The whipped cream also adds a rich, milky tenderness that is simply transcendent.
There are a million varieties of madeleines, but for my money the warmth of cinnamon underneath fragrant fresh orange in both the cookie and the glaze cannot be beat. You can omit the glaze if you prefer your madeleines slightly less good.
Side note: Alain de Botton? Are you listening? I love you. Your Proust book is too great. Readers, if Proust is really all too much for you, at least read this by de Botton.
Ok. Onto it then. By the way, you don't really need a madeleine pan here, you can make these in muffin tin bottoms if you want to. But if you are going to buy a madeleine pan, buy two, since cleaning then re-buttering and re-flouring your pan after the first batch is a pain in the...underside bump.
Orange Cinnamon Madeleines
makes about 24
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. (130 g.) sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. (170 g.) cake flour (I use White Lily)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
9 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
zest of one large orange
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 c. (2.7 fl. oz.) heavy whipping cream
for the glaze: 3/4 c. (150 g.) powdered sugar + 3 Tablespoons of strained juice from orange
Grease and flour madeleine pans thoroughly and place them in the freezer. Melt butter in the microwave or on the stovetop and set aside to cool. Whip cream in a small bowl with a hand mixer or with a whisk to stiff peaks, cover, and place in fridge (whipping such a small amount of heavy cream can be awkward, just tilt the bowl and scrape with a spatula occasionally to maintain consistency). Sift flour and cinnamon together into a small bowl.
In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, beat eggs, sugar and salt until thick and frothy, about 6 minutes. Gradually add the flour mixture, gently folding with a spatula as you add it. Add the orange zest and vanilla to the butter and dribble in the butter mixture gradually, folding carefully until it is incorporated. Fold in the whipped cream until no streaks remain. Resist the urge to mix it; be patient with your folding and remember you are trying to preserve the delicate air bubbles in the whipped cream. Cover batter and let rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour (can rest for up to 24 hours).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix together glaze ingredients and set aside. Fill the molds with batter to about 3/4 full; do not spread or press the batter into the pan. A 1" ice cream scoop works well for this. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the centers are set. Loosen from molds by gently shaking pan. Allow to rest on a wire rack for a few minutes until just cool enough to handle, then dip each side of each madeleine in the glaze.
Glazed madeleines are best eaten the same day, but can be stored uncovered for several days. Unglazed madeleines can be stored sealed in an airtight container for two weeks, or frozen for up to three months.