So I kind of got engaged a couple of months ago.
And by kind of, I mean I definitely got engaged a couple of months ago. On October 10th, to be exact.
Don’t worry, we’ll get to the classic French Madeleines in a second. I promise – this is related.
So yeah. I got engaged. But I refrained from officially announcing it here for 3 major reasons.
First, a lot of things happened in October.
I landed some pretty big food photography gigs, a publisher used 2 of my photographs for two different book covers, was offered my own cookbook deal, my business Peppercorn Creative turned a major corner, and I turned 35 to name a few. To be frank, I had this odd sense of success guilt. I was plagued with thoughts like “why do I deserve all this goodness right now?” and “everyone is going to think I’m bragging = annoying” and “they’re going to find me out and say mean things like FRAUD! LIAR! YOU SUCK!”
…With all this goodness, how could I also ask you to be happy for me that he put a ring on it?
Second, it was hard to believe it was actually happening.
When someone told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I didn’t know how to react. I was thrilled. Surprised. So happy. But speechless. In stereo-typical chica fashion (gag me with a spoon), I’d been planning and waiting and dreaming of that moment for exactly 35 years and 4 days. So when it finally did happen, it felt like I was playing make-believe. I still pinch myself every morning.
Third, it’s been 2 months.
And I didn’t know how to tell you after all this time. And I kept trying to think of a recipe or post that would do this life-changing news justice. But nothing was good enough. Until now.
We’ve gone over the fact that I’m not a baker at length. Actually, we go over that fact every time I bake something. And with good reason. Shit kind of explodes when I bake. Or collapses into itself. Or melts into an epic pool of messiness. Much like most of my dating life.
As a single woman, I made quite a mess of most of my relationships. Either I just wasn’t that into them or they weren’t that into me or one of us was in one place while the other was elsewhere. Sometimes things were just too rushed or sometimes not rushed enough. Or the conditions were just perfect enough to have everything explode in our faces. Basically the chemistry simply wasn’t there.
And isn’t that what baking is? Chemistry.
Ingredients. Measurements. Timing. Patience. If any of these are off, shit just don’t work out.
For example, while recipe testing the best cake of my life (you’ll totally find that recipe in Cooking with Cocktails when it drops next Fall), my spring form pans had a bit of a meltdown. And by meltdown I mean they didn’t lock and seal. At all. It’s like the baking gods decided to role-play one of my baking nightmares by shitting apple-cider cake batter all over the inside of my oven.
Seriously. It was like when you’re on vacation and you go to the beach and do it in the surf with a handsome stranger and 2 weeks later when you’re back home and less tanned and you’re still finding grains of sand where they don’t belong.
Or like when I was baking these Madeleines. I wanted them to be more than 2 bite cookies; I wanted them to be 5 bite cookies. So when I filled the molds right full they were practically overflowing with delicious, buttery Madeleine batter. And when butter gets hot, it sizzles and bubbles all over the damn place.
They thence oozed right over the sides of the pan and down onto the element below. I only realized my fatal mistake when we were gagging on burnt butter smoke and the fire alarm was ring-ting-ting-a-ling-tooing loud enough for the North Pole to hear.
Story of my (dating) life.
It’s always been a smoke show of failed hopes, over-enthusiasm and miscalculations.
But then I wised up. I paid more attention. I was patient. And careful. And mindful. And decided I wasn’t afraid of cooking naked (I mean this in more ways than one). And then everything fit. It all worked out. And I ended up with the most amazing spongy cake cookies. And engaged to be wed!
This is a real gem of a life lesson here. Are you with me? Am I reaching? Okay. Let’s move on.
Are they cake? Are they cookies? Who cares? They’re fucking delicious. And they’re my chosen recipe for the 5th annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Lindsay at Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen.
Here’s the deal: Basically you sign up, agree to bake 3 dozen cookies and ship them off to 3 other bloggers. Secret Santa style. So who you have, doesn’t know you have them, and vice versa. Then we bake, mail and ship our cookies and get a dozen in return from 3 other random food bloggers. And of course, as with every year, the cards and wrapping I sent were cleverly created by one of my besties. Check out her shop here.
These little beauties aren’t nearly as difficult as people like to make us believe. Much like myself. We just require a bit of patience.
Here’s 3 tips to help you make the best Madeleines ever:
- Freeze your pans at least 1 hour before you use them. And once you dust them with flour and butter, put them back in the freezer again for a further 10 minutes. This keeps the batter from spreading too much and helps you get the little Madeleine bump that everyone craves so much.
- Don’t make them too big. Not unless you want the fire department to show up at your place. But hey – any day there’s a fireman at my house is a good day. See the note about cooking naked. (just kidding John, just kidding.) But seriously – they’re meant to be two bite treats. Don’t try to make them into 5 bite treats.
- Have everything ready and measured before you begin. The batter comes together very quickly and because you don’t want to over-mix or over-process the dough, you’ll want to work speedily.
The base for this recipe is from The Kitchn but the flavours are mine. And now they can be yours too. Don’t be afraid to adapt them to your preference. If you like orange more than lemon or chamomile more than earl grey or milk chocolate more than dark chocolate or hazelnuts more than almonds – go for it! I’m a firm believer in experimentation…. Which is probably why so many of my relationships never worked out.
Thank god I have a fiancé who is man enough to handle my quirks and whims.
And now I have Madeleines too.
It’s a damn good year.
- 4 Oz unsalted butter + 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2/3 Cup white sugar
- 1 Cup all-purpose flour + extra for dusting
- 2 free-range, organic large eggs
- 1 Tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (approx 1 lemon)
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest (approx 1 lemon)
- 3 Tbsp strong-brewed earl grey tea
- 1/3 C powdered (confectioners) sugar
- Seeds scraped out from half a vanilla bean
- 4 Oz dark chocolate (at least 70% dark)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 C slivered almonds, toasted & roughly chopped
- Put your Madeleine pans in the freezer for at least 1 hour. They can just sit in there until you're ready to prepare them.
- Place all the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until toasty and brown. Be careful - you don't want to burn it. When it's finished it'll be amber and smell delicious and nutty. Spoon 3 Tbsp into a bowl and set aside. Allow the remaining butter in the pot to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and flour. Set aside.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, pure vanilla extract, pinch of salt and lemon juice until frothy. ***If making the lemony earl grey Madeleines, also mix in the lemon zest and tea at this stage. If making the vanilla bean Madeleines, mix in the vanilla seeds.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula until just combined. Add the slightly cooled butter from the pot. It may take a moment or two for the batter to absorb the butter completely but as soon as it does, stop mixing. Do not over-work the batter.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and place in the fridge to cool for at least 1 hour or up to over-night.
- Prepare your frozen Madeleine pans. Remove them from the freezer and gently brush the reserved 3 Tbsp of browned butter into the molds, careful to get it in all the curves and crevices. Using a fine mesh strainer, dust the extra flour over the butter to coat completely. Turn the pans upside down over the sink and gently knock any excess flour off. Place the prepared pans back in the freezer for at least 10 minutes.
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove the batter from the refrigerator and one pan from the freezer. Fill each mold in the madeleine pan with 1 tablespoon of the batter. Place back in the freezer while you fill the second pan.
- When both pans are ready, place them in the oven and bake 12 - 15 minutes or until the Madeleines are browning slightly on the edges and are puffy in the middle. When you gently press the center of one with your finger it should bounce back.
- Remove the Madeleines from the oven and let sit in the baking pans for about 5 minutes. Using a spoon or fork, gently lift each Madeleine from the pan and set on a wire rack to cool.
- Pour the powdered (confectioners) sugar in the fine mesh strainer and gently dust the Madeleines before serving.
- Place a water filled double boiler over medium-high heat. A pot with a cup or two of water and a non-reactive bowl works well - just make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the dark chocolate and 1 Tbsp of butter. Mixing constantly, heat through until chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat.
- Gently dip the end of each Madeleine into the chocolate and then into the almonds. Place on a wire rack for the chocolate to set. If you put them in the fridge once you're done they'll set faster.
- Madeleines are generally best the day they are made but will last in an air tight container for up to 5 days.
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