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Madeleine Biscuits

Last summer I was laid up for a couple of weeks. Having run out of regular reading material, I took down from the corner of my book shelf, a dust covered tome which I had been promising myself someday to finish reading. That book was Marcel Proust’s, Remembrance of Things Past. During those fourteen days or so of convalescence, I got through and, in the end, enjoyed 714 pages of Swan’s Way and Within a Budding Grove.

Unfortunately I am again about to be laid up and  in anticipation, I have, once again, taken down and dusted my Proust. This time I am determined to weave my way through The Guermantes Way, a mere 410 pages.

“What’s all this got to do with cooking?” You may well ask. Well it is not about literature at all. It is really about the Madeleine biscuit that Proust nibbled on and which brought back sufficient memories for him to write a  masterpiece of 1141 closely printed pages (my edition).

One American journalist, A.J.Liebling (1904 – 1963) was so impressed with the creativity released by gnawing on one of those Madeleine biscuits that he suggested,

"In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world's loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiner's Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sautéed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island Duck, he might have written a masterpiece."

Madeleine Bisuits are also known as Madeleine Tea Cakes.  They originated in the north-eastern French town of Commercy and are an elegant biscuit, shaped like an elongated scallop shell. The moulds are also known as Madeleines. There are many recipes to chose from but, for starters, why not try this simple one and see if inspires you to sit down and write your own life story.

• 2 large eggs
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
• or 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• Pinch of salt
• 1 cup all purpose or self raising flour
• 10 tablespoons butter, melted
• Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a Madeleine cake pan. Beat eggs. Add sugar, vanilla, lemon rind and salt. Mix in sifted flour. Gradually add melted butter. Mix well. Allow 1 tablespoon batter for each Madeleine. Spoon gently into Madeleine pan. Bake for approx 15 minutes, or until golden. Sprinkle icing sugar over cooled Madeleine Cakes.
Makes about 20 Cakes. - Fly at a Smile-Price