Proust has made his way into my kitchen. Not only is he in there but he has decidedly roosted in the confectioner’s corner, deliberately enticing my memories with those little cliché cookies. It was a reading of Swann’s Way this summer that prompted a subsequent cookie pan splurge:
She (Marcel’s mother) sent for one of those squat plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell … I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure invaded my senses …
And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray … when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane …. and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and garden alike, from my cup of tea.
Petite Madeleines did not figure into my personal record until my mid twenties with my inaugural “un cafe”, when I delightfully nibbled on the miniature treat while sipping that bitter Parisian espresso. If only my recollections were as nectarous as Marcel’s.
And the tisane? I’ve chosen a delicate floral infusion with mostly rosemary, latin for dew (ros) of the sea (marinus). The herbal evergreen grows wild on the Italian coasts where it receives moisture from the Mediterranean sea. Most importantly, Rosemary is said to aid memory, so it’s quite Proustian. Rosemary infusions tend to mature around 5 minutes or less depending on your preference. Just bring your water to a boil and pour it over the herbs and flowers until the desired strength is achieved. I save the buds of my abundant summer herb purchases for infusions. Sara Perry (The Book of Herbal Teas) recommends these combinations:
+ basil, lemon thyme, and lemon verbena
+ catnip, chamomile, marjoram, spearmint
+ lemongrass, rosemary, thyme
+ spearmint, sage, lemon balm
+ rosemary, ginger
Recipe Adapted from Tracey Zabar’s One Sweet Cookie
This recipe uses real vanilla beans, which gives the cookie an amazing flavor though most uses extract. They are best when fresh, though I savor them for days after baking.
6 TB sugar
1 TB brown sugar
pinch of salt
2/3 c. pastry flour
1 ts baking powder
1 vanilla bean
1 lemon, zested
3/4 stick of melted butter (unsalted)
+ The night before baking your Madeleines, make the batter and let it proof overnight. Nicole Kaplan suggests doing this in order to get a better rise of the little cookies. You should also butter and flour the madeleine pan and store it in the freezer overnight. This recipe makes 24 mini madeleines. I used this pan to capacity and filled some large ones into this one (The beaufriend and I have different preferences when it comes to their sizing).
+ Batter: Using a hand mixer, combine sugars, salt, flour, baking powder, vanilla seeds and lemon zest in a bowl. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and then the melted butter. Cover your bowl in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.
+ Bake: Preheat oven to 325 °F . Using a piping bag, pipe batter into madeleine molds (2/3 full). Bake for 10 minutes (mini madeleines). Remove from molds immediately and allow to cool on racks – I ate them as they came out.