Proust’s Remembrance, Revisited

Following the previous delightful attempt at baking Earl Grey Madeleines, I’d decided to return to the basics i.e. revisit the recipe for the traditional recipes which prompted Proust’s provocative description.

Below is yet another excerpt…

 …when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She 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. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreay day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, 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 shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin…”

–  Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

The more I read excerpts available on the internet, the more curious I get about this book. I really should remember to pick up this book the next time I visit Kinokuniya, my favourite bookstore.

Recipe: Traditional Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 55g all-purpose flour
  • 1g baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 65g caster sugar
  • some lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Prepare a madeleine pan by buttering the pan, dust the insides with flour and tapping out the excess. No preparation is required for silicone moulds.
  3. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Rub the lemon zest into the sugar in a medium bowl until well distributed.
  5. Add the egg into the sugar and beat on medium speed until mixture is thick and light.
  6. Add in the vanilla.
  7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatular until well-mixed.
  8. Gently fold in the cooled melted butter until well-mixed.
  9. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (If you want your madeleines to turn out with a more pronounced hump characteristic of madeleines, you can cover the batter-filled pan with cellophane wrap and refrigerate overnight).
  10. Transfer the madeleines to cool on wire rack before storing them in an air-tight container, although madeleines taste best when eaten fresh out of the oven.

Yield : 12 petite madeleines

Madeleines are not tedious or require much elbow grease to prepare or bake, but somehow I don’t come across many online bakers who bake them. Perhaps they too, like me, have very little patience. For starters, it’s just not in my nature to let something sit in the chiller overnight just to ensure that the madeleines achieve a more pronounced hump, but I did. Several times to boot!

Ah well, the lengths I would go in the name of a fastidious baker.

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