Thursday, February 14, 2013

Letting Go

On the day my baby girl was born and we named her Madeleine, I knew I had to add madeleines to my regular baking repertoire.  So I started my search for a madeleine pan, the kind made of shiny tin that survives through the ages and tells a story through worn blackened spots made over time.  A very nice lady I contacted through Kijiji was willing to sell me her tin pan for a great price, even offering to deliver it to my home once she learned I was resting from giving birth a few days earlier.  I was terribly excited and waited by the phone for her call to say she was on her way over.

But that call never came.  She made up some excuse, promising to make the delivery the following week. After a few more days of radio silence, I sent her a couple of follow-up emails peppered with friendly smiley faces, for I knew there would be zero chance of scoring the pan if I raged and cussed her out for betraying my trust. Hell hath no fury for a postpartum woman scorned.  But still, she gave no response and I was forced to search for another source.

My close pal and fellow blogger was also in the market for a madeleine pan, and she turned me onto a nearby shop that sold them.  With my fingers crossed, I called the store to inquire and was sadly informed that they only sold the ubiquitous non-stick type.

A third twist of fate occurred when I learned that the Junction Flea market had an upcoming event.  At this same market a few months earlier, I had passed up a beautiful vintage madeleine pan for sale, to my continued regret.  I knew the chances of seeing it again were slim, but it was worth a shot.  My partner and I packed up the baby and spent that Sunday morning searching flea market wares in vain.

My final attempt at scoring a tin madeleine pan was thwarted still.  I was well on my way to completing an online order, only to find that the retailer wouldn't accept my payment form.  By this time, I had been through 6 long weeks of consecutive fails, and I had to admit defeat, for the repeated anticipation and let-down was too much to take.  I really wanted a tin pan, but in hindsight, this level of stubborn inflexibility seemed outright ridiculous and I was exhausted from it.  So the next day, I walked into a shop and bought a non-stick madeleine pan, and the following day I baked my first batch of madeleines.

Caring for a newborn baby brings on the same sort of ups and downs.  Before Madeleine was born, I had all sorts of ideas of how life with her would be like.  But it's been a lot more difficult than I thought, and it's hard not to be, well, hard on myself.  Yes, there are days that go smoothly, when I feel that Madeleine's needs are met when she needs them to be.  But there are bad days, where she cries for hours for unknown reasons.  Or the really bad days, when I feel like I'm making all the wrong decisions for her, and we both cry together.  I'm trying to learn to take things as it comes, listen to intuition over expert opinion, and not get too hung up when things don't go as planned.  That way, I can spend more time enjoying my little Madeleine, and also my madeleines.

Full disclosure: this was not only my first attempt at baking madeleines, but also my first time ever tasting them.  I haven't a clue how they are "supposed" to taste, but I can attest that this recipe will turn out a dozen lovely, dense cakes with a light crispness.

Adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel.
Makes 12.

1/2 cup (70 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
4 tbsp (60 g) unsalted butter, plus additional for the pan
2 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp lemon zest

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt, and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  In a small saucepan, stir the butter, brown sugar and honey over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Fold the dry ingredients into the eggs and sugar mixture until just combined.  Fold in the butter mixture and lemon zest until batter is smooth.  No need to be too perfect here; small random lumps are fine and will dissolve as the batter rests.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350°F.  Brush the madeleine pan with melted butter, and freeze the pan for at least 5 minutes to harden the butter.  Remove the cold batter from fridge, and spoon one heaping tablespoon of batter into each scalloped mold.  Rap the pan lightly against the work surface to smooth the top of the batter and remove any large bubbles at the surface.  Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, until tops are lightly browned.  Remove from oven and unmold immediately, placing the madeleines on a rack to cool.  The cakes will keep for up to a day in a covered container.

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