I have mixed feelings about French desserts. Tarts I adore, but I’m indifferent to many of the pastries. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big fan of pastry cream and whipped cream. There are plenty of French sweets I’d never met before. Over the past couple of years, making more French recipes, I’ve started to have a new appreciation for little French cakes.
The past two challenges for Cook the Book Fridays have been for little cakes. Both are rich from butter, but in counterpoint, are not too sweet.
The first one, financiers, are little almond cakes with browned butter. They taste nutty from almond flour and the browned butter. The French have a special mold for baking these, but I used mini-muffin pans. These baby cakes are simple to mix up and are a good way to use up extra egg whites. And they taste good too!
The other little cakes I made were madeleines. The batter is also simple to make, but these require a special pan. I had more trouble with these. In the past, I’ve chilled the batter, but this time, the recipe just said to let it rest (at room temperature, I assumed). The molds are supposed to be filled just three-quarters. The imprints are so shallow, it’s hard to judge. I used my smallest cookie scoop, but it was a bit too much. The cakes rose and touched their neighbors. Not the way it’s supposed to work. There was some extra batter, so I chilled it overnight, and tried again.
Round 2, I was more careful about filling the molds, erring on the side of underfilled. That worked much better, though my pan-buttering technique had some shortcomings. The cakes stayed inside the expected boundaries, but most of them stuck to the pan. When they finally came out, they were NOT pretty. I had brushed the mold with melted butter, but I think I should have smeared it around with a paper towel for better coverage.
Even though their appearance was lacking, these baby cakes tasted lovely. I liked the subtle flavor of honey – just a touch, not cloying at all.
I’d be confident in whipping up some financiers any time, but the madeleines will need more practice.
If you want to try yourself, you’ll find the recipe for financiers on page 268 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen and the recipe for madeleines on page 274. My friends’ reviews for financiers can be found here and for madeleines here.
Boston people: I have something you must check out this month. Last week I went with some friends to check out some of Fujiko Nakaya’s fog sculptures on the Emerald Necklace. At 5 different locations, special misting nozzles create fog that rolls through the landscape. It’s hard to describe, but it’s quite magical. Fog x FLO is a special exhibit in honor of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s 20th anniversary. It runs through the end of October. Find all the details here.
Madeleines. Little French cakes, that I’ve made just twice before, using Dorie Greenspan’s recipes. The perfect accompaniment to tea. The first time I made madeleines, they were honey-spiced. The second time they were brown butter-vanilla.
The recipe challenge for Cook the Book Fridays this week is sort of combination of these predecessors. David Lebovitz’s Buckwheat Madeleines has the distinct flavors of brown butter (love the nuttiness) and dark honey (I used buckwheat). These ingredients are layered on a buckwheat batter, adding to the earthiness. Finally, cocoa nibs provide a little crunch and a hint of chocolate flavor. What a lovely package!
I liked that David’s recipe used all egg whites. I looked at other madeleine recipes, and they all called for whole eggs. I’m always looking for delicious ways to use up egg whites. I suspect that I could use egg whites in place of whole eggs in other madeleine recipes. That’s a trick I’ll remember.
This recipe made A LOT of madeleines. I have a regular pan and a mini-madeleine pan. I unintentionally overfilled the molds, but there was lots of batter left over after filling both pans. Certainly, I could have made half the batter and had plenty of madeleines.
My madeleines didn’t have the ideal shape because I overfilled them, but they still tasted good.
I brought them to a garden club activity to share with the ladies. They were a hit.
You should try these. They are so simple to fix up. You can find the recipe here. It’s also on page 270 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. See what my blogging friends thought by following their links.