How apropros is it that my grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered recipe files included a recipe for madeleines?! I did not make the Proustian connection until I started to write the post, after just having made the cookies.
If you do not recall or might not be into classic French literature, Marcel Proust created A la recherche du temps perdu, inspired by a madeleine he had eaten, dipped in tea. Memories of his childhood came flooding back – profusely, in his very lengthy remembrance. Who among us does not have a favourite childhood cookie memory – or seven?
What I liked about this week’s recipe is that I definitely do remember having these cookies at my grandmother’s place. The madeleines I made turned out to be just as I remember them. What I cannot figure out, however, is what happened to Jessie’s madeleine pan. I know I do not have it, nor did my mother (LN D-W, do you?). Her pan was a very old tin one, without nonstick coating. My miniature madeleine pan is nonstick and comes from France (via West Vancouver, BC) . The mini-madeleines (“mini-Maddies”??) stick, though, far more than the much cheaper large nonstick version. The large one I picked up – brand new – at a small-town flea market between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, a few years ago.
The recipe itself included a twist, as the madeleine is close enough to a basic génoise to double as a “jelly-roll” cake, which Jessie indicated on the reverse of the recipe. One other aspect of the letterhead that is interesting (to me) is the bank’s logo with a very 1970s typeface and look; this is when Jessie had moved to the north side of Chicago from the south side and opened an account at this bank. Yet I do know that she made these cookies decades prior to the 1970s. Jessie’s pan probably was from the 1940s.
I also like the fact that the madeleine is a classic French cookie, and my grandmother was a bit of a Francophile. Jessie loved to shop and thought Paris was a great city for women’s shopping, she wrote to tell me when I lived in France’s capital. In the same aerogram, she indicated that London was better for men, when it came to shopping – my grandfather had suits and shoes made there – while Paris was superior for women’s wear. I myself never had any trouble in either city shopping for men’s wear! (I devoted far more attention to bakeries in Paris than pursuing fashion).
What I liked about Jessie’s recipe is that it is accurate (the time for beating the eggs and sugar alone was a great guide to achieving the ribbon stage, in my preparation), versatile (big and small madeleines as well as the jellyroll option), and yields a good number: I made two dozen large cookies and 40 miniatures.
For the madeline recipe with updates…