Sunday, April 27, 2008

À la recherche du temps de lire "À la recherche du temps perdu"

"Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, 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 moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary 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 shudder 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. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?'

In Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of things past, 1913 - 1927), the writer recalls the moment that triggered a lifetime of memories. The moment was in his childhood and the trigger was the taste of a small cake dipped in tea: Proust's famous madeleines.

I might not have time to read his seven-volume masterpiece, but this afternoon I took the time to use my new madeleine pan and they are pictured above: small, soft, cakey and lemony, with just a touch of icing sugar sprinkled on top. They call for tea, ideally with a slice of lemon in it. Mmmmmmmm...

(The excerpt above is from a translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, from volume 1, Swann's Way: Within a Budding Grove.

And here is the recipe, from French Food at Home (hosted by Laura Calder on Food Network Canada):

Lemon Madeleines
(Yields: 24)

1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup + 1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup + 2 tbsps sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 eggs
zest of one lemon, more to taste

Grease the madeleine tins and set in the freezer. Heat the oven to 400 F / 200 C. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Melt the butter and stir in the sugar and honey. Lightly beat the eggs, and temper them into the butter mixture. Whisk into the flour to make a smooth batter and add the zest. Pour into the moulds and bake until the cakes are puffed up, golden around the edges and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, without opening the door during cooking.

MY NOTE: My first batch was quite dark underneath. The second was perfectly golden, but I had reduced the baking temperature to 375 F and only baked them until they smelled done, which was about 8 minutes. I used the zest of two lemons plus about a teaspoon of lemon juice. :)


Betsy said...

You know, I have a madeleine pan but have never made them! In fact, I don't think I've ever eaten them! These look wonderful and the ingredients are all right here in my kitchen! Thank you! Yum!

Blog Princess G said...

When you try them, let me know how they go! I love the scalloped shape. They're very dainty. As I said, I had to try them twice, although the first batch is perfectly edible. :)

glamah16 said...

Thats one pan I dont have. If I'm going to make a Madeline,I'm going for your lemon version most definately.They look beautiful.

Bachelor said...

"I'll have what she's having"....haa haa

willow said...

Those look heavenly...and I can see that they are beautiful. I must get a pan and make these. But I really want one right now, before bed. (if I gain ten pounds, it will definitely be from blogging)

R.A.D. Stainforth said...

It’s a lime blossom tea into which Proust’s narrator dunks his madeleine.

“Not a footstep was to be heard on any of the paths. Quartering the topmost branches of one of the tall trees, an invisible bird was striving to make the day seem shorter, exploring with a long-drawn note the solitude that pressed it on every side, but it received at once so unanimous an answer, so powerful a repercussion of silence and of immobility, that one felt it had arrested for all eternity the moment which it had been trying to make pass more quickly.”
(Marcel Proust, Swann's Way)

The Caked Crusader said...

I'm embarassed to admit that I have a standard madeleine pan and a mini one. Both unused. I really must get round to making these if only to justify have the pans!

Your madeleines look delicious - perfect to dunk in a nice cup of something hot!

Blog Princess G said...

Thanks all... they were a big hit here so I'll be making them again. Perfect little lemon cakes.

R.A.D.: I would LOVE to taste lime blossom tea, I'll keep a look out for them. I wonder what my tea would be like with a lime slice in it instead of lemon. Mmmmmm, one way to find out.