Madeleines are little cake-like cookies that are baked in special molds that give them a delicate shell shape. I do love a bit of history and always love to share background about food that I love and make. There are so many stories about how Madeleines got their name but my favourite one which might be somewhat closer to what actually happened is like so – According to one story the name “Madeleine” was given to the cookies by Louis XV to honor his father in-law’s cook Madeleine Paulmier. Louis first tasted them at the Chateau Commercy in Lorraine in 1755. Louis’ wife, Marie introduced them to the court and they soon became all the rage at Versailles. Whatever the origins, they have become inextricably linked with the author Marcel Proust, who described them as “…little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating.”
I am no great writer but I do love some dessert porn, even more so if it is in written form by Proust –
“From In Remembrances of Things Past, here is Proust’s description:
…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. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had 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. When 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 savors…”
Told you Proust is good ! For some of you who have tasted Madeleines it might be difficult to grasp what makes them so special but Proust gave words to my feelings about these little gorgeous mouthfuls.