Over the course of the next month I am going to be preparing recipes from Carole Bloom’s latest baking tome The Essential Baker  which came out last year. Kim Ode  from the Star Tribune hosts a wonderful cookbook review at the Barnes and Noble in Edina called Edesia (it means the Roman Goddess of Food). On May 19th I’ll be one of the “guest experts” and will give my opinion, along with some sample goodies of the recipes I’ve tested. Along the way I thought I would share some of my findings with you.
My family has a romantic history with French Madeleines. The small scallop shaped cake/cookie made famous by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past . They are my husbands all time favorite treat. Every Valentine’s day he requests a batch, with the understanding that they are for him and him alone. So naturally when Kim gave me the book and I saw Madeleines on the cover I knew it would be the first recipe I’d make. I also knew it would be a tough sell. I’ve tried several recipes in the past and have always come back to the tried and true version by Joël Robuchon in the book he wrote with Patricia Wells Simply French . There are Five different flavors in his book and I can’t really pick a favorite, it just depends on my mood. His recipe is laborious, you should really plan a day ahead to make them. The batter is reliant on the flavor of browned butter and improves with time in the refrigerator. But they are absolutely worth every minute spent.
Carole Bloom’s recipe is hands down much easier. Her directions are as clear as can be, which is crucial. But I could tell from reading the recipe that they would not take over as my new favorite. I’m just too attached to that rich flavor imparted from browning the butter, the decadence of almond meal and the silky sweetness of honey in Robuchon’s Madeleine.
My two sons were helping me make the little shell shaped cake from Bloom’s book. In fact, other than putting them in the oven, they did everything, with some guidance of course. This is a real testament to Bloom’s clear writing. The Madeleines came out like a cakey brownie, with a fudge center and crisp outside. Not a bad outcome at all, quite tasty indeed. My 6 year old would have eaten them all if I had not stopped him. My husband, who is a connoisseur of this particular confection loved them, but would not have called them a Madeleine except for the shape. Perhaps he is too much of a traditionalist on this one?
I really look forward to more recipes from Carole Bloom’s book The Essential Baker: The Comprehensive Guide to Baking with Chocolate, Fruit, Nuts, Spices, and Other Ingredients .