Ladies and Gents, I’ve been in a love affair with everything French for over a year now. I know, I know, it’s not something uncommon these days, especially in India; everybody suddenly wants to be the dreamy Parisian and graduate from Le Cordon Bleu, thanks to the outrage of macarons. Also, I’d like to divide the gourmet landscape of India as pre and post MasterChef Australia eras. From sprinkling shards of processed Britannia cheese cubes on our ‘store bought’ pizza base, we are now beginning to make our own pizza dough and be specific about the cheese we use, goat’s cheese, emmental, you name it! Coriander is not coriander anymore, it is cilantro s’il vous plait, and if I start talking about the ‘plating up’ that happens in our kitchens, this already digressing blog post would be a completely irrelevant one. But what the show has done to people with the slightest proclivity towards food and cooking is phenomenal, even though some might argue that it’s superficial. So, this is a subject I’ll save for another day, I promise, because I really want to talk about it at length.
Coming back to my love affair with France, I don’t claim I am any different from the thousand others. I’ve never had a square, French meal, I’ve never even been to France, but there’s something so damningly romantic about the place, their culture, cuisine and how fanatical they are about their food. I could watch a French person talk about his or her food hours together, it’s almost arrogant, but the pride they take in their food and culture is probably what makes them one of the culinary capitals in the world. I want to wander about some rue, snorting a freshly baked baguette, eat a croissant like the Parisians eat it, taste every cheese I possibly can, get drunk on the verdure of the vineyards and pick apples in the French countryside. I know I will at some point do all these things and more, yet, I don’t claim I am a Francophile, I just don’t prefer using the term loosely.
So in my quest for many things French, I chanced upon this delicate darling of a cake – madeleine. I’ve tried its English counterpart before, but I just wanted to make the madeleine like the French make it. They are baked in a shell-shaped mould and they look like petite, oyster sponges when they are done. So my search for a madeleine mould began and little did I realize that it’s almost impossible to get hold of one in India. I walked in and out of many a Bakeware supply stores, searched and re-searched online shopping portals and publically admitted by yearning for one on Facebook! Just when I had made peace with the fact that I’ll either have to wait till I go to France myself or have it shipped from the US (shipping was more expensive than the mould), Pavan wrote an email to his cousin Manu who was visiting India from Paris. As my madeleine frenzy was fading, almost in the verge of forgetting how desperate I was to bake them, I got to hear that the moulds were duly purchased by Manu but it was meant to be a surprise. It was a surprise indeed and if these priced possessions are now a part of my baking repertoire, I only have Manu to thank. Also, there is a moral to this story – if you want something very badly my dear readers, you will get it no matter what. Um…yes, clichés are clichés for a reason.
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup caster sugar
- Zest from 1 orange
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
- 2/3 cup caster sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Make your orange curd a day ahead. In a bowl, add the yolks, sugar and freshly squeezed orange juice. Whisk together. Place the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. This will take 10 minutes approximately. After the mixture thickens, remove from heat, add the grated orange zest, and start adding the butter bits, one by one while whisking. Once the butter melts into the mixture, allow the orange curd to cool, cover it with cling film wrap and refrigerate.
- On a parchment paper, sift the cake flour, 1 tbsp of sugar and salt together and set aside.
- In a bowl, add the eggs, egg yolks and 1 tbsp of sugar and whisk well till combined. Add the remaining sugar to it and start whisking in medium speed using an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes. The egg yolks should have doubled up in volume and the batter should fall as a ribbon and hold its shape. This is a genoise batter. In the finally seconds of whisking, add the vanilla extract.
- Now, fold in 1/3rd of the sifted, flour mixture into the batter. Fold just until the flour is incorporated. Do not over-fold the batter. Fold in the remaining flour in 2 parts and repeat the same process.
- Once all the flour has been incorporated, add a cup of the batter, to the melted butter. Combine well. Now add this mixture to the cake batter. Fold cautiously again. Pipe or spoon the madeleine batter into the moulds and bake for 10 minutes.
- Once the madeleines are done, cool them on a wire rack. Fit a piping bag with a small nozzle. Fill it with orange curd. Make a tiny hole on the underside of the madeleine and pipe the orange curd into the madeleine. Repeat for all madeleines. Dust icing sugar on top.