Recipe: Winter-Spiced Madeleines

Festive Madeleines

Madeleines have got to be one of my favourite things to bake (and no, of course I’m not biased!) They’re sweet, petite, take only a few ingredients, a fraction of the baking time of a larger cake, and bring so much happiness. The last batch I baked disappeared alongside a pot of tea in around ten minutes. These cakes might be simple, but they’re fiendishly moreish.

The scallop-shape of the madeleine apparently dates – according to baking mythology at least – from the 18th century. One story relates how Madeleine Paulmier, a cook for Stanislaus I, duke of Lorraine and exiled King of Poland, was forced to improvise a dessert, and on the spur of the moment baked the little cakes in scallop shells. Of course, the scallop shell is also inextricably linked to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, another place where these cakes may have originated…

Whatever the history, madeleines continue to charm whoever eats them. They’re especially magnificent when dipped in tea – a la Proust – or in my case, coffee.

With this recipe, I’ve tried to bring together the simple elegance of a classic French madeleine, with the spices and flavours that, for me, signify winter and the festive season. I’ve replaced classic lemon zest with orange, and added saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon and a dash of clove to call to mind those intoxicating scents and flavours that make you feel as if you’re being wrapped in homely, kitchen warmth having come in from the cold.

DQ2LcfEWAAA7FoN

P.s. I infused my caster sugar with a cinnamon stick, a handful of cloves and a fresh nutmeg for a week or two before using it. It smells amazing, and is a useful thing to have around in the festive season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter-Spiced Madeleines

Makes 12-14

Ingredients

  • small pinch of saffron strands
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 100g self-raising flour (or 100g of plain flour and 3/4 tsp baking powder)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • fresh nutmeg

For the spiced sugar:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • fresh nutmeg

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200C / 400F / Gas mark 6. Brush your madeleine tin with melted butter and dust with a little flour.
  2. Place the saffron strands into a bowl or pan with the milk and cloves and warm gently, either in the microwave for a few seconds, or over the hob. Set aside to cool and infuse.
  3. Whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until light and frothy.
  4. Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly, then stir in along with the orange zest.
  5. Remove the cloves from the milk. Add the milk and saffron to the cake mixture.
  6. Sift in the flour and cinnamon and a good grating of fresh nutmeg. Stir gently to combine.
  7. Leave to rest for a few minutes, then spoon into the prepared tins, so that they are 3/4 full.
  8. Bake for around 8-10 minutes, or until risen and pale golden. Place the tray on a wire rack to cool slightly.
  9. Meanwhile, grind the caster sugar in a pestle and mortar (or with a spice grinder) until it has a finer texture – somewhere between caster and icing sugar.
  10. Place it on a plate with the cinnamon and another good grating of nutmeg and stir together.
  11. Quickly, while the cakes are still warm, roll them around in the sugar.
  12. Serve fresh, with a cup of tea, coffee or even mulled wine…

 

La ragazza delle ciliegie

It’s always an apprehensive moment, seeing cover designs for the first time. Do the designers share the same ideas about the book as me? What visual cues have they taken? Which colours have they focused on? Something that always surprises people is how little an author is usually involved when it comes to design; I tend to send mood boards and visual references to the publisher, but really, it’s down to them and their design team to come up with something that will both represent the content and catch a reader’s attention on a shelf. Not an easy task.

Nevertheless, it’s exciting too, and slightly unbelievable, when someone creates an book cover for a thing that started life as a word document on your computer.

I find it particularly interesting to see how different countries respond to cover design for the same book. The cover for the French version of The Confectioner’s Tale, (Le Portrait de l’oubli) is a case in point! Compared to the UK version, it’s definitely different, and not what I expected, but I love it.

So, I’m excited to reveal the cover for the Italian translation of Where the Wild Cherries Grow, published as La ragazza delle ciliegie by Piemme in June 2017. I think they’ve done a brilliant job on the design, both with the cherry blossom, and a hint of wild, windswept shore beyond. Bravo, Piemme!

la ragazze delle ciliegie

For contrast, here’s the cover for the German translation, titled Der Duft von Meer und Thymian, published in July 2017 by Bastei Lübbe, which is different again, somehow less moody, but also lovely.

der duft von meer und thymian

But of course, it’s the UK version that I’m going to focusing on over the next few weeks, seeing as it is released on the 15th June. I’m so excited that the book will finally be available in the shops, and can’t wait to hear from future readers.

In the meantime, watch this space for articles, recipes and book launch event info!

L x

Where the Wild Cherries Grow: ebook release

I’m going to jump on the bandwagon with the sentence that everybody is saying today: I can’t believe it’s March already!

We’ve officially left February behind, with its long, grey days of neverending winter. Now, the daffodils and irises are out in my garden, the blossom is starting to froth on the trees and spring is on the way.

And I have some exciting news for readers with kindles and other e-readers, which is that my latest novel Where the Wild Cherries Grow is scheduled to be released in e-book version early, on 23rd March!

where-the-wild-cherries-grow-cover

It’s currently available to pre-order on Amazon, in ebook (£4.99) and paperback.

I’m afraid that paperback readers will have to wait until the official release date of 15th June 2017 – sorry! – although eagle-eyed shoppers may be able to find early editions in WH Smith Travel shops from April. I can promise too that there’ll be all sorts of exciting content, interviews, articles and recipes appearing between now and then.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my readers for their patience regarding the publication of this book; as you may know, it was originally intended to be published last year, but for various reasons (ah, the mystical world of publishing) has been delayed. I’m so excited that it will finally be making its way onto shelves, it feels like I’ve been waiting a long time. I can’t wait to pass it on to new readers.

Thanks again, and more from me soon!

Laura x

The Confectioner’s Tale Launch Party

The Confectioner’s Tale is officially out in the world, which can only mean that it’s time for a CELEBRATORY BOOK LAUNCH.

The Confectioner's Tale Invite

I’m absolutely thrilled that Hart’s Bakery have agreed to play host to the evening’s shenanigans. If you don’t know Hart’s, it’s a gorgeous little working bakery under the railway arches next to Temple Meads station. With its open kitchen, railway connections and reputation for making some of the best baked goods in Bristol, it seems like the perfect place to officially toast The Confectioner’s Tale into the world.

There will be cake,  books, wine and maybe a reading, so do come along and enjoy; all are welcome! There’s a handy RSVP form here.

Hope to see some of you there!

(Thanks go to Becky for her invitation design wizardry)