Blackberry Madeleines

Autumn is now officially here; the tomatoes have turned orange on brittle stems, the courgettes are finally ending their reign, and now is the time for golden quinces, autumn apples, and a few last, late blackberries clinging to brambles.

It was when we were on our way home, the sun sinking low and golden, that we found the blackberries. Hedgerow upon hedgerow, heavy with fruit. They squashed between our fingers, on our tongues. I still remember their taste, perfumed and sweet. Not the bright, Mat sweetness of a strawberry , but deeper, more mysterious, as if they’d drawn the cold, smoky nights into their juice, as if they’d seen midnight. – From Where the Wild Cherries Grow.

I love working with ingredients that are simple, that sing to people’s memories. The taste of blackberries, to me, will always be picking them with my father, or the taste of my grandmother’s crumble, the scratches and the beads of blood that you always have to pay for the fruit with. There is no sense in buying blackberries; commercially grown blackberries are too big, too tart, and never have the musky, almost feral sweetness that makes them so timeless and evocative.

So here we are, a nod to my own memories, and to Monsieur Proust’s, and a recipe for Blackberry Madeleines.

Blackberry Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 100g plain flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean extract, or 1 vanilla bean pod
  • Large handful of blackberries (one for each cake)
  • Icing sugar, to decorate

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200C / 400F / Gas mark 6. Brush your madeleine or bun tin with melted butter and dust with a little flour.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until light and frothy. 
  3. Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly, then stir in along with the flour, baking powder and vanilla bean extract.
  4. Leave to rest for a few minutes, then spoon into the prepared tins.
  5. Press a blackberry into the middle of each madeleine.
  6. Bake for around 8-10 minutes, or until risen and pale golden.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, dust with icing sugar, and serve warm.

P.s. If you don’t have a madeleine tin, you can use a shallow bun tin or similar. This’ll make 12-14, depending on the size. Just keep an eye on your cakes as they cook.

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Recipe: Winter Spice 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.

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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 Spice 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…

 

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Recipe: Blackberry Madeleines

You can find my recipe for blackberry madeleines in today’s edition of Domestic Sluttery!

Blackberry Madeleines Tray

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