Wednesday, 7 January 2015

I've never felt like this before - I want to go back to school!

Today is Wednesday 7th January (happy new year one and all!) and EVERYONE has gone back to work following the holidays. I'd like nothing more than to go back to school immediately but sadly classes don't begin for another week. I really must love what I'm doing as I've never felt such a strong desire to get back into the classroom before!

Sadly my New Year didn't begin quite as planned. Whilst on my walk to work, in broad day light, whilst on the phone joyfully reliving tales of how I'd seen in the New Year, I was mugged. My iPhone was stolen from the palm of my hand far too quickly for me to even really grasp what was happening - let alone grasp hold of the phone. Welcome to London! Now on my 7th day of essentially being cut off from the digital world (yes, I am being dramatic), rather than feeling angry (although the admin has been a huge pain in the backside) I strangely feel grateful. They say that everything happens for a reason and perhaps this was the universe's way of telling me to put my iPhone down and pick up my camera, which is exactly what I've done. As well as using my camera, I've read a book cover to cover which I've not done in a long while and strangely whilst outside I've 'seen' more. Yes, I was looking previously, but I was looking through the screen of my iPhone rather than actually stopping to look at, take in and enjoying what was in front of me with my eyes.  

Muggings aside, the Christmas holidays were, as usual, filled with gifts, food and copious amounts of baking. Coming from a family of baking enthusiasts my Mum, Nan and I took to the kitchen to whip up some festive treats together - it was like the generation game with me at the helm of Team Downs. Under my instruction my Mum weighted the ingredients whilst my Nan grated lemon zest and assisted me with melting the butter in order to create the beurre noisette. When the mix was ready I pulled out the madeleine tin and instantly a look of confusion crossed my Nan's face. "Oh" she said, "I've never seen a madeleine made in a tin like that before." Rudely assuming my Nan was having a 'senior moment' I explained the history behind the French madeleine and continued to prepare the tin for baking. If you missed my original madeleine post from last term you can read all about the origins of this treasured French treat here: Le Cordon Bleu week 6 - cake!

I could see that she wasn't satisfied with my explanation and after a few minutes spent thinking she began to recall something she'd seen many years ago. Nan told me how she used to walk past a bakery in Maidenhead when she was a little girl and how her eye was always caught by one cake in particular. She said this was the type of shop that you didn't go into, she wouldn't have been able to afford what was for sale, but how she'd always stop to stare and image what they'd taste like. The cakes she described were delicate, light sponge cakes dipped in jam, rolled in coconut and topped with a cherry. She was convinced they were called madeleines. Still doubtful, I took to Google and there it was - the English madeleine, just how Nan had described it. Never will I doubt her again! 

Saddened by her tale of having never tried the cake that so regularly caught her eye, I've made it my mission to find the perfect recipe to surprise her with and I think, after two failed attempts and one successful, I've found the one! More than anything I'm glad to have discovered a truly 'vintage' petit four - I cannot believe that I've never seen or heard of these little beauties.

Before I could begin to attempt making the English madeleine, I need to purchase some dariole moulds. Again, something I'd never heard of! I'm going to have to find another use for them as the shape is rather lovely. 

The recipe which worked best for me is very simple, essentially the English madeline is a cupcake rolled in jam and covered in coconut - some recipes even suggested using a muffin tin to bake the cakes within but I didn't feel the shape was quite as elegant. 

Once the batter was prepared, as mentioned, a very simple all in one mix (100g butter, 100g caster sugar, 100g self raising flour, 2 eggs, 1 tsp baking powder and vanilla extract to taste), I divided it into my gleaming dariole moulds. 

The cakes were then baked at 180 degrees for 20 minutes and once cool, painted with warm, seedless raspberry jam, then rolled about in a bowl of desiccated coconut and topped with a cherry. I opted for real cherries vs. glace for no reason in particular, I simply prefer the taste and quite frankly, to me they look far more inviting. And so here it is, my take on the English madeleine! I cannot wait to surprise Nan with them and this time, she can eat as many as she likes! 

"Hey Glace, you're so 1980"

It's been quite the week for madeleines and I. Very kindly, I was given the opportunity to sell my baking wares at the Southbank Christmas market on the Good & Proper tea stand, and I'm happy to say that they sold like hot cakes! It was agreed by all that they were the perfect accompaniment to a warming cup of tea, even the French customers who stopped by to taste them said how delicious they were and they are a tough crowd to please when it comes to baking! So I'm a very happy baker indeed. 

My path to patissiere will continue as usual, with regular Sunday posts and updates next week. As we don't receive our intermediate course folders until Monday I haven't a clue what's in store for me but what ever it may be, I'm looking forward to the challenge. 

*Please note that the views I express are mine alone and do not reflect the views of my place of study*

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