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Things that start with M. Madeleines and Muffins (pgs. 88 & 90)

I’ve been putting off the Muffin post for a while now, desperately wanting to come up with something interesting to say about muffins.

I don’t really care for muffins. That’s not to say I haven’t eaten my fair share, but how many of those muffins did I enjoy? Few.

What’s the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

Frills? This would have been easier to answer in the ‘80s when muffins had giant crowns, were flavoured with blueberries, bran, or chocolate chips, and cupcakes were only available in chocolate or vanilla and hardly ever contained bits. Now, the line between the two is almost blurred since muffins are now sweeter and people (including myself) are loading cupcakes with all kinds of bits sweet and savoury.  And considering the muffins in The Modern Café, which are very sweet and glazed (!), I can now only assume the difference is the mixing method.

Where did they originate?

The Joy of Cooking, with it’s often tremendously elaborate descriptions and histories, let me down with a simple, almost curt explanation of a quick bread and the mixing method. On Food and Cooking had a brief distinction between the two batter types (thin and thick) and why muffins turn blue (too much baking soda/powder) but doesn’t offer a fix without reducing the leavening (more acid). My last resort (Wikipedia) implied a vague American origin, despite the word being British, and then described them as fitting “in to the palm of an adult hand” and “to be consumed by an individual in a single sitting.” Not useful.

But wait, What’s a Madeleine?

A cake that is eaten like a cookie. Yeah, confusing. Larousse Gastronomique says the Madeleine was created by Chef Avice who worked for Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1st PM of France). I guess he decided, probably because he had some sponge batter left over, to pipe it into aspic moulds. But it also says that the cake could go as far back as 1755, where a peasant woman in the town of Commercy baked the cakes for the Duke and…he loved them.  End of story.

I won’t hide my surprise when I read both of these recipes. The pumpkin muffins are glazed (again, !) and packed with sugar, and the Madeleines are…a pound cake?!

Madeleines are made with eggs whipped well with sugar or honey, a dash of milk, folding in of the flour, and finished with some melted butter. Sure the flavour occasionally varies; usually it contains lemon and/or orange zest, vanilla or orange blossom water. Some people make chocolate madeleines. Variances I don’t much mind, but I was uncomfortable making them with a pound cake method, because it goes against what is French tradition, but also (perhaps more so) that I am bad at making pound cake. It’s not funny and I don’t want to get into it.

And so I followed the instructions, I made the pound cake as carefully as I could, but as always, half way through the egg additions, the batter broke, I became furious, and I started to plan the next batch of proper Madeleines.

I had some cherries lying around waiting to be included in a Black Forest cake, so I looked up Cherry in The Flavour Thesaurus.  Niki Segnit, under the suggestion of Cherry & Coffee made a direct reference to the abundance of cherry pie and cups of coffee Agent Dale Cooper consumed through the two seasons of Twin Peaks and I fell in love with her instantly.  Then I dumped coffee grinds into the madeleine dry mix. The addition of coffee was somewhat satisfying, since a search for Madeleines will always, inevitably, come with two words: Proust and Tea.  Feel free to replace the coffee with Chai or matcha if coffee doesn’t course through your veins.

Cherry and Coffee Madeleines

130g Sugar

2 Eggs

35ml Milk (room temp)

160g Flour

7g Baking Powder

85g Butter (melted & cooled)

50g Dried Sour Cherries (chopped)

5g Coffee (medium grind)

8g Cherry liqueur

Icing sugar

Extra milk

Oven at 400F for conventional, 375F for convection.

Melt butter. I added some extra coffee to infuse for a richer flavour, but that step is up to you. Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy and white, add milk. Sift together flour and baking powder, then add cherries and coffee grinds and give it a toss. Stir into the egg mixture until just incorporated. Spoon out some batter and whisk into the butter, then fold the butter into the batter. Chill the mixture for at least 1 hour, then pipe or spoon into the shell mould (if you have a tin, which will give you a crisper shell, more moist interior, and an even browning, have it buttered and floured twice — a silicone mould doesn’t require this step). Be sure to fill the moulds just over 3/4 of the way, or they won’t rise properly. Bake until done, between 7 and 15 minutes.

Traditionally they are dusted with Icing Sugar, but after reading David Lebovitz raving about the blé sucré Madeleines, I decided to glaze them with the cherry liqueur, which turned out to be a delicious idea*

Pumpkin Muffins (Without Cranberry Glaze) Adapted from The Modern Café pg.90

3 Eggs

125g Canola Oil

330g Pumpkin Purée

7g Baking Soda

349g Flour (Gluten Free: 40g Teff, 85g Brown Rice, 105g Potato Starch, 95g Tapioca, 1tsp Xantam Gum)

5g Cinnamon

3g Nutmeg, Clove, Allspice

300g Sugar

Whisk eggs, emulsify with Canola Oil by drizzling oil in while whisking, add pumpkin purée.  Sift flours, b.soda, and spices, then add sugar and gently whisk into liquid until almost combined (can be a bit lumpy or streaked). Bake at 350 in a preheated oven. Makes 9-12 muffins, depending on the size.

This recipe is great. I’ve made these several times, kept the batter in the fridge and baked one off in the morning, which only takes 15-20 minutes. I usually fold in some diced apples, either raw or quickly browned in a dab of butter in a hot frying pan. For these photos, I gave them a light drizzle of caramel, but a streusel of equal parts butter, flour, sugar, and oats adds texture.

I tried the glaze. The glaze and I did not get along, as it is made mostly of icing sugar and I don’t like my food to taste like sweet starch. Also, I don’t think muffins should be glazed, but that’s me. If you want to glaze them, sift some icing sugar (like, 2 cups), and add cranberry juice, a tablespoon or so at a time, while whisking. The glaze should be loose but thick enough to coat your finger.

*Generally, if I decide to do something like this, which is to say add a sweet component to something that is already sweet, I reduce the sugar. I found these were plenty sweet when I gave the sponge only 100g of sugar and left the rest to the coating. I will never serve Madeleines without a glaze again — when glazed just out of the oven, the moisture is locked into the cake, a bonus considering how quickly these dry out.

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