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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Chocolate Chunk Cookie Tangent.

I already covered Migoya’s cookies, which were very good — soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, like a French baguette.

When I was in Toronto in November, I was sucked in to William-Sonoma, which we don’t have where I live, I’m sure that’s for the best.  I had heard very positive reviews online about Thomas Kellar’s line of Bouchon Gluten-free products.  They sell regular mixes as well as the gluten-free variety which is made with their Cup-4-Cup flour.  While tasting the Ad Hoc chocolate frosting was tempting ($29 for enough to frost one 9” cake, Yowza)

I bought the cookie mix instead ($29 for twelve cookies and I supply the butter and egg — at least it came with Callebaut chocolate).

I’ve been staring at the box, wondering how they would taste, waiting for the perfect time to make them.  I had a week off between xmas and new years, and I needed a serious break, so I promised myself I would not make anything for a week.  My therapist’s response to this was: Why would you do that to yourself? Um, is she enabling me? Anyway, not baking was difficult but I had the entire Six Feet Under series to keep me preoccupied.  This is the first time in at least 3 years I’ve gone more than 3 days without baking.  It’s also been the first time in 9 years I have had vacation time and not gone anywhere.  Sitting around, “relaxing” is not my strong suit, but apparently when I’m bound and determined, I can squeeze 56 hours of quality HBO programming into one week of gymming and socializing.

Anyway, I made these as a baby step back into, you know, the thing that encompasses my life.

This is what I saw when I opened the box:

This is about as unromantic as homemade cookies can get.  I should have looked in the box when I got it, so I could have known if I payed for chocolate that had already melted down and regenerated into a bag of bloomy crumble. It’s winter, a warm one yes, but I didn’t store the cookie mix on my heater.  Disappointment #1.

I chopped up some 55% chocolate and used that instead, I wanted Chocolate Chunk cookies, not Chocolate Crumbs and Flecks cookies.

I looked at the ingredients.  They used soybean oil to keep the sugar soft.

The flour mix contains: Rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, potato flour, tapioca starch, milk powder, vanilla powder, baking soda.

The addition of the milk powder really brings out the buttery flavour of the dough, and helps to add moisture. However… my palate is not particularly fabu, but I do tend to be overly sensitive to some ingredients, the two big ones are baking powder and milk powder (because of this sensitivity, I do not understand why people love Crack Pie; tastes like Milk Powder Pie to me). I found these cookies were gross raw (not something I look for in a cookie) and baked had a very subtle aftertaste due to the inclusion of milk powder. However, the more cookies I consumed, the less I noticed the off taste.

The first time I baked them, they did not look like the box photo:

The instructions indicate to chill for 30 minutes, which I did. But when I chilled them for 5 days (since my disappointment lead me to wrap the dough I didn’t bake and throw them into the pastry cemetery that is my fridge), they came out like this:

I prefer the latter.

My first reaction was that they weren’t bad.  I didn’t care for how sweet they were, but the fact that the chocolate it came with was a combo of 55% and 70% would have balanced the sweetness out a bit. The texture was nice.  Not grainy, not starchy. And the guests I had that prompted me to bake the last of the dough couldn’t tell they were gluten-free.

Yes, these were very good. However, they cost about $2.80 each (not including the cost of replacing the useless chocolate) to make, which is crazy expensive. But I don’t blame Thomas Kellar for that.

…6. Maple Pot de Crème & Banana Macaron (pg. 247, 276).

Pot de Crème, a light but very rich custard, is delicious, though I prefer crème brulée, likely because I like to burn things and I like the taste of burned things.

I wanted to dig up some great info on Pot de Crèmes because I have very little of interest to say in this post, but I didn’t find anything exciting.  Aside from the existence of http://www.potdecreme.com, which I thought was one of those trick search engine sites, but amazingly it is real.

Maple Pot de Crème (pg. 247)

125g Cream

145g Milk

108g Maple Syrup

68g Yolks

Pinch of Salt

I admit I couldn’t bring myself to make it entirely with cream, as the recipe goes, nor was I able to track down maple sugar, so I added milk and used maple syrup.  At least I didn’t lower myself to using Aunt Jemima.

You can either whisk the ingredients cold or heat them as though you are cooking a crème anglaise.  I prefer the latter as they will set faster in the oven and you won’t shock the ingredients by putting them in a pan of hot water in a hot oven.  Sometimes the pastry product should be shocked (as when you take a hot cake out of the pan and transfer it to the freezer to keep it moist), but it’s best to not shock custards.  They are too delicate.  Either way, always strain your custards before cooking.

These took over an hour.  Close to 1.5 hours actually.  Two reasons: no convection (you foil me almost every time, stove!) and this was the only way I could get them in enough water because of how small and silly my oven is:

 So pathetic.

Banana Macaron

Migoya takes a moment in his book to address the issue of organic products and quality.  He very clearly states that not all that is organic is necessarily better.  This is a fact I have been confronted with every time I buy organic bananas, but like women who have spawned and do so more then once, I never remember the organic banana experience as really being that bad, so I frequently do it over and over.

It was, in fact, that bad.  Maybe more so.

Migoya suggests cooking a banana butter to fill the macarons, which sounds like a delightful alternative to adding banana liquor to buttercream.  Banana. Butter. Cinnamon. Pot. Cook until soft.  Piece of cake.

Um..What. Is. Happening?           AH!                                             Ew.

I blame you, Organic Bananas. Taste is good… texture… could be better.

To save this disaster, I whip up a batch of ganache (pg.211) and pipe it around the disgusting banana mash.  I dusted it with cocoa instead of poppy seeds.  I don’t care for poppy seeds.

The Pot de Crème was delicious.  The suggestion to top it with maple syrup made it look very nice, but eating it reminded me of digging in to set yogurt without pouring off the separated liquid, which I don’t care for.  The Macaron was salvaged by the ganache.  I’ll try the banana butter again eventually.

…2. Um, what’s the deal with the cheese-y blog name?, and The Ultimate Chocolate Chunk Cookie (pg. 288)

nomnomnomFirst, I apologize for this set of photos.  I’m lame at that stuff sometimes.

I’m not gonna lie.  Subway cookies are amazing.  They are raw and gross in the centre, which doesn’t matter because I don’t think they are made with anything that could go off (ie. sawdust and cornsyrup), you can bend them in half before they break and their edges have a slight crispness to them.  I won’t eat them because I know they aren’t food.

When I was a kid I loved those super soft Chips Ahoy! despite them not actually tasting like anything.  Not even sugar.  But they were so, unnaturally soft.  Needless to say, I firmly believe the best cookie is an unbaked cookie.

For years I have been trying to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe that satisfies all my cookie needs:

  • Tastes like delicious; by this I mean it has a good strong chocolate flavour, but the dough can stand on it’s own — slightly sweet, with vanilla and maybe a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Soft and slightly underdone on the inside, doesn’t dry out when cooled. No sharp edges to scrape the roof of my mouth.
  • Spread to a large disk and awesome, but not pooled and over-mixed.

Okay, so most of these things can be easily controlled.  If you over-whip your butter and sugar, your cookies are going to spread.  If you bake them on low heat for longer then instructed and remove them when the centres are still light, they won’t be dry inside.

But the first one is tough, because it’s based only on ratios.

At work I make a good chocolate cookie.  I think I amended the David Lebovitz recipe.  These cookies sell almost faster then I can make them, for good reason.  They are very handsome and very tasty

As far as gluten-free, I’ve had fair success with Kate Zuckerman’s recipe she offers in The Sweet Life (amazing book, by the way), which is soft and dry rather then greasy.  Like the President’s Choice cookie but good.

Migoya says his is the best.  He says if you make it properly, deliciousness will ensue, and thus the blog-name is revealed.

Here it is:

212g butter – 21 degrees

151g sugar

143g brown sugar

90g eggs – room temp

4.5g vanilla paste, whisked in with eggs

3g salt

4.5g baking soda

317g flour

317g chocolate chunks (I used Cocoa Barry 66% Cocoa Mexican Pistolles because I didn’t have enough block-form Callebaut.  Note: I made these again two days later with the Callebaut and they were still great, but if you’re looking for a big, rich chocolate flavour, go for a high-quality dark chocolate bar if Cocoa Barry isn’t around).

Cream butter and sugar, just until combined. Scrape sides.

Add egg little by little, scrape down sides as you go.

The only strange thing about his cookie is the baking soda and the salt are added to the egg-butter-sugar goodness, not the flour.  I’ve never seen this before.  Why?  I don’t know.  Baking soda starts doing its business right away.  Is this to keep it from levening but still acting as a brown-ing device? He doesn’t say.

Add flour.

Fold in chocolate.

Scoop with a #16 scoop.  I don’t know what this is.  I only have a yellow japanese scoop I bought at an antique store, so it has no numbers.  If the recipe actually yields 50 cookies which would be unlike every other recipe that claims to make three dozen and you actually get eight, then my scoop is 200% too big.  But nobody hates giant cookies.

I made a batch of normal people cookies and gluten-free cookies.  Right from the get-go, the batches behaved differently.  The butter for the gluten-free batch wouldn’t mix with the sugar.  It actively refused.  I’ve never seen that before, at least with 21 degree butter.  4 degree butter is defiant against almost anything, but this was just confusing.  Then the butter wouldn’t play nice with the eggs.  What. The. Fuck.  I had already made the normal people batch, and it was great!  Whatever.  I kept going.  The dough ended up soppy.  Sigh.

Bake at 347 degrees.

Really?  Problem the second.  This is my stove dial:

347, eh?

On top of being the most vague stove ever, it is gas and non-convection.  This has proven to be a problem in the past.  Almost all the time.  And I never remember because I’m so excited to make things that it isn’t until disaster strikes that I recall how horrible my oven is.  This is not a cookie oven.  No matter how many cookie sheets I stack in there, the bottoms will always burn and the tops will never bake.  And now I had to figure out what the non-convection cookie-burning oven temperature equivalent is to 347 degrees.

Here are the results.

On the left the gluten-free guys, all flat and over mixed.  FAIL.

On the right are the regular guys.  My crazy oven took 20 minutes to bake them.  Probably because I did not press them as much as I should have and they were likely too cold since I was so excited I just shoved them in the freezer.  I am impatient.

Here’s a more intimate view.

Okay, we know who wins.  This is a good cookie.  It has a surprisingly audible crunch, like when you eat rice crispies.  The crunch isn’t thick and full-on crunchy.  It’s totally a light crisp shell that mainly serves to protect the soft inside and provide a bit of an exciting mouthfeel, like the characteristics of a great baguette.  And if you use Mexican chocolate  I used, this cookie won’t be crazy sweet, but it will be incredibly rich, so a glass of milk or black coffee is a must.