Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Matcha Madeleines

Classic madeleines are simple flavoured little French cakes, which are readily available to buy in food shops, supermarkets and bakeries all over France. The first time that I ate them was from a pack that I had bought in the local supermarket when visiting Perpignan in south-west France. Even though I had read all about madeleines and had noted the literary references courtesy of Proust and others, I really could not see what all the fuss was about. Whilst I did not dislike them, they also did not make me go “wow”. I was under-whelmed to say the least!

I was determined not to dismiss them completely, partly because I was just so seduced by their beautiful scalloped shapes and so wanted them to be something that I could be mad about. Therefore when next confronted by them in a small bakery in Matisse’s old stomping ground of Collioure, I decided to give them another try. How different these madeleines were. They were light in the mouth, but with a close crumb and most importantly they were absolutely delicious. I was hooked. On my return home, I immediately bought myself a madeleine tray and have been experimenting with different flavour combinations ever since.


At their simplest, madeleines are made from a classic genoise cake batter and as such are easily adapted to include other flavours.
 
I have recently discovered the joys of Japanese food and being a tad obsessive about such things; I purchased a number of different books and magazines on the subject and have been joyfully experimenting with the different recipes and tastes that the cuisine has to offer. One ingredient that was regularly referred to, in almost reverential terms it has to be said, was matcha green tea powder. On researching further I noted that the powder was most commonly used in desserts and in baking in Japan. Scientists and nutritionists extol the benefits of green tea and it is considered by many to be a super-food. What really intrigued me was the colour that it gave to those dishes in which it was included. It was just so GREEN! I had to get my hands on some and sample it…
 
Acquiring the powder was not as easy as I thought it would be and it was also expensive. However, it really is an ingredient with a taste unlike any that I have ever come across before or have ever used in my cooking and baking; so, to me, it was worth the money that I spent. Also, I should point out that a little does go a long way.
 
The taste is slightly bitter but not excessively so. I actually quite liked it, particularly when coupled with the white chocolate that I decorated these madeleines with. A whole new world has now opened up to me and I already have a number of ideas that I am really keen to try out. This is one of the things that I love about food and cooking – it is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s nothing that could surprise you anymore, but then you discover a new ingredient or try something familiar, used in an unusual way and it re-awakens your child-like enthusiasm for cookery…and for life, once again!
 

Ingredients:

For preparing the madeleine trays/tins:
15g-25g butter, melted
Some plain flour for dusting the trays
Cake batter:
2 large eggs
65g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of half a lemon
80g plain flour
1½ tsp matcha green tea powder
55g butter melted and allowed cool to room temperature
To finish:
75g white chocolate, melted
A little matcha green tea for dusting
 

Method:

1. Generously grease two madeleine tins with melted butter and then using a sieve, dust with a little plain flour, tapping out any excess. Put the buttered tins in the fridge to allow the butter to harden.
2. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the eggs, caster sugar and lemon zest together in a medium sized mixing bowl, at a high speed for about five minutes or until the mixture doubles in volume and becomes paler in colour.
3. Sift the flour and green tea powder together and fold into the egg mixture using light movements but ensuring that no “pockets” of flour remain. Drizzle in the melted butter and fold into the batter thoroughly. Cover the mixing bowl with some cling film and refrigerate the batter for at lest an hour, although overnight is also ok.
4. When ready to bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 6.
5. Spoon or pipe the madeleine batter into each indentation on the madeleine tray. The batter should three-quarters fill each indentation. Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes until the madeleines are well risen with a characteristic hump in the middle. Remove from the oven and immediately tap out the madeleines onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
To finish:
6. Half dip each madeleine (at the scalloped end) into the melted white chocolate. Place on a wire cooling rack and allow to harden. I put a sheet of baking paper under the rack to catch any chocolate drips. Before the chocolate hardens completely, dust with a little green tea powder.
 

Makes 24 - 28 madeleines depending on size of moulds.