July is a month that always throws my body clock right out of whack. It’s not the cold weather and short days (it’s winter here, oh joy), although I am not a fan of the cold. It’s a sporting issue, dear readers. You see, while most of Australia is focussed on our local Australian Football League and Rugby League competitions, both in full swing, I remain distracted by what is happening elsewhere. Mostly Europe, to be precise.
I have my Formula One every other week or so, as usual. But for three weeks in July, I become ever more sleep deprived as I find myself mesmerised by Le Tour de France. Every. Single. Year. Oh, it’s not so bad this year compared with years when it coincides with the Football World Cup. Oh yes, I love my football … the round ball game, to be exact. Soccer, futbol, whatever you wish to call it. Those are the years when I slowly mutate into a half-crazed zombie, and historically has ended with me crying on my lounge room floor at four o’clock in the morning because the German team has yet again failed to secure the World Cup. Yes, I follow the German team. I always have. It’s my thing.
Back to cycling. Some people watch the Tour because they love road cycling, others because the French do such a bang up job of showcasing all the gorgeous scenery across la belle France. I love it all … even les vaches du Tour … the cows of the Tour … spotting cows in fields as the peloton passes by is one heck of a game to play late at night 😀
It’s a little tough, though, if you have to get up early in the mornings to, you know, go to the gym, go to work, be a functioning human being, that sort of thing … it’s total madness, I know. This year I tried to go to bed early … allowing myself to watch thirty minutes of the coverage each night with a plan to watch the highlights the next day (I don’t record the whole thing … no point once you know who won the stage). But every night, as the witching hour approaches and oft passes, I am standing in front of the television, one finger poised over the power off button, unable to switch it off.
Just one more kilometre …
It helps to have quality snacks on hand for these late night sessions. It makes perfect sense for Tour snacks to be French in origin, non? Even if you are not mad about Le Tour, cycling, or any sport whatsoever, I am sure you will become obsessed with madeleines. They are divine little French cakes. Light, buttery goodness.These madeleines are made using essentially the same method as the Lemon and Poppy Seed Madeleines. They are light and full of fresh mandarin and browned butter. Perfect with a cup of floral tea or maybe a coffee in the wee hours, as you watch your favourite sporting events on the other side of the globe.
It’s barely a day since the Tour has come to an end this year and my withdrawal symptoms have already begun. I suppose I could just go to bed early :pBon appétit!
Madeleines à la Mandarine
I have based this recipe on the classic Lenôtre method for making madeleines, except that I have used baking powder instead of yeast this time, and I have shortened the rest period for the dough accordingly.
I love this method above all others because it reliably results in a madeleine with a soft, delicate crumb that keeps you wanting more.
The browned butter adds a little extra depth and nuttiness to the flavour.
If you’d like to add a little spice to the madeleines, add a pinch or two of nutmeg to the sugar and mandarin zest to sift over them. Nutmeg and mandarin are a lovely combination.
110 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 mandarin, whole
3 large eggs, at room temperature
130 grams sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
160 grams plain flour
5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking powder
10 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, to grease the pans
extra plain flour, for dusting the pans
finely grated mandarin zest (from 1/2 mandarin)
icing sugar or caster sugar, for dusting
Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook until it browns and gives off a warm nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Finely grate the zest of the mandarin. Segment the mandarin using a sharp paring knife to remove the white pith and membrane. Purée the segments and zest together. I used a stick blender but you can use a small food processor or blender.
In the bowl of a mixer, combine the eggs and sugar. Whisk until pale, light, and doubled in volume. Sift together the salt, flour, and baking powder. Switch to the paddle attachment on your mixer. Add the flour mixture to the whisked eggs. Mix on low to medium speed until well combined. Add the mandarin purée and drizzle over the melted and cooled butter, and mix until the dough is smooth. Cover with cling film and refrigerate the dough for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 225℃.
Use the extra butter to grease your Madeleine pans. Be generous! Dust them with sifted flour and tap out the excess. Fill the Madeleine molds about three-quarters full with a tablespoon or so of the dough. Leave a mound in the centre if you would like to get the classic dome in the centre of your Madeleines.
Place in the oven and reduce the temperature to 200℃. Bake for about 3-4 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180℃ and bake for a further 4-5 minutes until risen and golden. Do not over bake the Madeleines or they will become dry.
Remove from the oven and tap to release the Madeleines. If you have prepared your pans correctly, they will generally just slide out easily, without the need for vigorous encouragement 😉
If you only have one Madeleines pan of 12 molds, bake in two batches. Simply wait for the pan to cool sufficiently, wipe it clean. Use the remaining butter to grease the molds, and dust with flour as per directions above, and proceed to fill and bake the remaining Madeleine.
Cool the Madeleines on a wire rack. Combine one or two tablespoons of icing or caster sugar with the extra mandarin zest. Toss to infuse the sugar. Sift the sugar over the cooled madeleines.
Serve on the same day or store, airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days.