Chocolate Madeleines

I used to read so many books. Then I went to grad school.

Recently I got back into reading more, and it’s been great. I just finished Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, which was hilarious, and Guns, Germs and Steel, which was really interesting. Lest anyone believe that I only read books with titles of the form “A, B and C,”  I’m currently reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I’m enjoying it a lot. I tried to read it once a few years ago when I was in grad school and Beth was in Africa, (the book is about life in the Congo).  She and all her friends were reading it at the time, but I had a hard time getting into it. Now I think it’s great though. Funny how that happens with books. Ulysses seemed impossible to me on my first attempt, but I tried again a few years later and burned through half of it in just a few weeks.

Anyway, what do all these books have to do with the chocolate cookies? Well, a couple weeks ago, at the beginning of my return to reading, I thought, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to read À la recherche du temps perdu. So, I got a copy of volume one from the libary. The last time it had been checked out, they were still using stamps on cards that stuck into a pouch inside the cover: 1984. I took Vol. 1 home, and made some madeleines, which are one of my favorite cookies, (and which are a major element of one of the most famous episodes in the book). I read a few pages and ate some madeleines. I thought the first few pages were really good. But a couple days later I concluded that I’d never finish the book in my present circumstances.  Most of my reading takes place on my commuter bus ride, and Proust’s masterpiece is far too dense for bus ride reading.

The cookies however were delicious. My favorite recipe is this one, but I usually use 1 Tbsp orange flower water instead of the lemon zest and juice to flavor them. The orange blossom tastes outstanding in combination with the chocolate variation of the cookies. I recommend it highly. You can get orange flower water at asian or middle easter grocery stores, where it may be called ma zaher.

The funniest thing about orange flower water though, is that it causes the madeleines to have a similar effect on me to the one they had on Proust’s narrator. We had this diaper and rash ointment, A+D Ointment,  in the house when I was very young, and I never knew why it smelled the way it did. Turns out it was scented with orange flower water. So, opening the bottle of water always transports me back to my infant, rash having years.  It took me a while to get over that association before I could enjoy foods that used the stuff. If you too have used that diaper ointment, you may have a hard time with re-appreciating the orange blossom smell, but give it time, and if you aren’t familiar with A+D ointment, forget I said anything.

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4 Comments on “Chocolate Madeleines”

  1. susan Says:

    Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite books! Kingsolver is a favorite author of mine anyway. I’m almost done with her latest (The Lacuna) and I’m enjoying it a lot, though I’m not flying through it like I have her other novels. Interesting that you had a hard time getting into it the first time…I, on the other hand, got about 2/3 of the way through Guns Germs and Steel before I got bogged down and had to give up reading it!

    Those chocolate madeleines look tasty! I tried making some once but I ended up with puddles all over the baking sheet. I guess you have to use the special baking tin for them to turn out!

  2. bpatricksullivan Says:

    Thanks, Susan. I think the madeleine tin is pretty crucial to making these. I just plop blobs of the batter into the shell shaped dents, and they magically fill in the molds during the baking process .

    However, I have read that the same batter can be piped into strips on a parchment lined cookie sheet to make lady fingers. There’s a good Julia Child episode on it on PBS.org: http://video.pbs.org/video/1174158883/

    I had my own puddle cookie incident with hamentaschen this past weekend. Based on a recommendation from a website, I tried to use some extra rugelach dough to make the hamentashcen. Mistake.

  3. Sarah V Says:

    Hahahaha, that is super funny about the ointment smell. I like this blog. 🙂

    • bpatricksullivan Says:

      Thanks, Sarah. You should do some more posts on your blog. I liked the post about how in Mandarin you have to say, “I have three long thin objects of dog.”


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