Those of you who know me well will know that I have a weakness for baking equipment. Is that cake tin an inch smaller/bigger than all my others? I want it. Did I see that spatula on the Great British Bake Off? Gimme. Does that implement fill a need I never knew I had? Mine.
So when I went into Lakeland with a £5 voucher that required me to spend £30 to use it, there was only one way it was going to end.
I bought a duo icing set, which allows you to pipe 2 colours at once (2! There is a God!), a small cake tin, a cake lifter (don't ask), some posh flavourings, a madeleine tin and some other bits and pieces.
I won't tell you how much it all cost, but rest assured it was too much. Reeling out of the shop in slight shock, I decided I'd better start making use of my new equipment straight away. I promptly went home and made a batch of madeleines.
They were a great success - light, fluffy with the distinctive shell shape of a classic madeleine.
But I love to meddle with things that already work. My motto is less "if it ain't broke don't fix it" than "if it ain't broke cover it in icing. It is broke? Cover it in more icing!"
So I have meddled around a bit in the kitchen and this is what I came up with - orange blossom and pistachio madeleines. That's the recipe I'm giving you, if you want to make plain madeleines I used Michel Roux Jr's recipe. If you aren't lucky enough to own a madeleine tray then use a muffin tray.
Quick tip for skinning the pistachios - cover them in boiling water, leave for 2 minutes then drain and rub with kitchen towel - the skins should slip off. If your madeleine tray is the same as mine this will make around 30 madeleines.
You will need:
150g butter, melted and then cooled slightly (still fully liquid) plus extra to grease
100g plain flour plus extra to dust
100g caster sugar
100g pistachio nuts, skinned and chopped finely
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp orange blossom essence
2 medium eggs
icing sugar, to dust
1. Prepare your tray by greasing it with melted butter and dusting liberally with flour, tilting the tray to get flour into all the corners.
2. Whisk together the caster sugar and eggs until frothy.
3. Whisk in the remaining ingredients (except icing sugar) and leave to stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C.
4. Whisk the mixture again then drop a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into each madeleine mould.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and risen. Dust liberally with icing sugar and serve.
How easy was that? I'll show you the other side of the madeleines too, which should have a little peak in the centre.
Apart from their elegance, simplicity and tastiness there is another reason I enjoy madeleines. The eating of madeleines allows me to make a literary allusion. In his book "In Search of Lost Time" Marcel Proust refers to an incident when the sensory experience of eating a madeleine dipped in tea suddenly and involuntarily makes him remember doing the same thing during his childhood.
I had to read this book for my English literature undergraduate and although I found it pretty boring, I have since always enjoyed referring to eating a madeleine as a Proustian moment, when I know full well that a Proustian moment is actually a moment of involuntary memory. It allows me to show off about being well read while wilfully using a well known phrase for my own, wicked, cakey means.
And now, I am off to have a Proustian moment with one of these madeleines and a cup of tea.