Do you like to get bang for your buck?
If so, the best way to accomplish this in baking is by learning how to make Madeleine's.
If you don't know what they are let me refresh your memory.
Have you ever seen those pans in the baking section were the holes (or indentations) are shaped like a sea shell?
That's what I'm talking about.
The pans come in a variety of sizes, but the most standard is the silver pan with a dozen sea shell impressions in it.
Now days, everybody is trying to make a buck, so often times you'll see black pans, or Madeleine pans with mini impressions so you can bake 36 pieces at a time.
Hells-Bells, not too long ago I was at Super Target and they even had those Rubbermaid silicone pans that you are (yeah-you guessed it) made out of some space age rubber that you can toss directly in your oven.
I've never been one to push my baking opinions, or techniques as Gospel, but I really do love the classic silver pan with 12 slots, and I'll tell you why.
The black pans are popular, and quite a few of my colleagues like these, but to me they are blasphemous.
Black bake ware heats much quicker, and retains heat much longer. This isn't something you desire for our topic.
If using a silver pan was like baking a loaf of bread in your home oven, then the black pan would be like baking that same bread in a fire place.
These are 2 complete different technologies, but it just so happens that one is refined, and the other is savage.
The reason I don't like the mini Madeleine is because you end up creating some weird hybrid of something 3 generations away from the original.
The very first thing one has to do when changing sizes on products is to determine if the new size or shape are going to affect the integrity of the product.
Madeleine's are so unique because they are 1/2 cake and 1/2 cookie. The crumb wall is supposed to be crisp while the interior should almost melt on your tongue.
When you release a mini Madeleine from its tray......
The whole unit is crumb wall, there simply is not enough mass for an interior to exist.
The rubber Madeleine trays actually work to a certain degree, but they don't help you achieve your blister (we'll get to that in a bit), other than that though, they are good enough to get the job done, but to use rubber baking pans or hot pads is so unsexy in Klecko's book of Baking Vogue.
If you are the type that bakes with rubber..........
You probably play baseball on AstroTurf -
You probably buy bottles of wine with screw off caps -
You most definitely drink coffee out of Styrofoam receptacles -
And of your 17 pairs of tennis shoes...I'll bet none of them have a Nike swoosh.
The last time I looked, I think you can get a couple silver Madeleine pans for around $30 (American).
Dude, this is such a good investment for so many reasons.
If you are bankrupt of baking confidence, Madeleine's can raise your street cred quicker than anything (and I mean ANYTHING) in the entire baking arena.
Most people have never made these delicacies.
One of the reasons might be that like the Pop Over, this treat needs to be consumed before it becomes cold.
Sure, I know Starbucks Coffee sells them wrapped up in hermetically sealed packages, but those little delights are pumped with preservatives and have no soul.
Another reason these are a great entry level baking project is because they don't require yeast, so just like a muffin or a quick bread, you won't need an electric mixer, and the whole "proofing" step is eliminated as well.
After you fiddle with Madeleine's for just a little bit, you'll own your peeps.
Even if you decide to remain a One Trick Pony, and that's all you accomplish, your "Mad Skills" will intimidate your neighbors, chefs, and yes....even your Mother in Law.
Ok-OK, Klecko's not going to take the easy route and pile on Mother in Laws, but yeah, I have one too.
I dig her, I have love for her.
The woman is a level 9 Russian / Jew, and she can cook like Christ can swim.
Every time I visit her, I walk away from the table 12 pounds heavier.
The part of this process that cracks me up the most, is that most of the items she is feeding me, I can't even pronounce them, even after she have repeated their names numerous times.
But I remember that winter she came over to my house, I had two Madeleine pans on my kitchen counter leaning against the wall.
The pans are basically the size of ice cube trays, so imagine something rectangular like that standing erect on the sink, behind the faucets and leaning on the splash guard.
Both of them were fairly new, so their metallic coating reflected every molecule of light in the room and bounced them back.
Another thing you can do to impress your minions is to attach a little history to whatever you are about to serve your guests.
Danny Klecko would never want to disappoint, especially his Mother in Law, so the rant began.
"Ya Know Ma, most people say that the Madeleine was developed by a little Pollack baker who was stationed in France. I think they were in Commercy or Versailles.
She was commissioned to make them for Stanislas Leszczynska who was the deposed King of Poland. Isn't it funny how often Pollacks are found in conversations where new food items were created in Europe? But the French and the Italians always seem to sucker punch them when its time to roll the credits.
The word Madeleine is actually French and translates Magdalen,after the Mary who loved our lord."
My mother in law rolls her eyes and reminds me that Jewish food is so much easier, because they have no saints to connect them too.
I shushed her though and finished.
"It is believed that when Madeleine's went into (and pardon the pun) mass production, this took place in the convents, and they were sold across France for fundraisers.
The proceeds were said to put poor kids through school.
This special cookie became so popular, that bakers across the country attempted to make them and share in the spoils, but the one thing that was unique about the Nuns version, they understood heat source.
They manipulated the heat to a point where the cookie would get a blister on the top. When you saw that little bubble, you knew an expert had made your cookie."
So now I notice that my Mother in Law wasn't even paying attention, her focus was on those 2 shiny Madeleine pans. You would have thought they were imposing gargoyles or something the way she continued lurking at them.
Yeah, I have to admit it, they were worth every penny I spent on them.
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 tsp orange flower water
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon lemon zest
* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/3 cup powdered sugar for decoration
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray the 12 (3 inch) Madeleine molds with bakers aerosol and set aside.
2. Melt butter and let cool to room temperature.
3. In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs, orange flower water and salt at high speed until light.
4. Beating constantly, gradually add sugar; and continue beating at high speed until mixture is thick and pale and ribbons form in bowl when beaters are lifted, 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Sift flour into egg mixture, gently folding after each addition.
6. Add lemon zest and pour melted butter around edge of batter. Quickly but gently fold butter into batter. Spoon batter into molds; it will mound slightly above tops.
7. Bake 14 to 17 minutes, or until cakes are golden and the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertip.
8. Use the tip of the knife to loosen Madeleine's from pan; invert onto rack. Immediately sprinkle warm cookies with powdered sugar. Madeleine's are best eaten the day they're baked. Leftover Madeleine's are wonderful when dunked into coffee or tea.