Monday, June 25, 2012

Madeleine Cookies: Cat Hair is NOT a Seasoning

Just for the record, I've never considered myself a cat-person. I've had one cat, or rather, she had me. I'm a dog person. Cats like me because they know that I'm a sucker for any small, dependent animal. Sadly, a family member passed away recently, leaving behind a cat named Madeline, who is about 9 or 10. I've been looking after her during her Mom's illness, and since the person originally designated as the cat-step-Mom can't take her, Chuck and I, and the dog are all trying to accommodate a cat who's never seen a dog or been out of her old home since she was a few weeks old.
Madeleine, aka Maddy or Madeline, is a bit mad.
No female wants her picture taken on a bad hair day.
The animals are having a Mexican Standoff. This is only my second cat, and the first one (also inherited) one liked to be outside most of the time. I, having forgotten that cats are mostly nocturnal, am not accustomed to having a cat jump on my head at 4 AM. Or cat singing. Nor am I accustomed to having an animal that can jump on to my kitchen counters or the range. I now have a spray bottle of water at hand in the kitchen at all times to  (hopefully) deter her from those places. Eeeeew. Cat hair, in my book, is NOT a seasoning. My dog doesn't shed. Madeline does. A lot.

Since the poor furry thing has come to a household where a real Francophile runs the kitchen, Madeline is now be known as Madeleine, because she really is a sweet little cookie. I started making Madeleines about a million years ago from a recipe in Marion Cunningham's " The Fannie Farmer Baking Book" for the delicate shell-shaped cookies and I still consider this recipe among the best. The do NOT have any cat hair in them, but lots of good butter, eggs and sugar. I wonder if Marcel Proust had a cat? Welcome to your new home, Madeleine!

Adapted from Marion Cunningham's "The Fannie Farmer Baking Book"
Makes 24

You will need to buy or borrow some Madeleine pans or molds with shell shaped indents, two would be good, since each holds 12, so you don't have to wait between batches for the pan to cool. The texture of the cookie changes as the batter stands, and the second batch will be cakier, and less crispy unless you can bake in two pans at once. If you only use one pan, let the pan cool after the first batch, wipe it out thoroughly, butter well and repeat.

2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest, or 2 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup sifted AP flour
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
4 T softened butter

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Smear about 1/2 teas. of the softened butter over the inside of each shell indent in each form, no bare spots, please. Combine the eggs, sugar and lemon in a big, heat proof bowl, and set the bowl over simmering water and stir until the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and beat with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, nearly tripled in volume. May take  3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt.

Sift half of the flour over the egg mixture and fold in gently Pour in the melted butter and sift the rest of the flour over the butter. Fold in until it all is just mixed. Spoon a heaping tablespoon into each shell indent, but don't level, they'll self-level in the oven. Bake about 10 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Lift each cookie from the mold with the tines of a fork or the tip of a knife and let cook. Serve with powdered sugar sifted over them if you like. Serve the same day as baked or wrap tightly and freeze.

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