I've made madeleines before. I mean, I have the madeleine pan so I must have made them, but I have no idea how long ago that was. My only recollection of the experience is that it was really involved and the results mediocre. It had to have been five or six addresses ago, but still, I've brought the pan with me on every move.
As I was exploring new recipes for this blog, I happened upon the cookbook Afternoon Delights: Coffeehouse Favorites: Cookies & Coffee Cakes, Brownies & Bars, Scones & More by James McNair and Andrew Moore. I recognized McNair's name and picked it up. His cookbooks always have great photography, and I recall thinking his Corn cookbook was a revelation twenty years ago, but I couldn't remember when I last cooked from one. When I saw what appeared to be a simple recipe for madeleines, I knew I had to give it a try.
The results did not disappoint. The browned butter reminded me of these Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats. The lemon was perfect. Not too much, but definitely THERE. Best of all? My seven year old says they are better than Starbucks'. High praise, indeed.
But back to the cookbook. McNair & Moore lead off with a lot of great baking hints for novice bakers. I don't agree with everything (I rotate my pans for more even cooking. Know your oven!) but if you're getting started, the first few pages are useful. I love all the variations they include. They are especially good for anyone nervous about improvisation when baking.
The photos are fabulous and the recipes I've made have been easy as pie. And much, much easier than the last batch of madeleines I tried to make. There were a few things that were new to me, like the Carmelitas. Of course, not an hour after I saw the recipe and thought it was something BRAND NEW, I spotted them on the cookie bar at Whole Foods.
Afternoon Delights is a lovely little cookbook and earns a spot on the very small shelf in my kitchen.
It’s things like this that make me re-think the name I chose for this blog, but here I am, diving in, head first. Damn the torpedoes. Full steam ahead, right? Right.
Steam...steamed milk...in my espresso. Ahhhhhh. Okay, you’ve discovered my dirty little secret. I’m supposed to be writing about tea but it’s not my hot beverage of choice. Neither is coffee, at least not traditional brewed coffee. I’ll take a single (or a double) shot of espresso with a lovely layer of crema any day of the week. Decaf after dinner. Hi-test any other time of the day, even tea time.
When I think of tea it’s not the beverage that springs to mind. I see a three-tiered stand full of little sandwiches, scones, and petit fours. There’s a pot of clotted cream and another of jam nearby. Tea is a meal that comes between lunch and dinner. One might drink tea with it, but I don’t, unless I’m in England or I have a cold.
So that’s where I’m going with this blog. If you want to read about drinking tea, there are some great choices. If you want to eat your tea, you came to the right place. Let’s get started. I’m hungry!
Scones could be a whole food group in my culinary utopia. They are one of the first things I taught myself to make well when I was living on my own, thanks to some early successes. I started with simple currant scones back in the late 1980s and quickly discovered the flaky texture I like best.
For years I used the same recipe, “Simple Sweet Scones” in a cookbook by Elizabeth Alston. I could add just about any fruit, be it fresh, frozen, or dried, to that recipe and it always worked well. I have tried others over the years but always return to Alston. There was even a time, when I was MUCH younger, I could execute that recipe from memory.
Recently I discovered the cookbook Tartine and was immediately drawn to the Buttermilk Scone recipe. It looked simple enough, though it made a larger batch than I was used to, and despite my feeling very rusty in the scone making department. I had buttermilk in the fridge and a bag of currants on hand, as well as my new love, European butter. The scone gods were sending me a message. I assembled the ingredients, grabbed my camera, and set to work.
[The complete recipe for Buttermilk Scones from page 37 of Tartine is available from The Splendid Table. You can find Lynne Rossetto Kasper on your local NPR station, or via podcast. And you really should find her. She's brilliant.]
Note well: Baking is like chemistry. You can't improvise too much without unexpected results. I recommend making the recipe as written once before tweaking it. Keep reading for some easy changes you can make without fear.
That, my friends, is proper scone texture. Not cake or muffin-like at all, but rather, visible layers of buttery goodness, making it easy to split the scone and add some clotted cream, jam, or both. Are they the most beautiful scones I’ve ever made? Not even close, but they made up for in taste what they lacked in aesthetic perfection. Well worth the small amount of time needed to make them.
I made a few small changes to the recipe. I added a very small amount of freshly ground nutmeg, probably 1/8th tsp. You could easily add a little cinnamon if that's what you like. Demerera or other brown sugar would be nice sprinkled on top of the scones. I have made these with dried cherries instead of currants, but my absolute favorite substitution is orange peel and dried orange cranberries (I like Trader Joe's) instead of lemon peel and currants.
You can see I lined my baking sheet with parchment paper, rather than buttering the pan as indicated in the recipe. I bake just about everything on parchment. If you haven't tried it, pick up a small box and take it for a spin. Nothing sticks and it's safe to about 420 degrees. There are lots of brands out there, though I remember when it wasn't available in most grocery stores. It's much easier to find now.
Do you have a favorite scone recipe? Or a favorite scone source? Please share in the comments.
Eat Your Tea has been percolating (see what I did there?) in my head for nearly a year. I've been cooking with a real interest in food since about 1987. It started to be fun a year or two later, when I was out of college and living on my own. I still don't call myself a "Foodie" but food has been hovering around my top five favorite things for a long time.
So what's this eating tea thing? I like tea well enough, but I honestly could not live without coffee. What I really love is the food one might have at tea time, that late afternoon smackerel that tides us over until dinner. Tea time is one English tradition I would like to see become a thing on this side of the pond. My kids come home famished from a long day at school, often pleading for a snack the minute they get in the car. I have started keeping little pouches of applesauce in the car but that's not what I really have in mind. It doesn't have the same nurturing feel as something fresh from the oven. And since my kids have taken to adopting a few of their English dad's expressions, Eat Your Tea was a logical next step.
I've been an Anglophile even longer than I've been a cook, and scones were one of the first things I started baking regularly, so that's where we'll start, with my favorite scone. Come back tomorrow and I'll show you what I mean. For now, here's a little peek.