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Archive for April, 2013

Madeleines

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Maybe if madeleines aroused in me an involuntary memory from my childhood as they did for Proust, I would experience an exquisite pleasure when eating them. But I grew up in New England in the 1950’s and 60’s. We didn’t have madeleines. The closest thing we had were packaged ladyfingers that my mother would sometimes serve with pudding made from a mix. Not that I didn’t like ladyfingers, especially with pudding to offset their dryness. I’m a little in awe that my mother served dessert every day after dinner, and I can completely see how dressing up some instant pudding with packaged ladyfingers made her life a little easier.

I baked these madeleines from the recipe in Baking With Julia, contributed by Flo Braker (the baker) and based on a genoise batter used to make either ladyfingers or madeleines. Frankly I find them a bit boring and wish that I had added some additional flavor, like lemon zest or ground almonds or cocoa – next time. I have two miniature madeleine pans which each make twenty tiny cookies. The recipe made enough batter to fill the tins twice, so I baked eighty mini-madeleines and will need to freeze some for another day.

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The recipe called for buttering and flouring the pans, and that is what I did for the first batch. Some of the Tuesdays With Dorie bloggers mentioned that they had always brushed their pans with melted butter, so I tried that with the second batch. Although both batches were a little stubborn coming out of the molds, the first batch (butter and flour) came out more easily.

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You can find the recipe on pages 333-334 of Baking With Julia or on Katie and Amy’s blog, Counter Dog. Now I’m going to go freeze half of these cute little cakes…or maybe I’ll serve them with some pudding tomorrow.

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I would probably not have chosen to bake this rustic potato bread if it hadn’t been a Tuesdays With Dorie – Baking With Julia assignment. For me, potato bread conjures up images of yellow squishy loaves, a slight improvement on Wonder Bread but not by much. Once I began to make it though, I was glad to be baking this bread as part of a group, because the process was so disconcerting. The ingredients are simple and humble: russet potatoes, potato cooking water, yeast, salt, olive oil, and flour.

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The potatoes are quartered, boiled, and then left to dry on a rack for half an hour. That makes sense, since you want to able to control the amount of liquid in the dough. Some of the warm potato cooking water is set aside and used to dissolve the yeast – a conservation of resources of which I’m sure my grandmothers would have approved.

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After the potatoes are mashed, skins and all, and combined with the water/yeast mixture, salt, and a bit of olive oil, the flour is added. I did the mixing and kneading in my KitchenAid mixer as instructed and was highly skeptical that the potatoes would absorb all of the flour. Surprisingly they did, and the dough first came together in a tight elastic ball, then became softer and stickier.

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I left the dough to rise for a couple of hours, much longer than the 20-30 minutes suggested in the recipe. It worked better with my schedule to give both the dough and the shaped loaves a longer rising time. I thought the instructions for shaping the loaves could have been a little more specific. The dough is shaped into a ball and flattened into a disk which is then rolled. An approximate size for the disk would have been helpful as a guide. My disks were about 10-12 inches in diameter, and my loaves were longer and skinnier than those pictured in the book…not a big deal though.

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We had the bread with dinner two nights in a row. I was surprised how well it kept overnight and into the second day. The texture is firm and even, a bit chewy, flecked with brown bits of potato skin, with a crisp crunchy crust. It wasn’t my favorite white bread, but definitely an improvement on the store-bought potato bread. You can find the recipe on Dawn’s blog Simply Sweet.

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