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Madeleines

26 Dec

The origin of the madeleine, the shell-shaped sponge cake eaten as a cookie, is disputed, although most food scholars believe it originated in the Lorraine city of Commercy. It traveled first to the court of Louis XV at Versailles and then on to Paris, gaining converts at each stop. Today, the pâtissiers of Commercy are still considered Frances premier makers of madeleines, and boxes of madeleines de Commercy are sold throughout the country. You will need a madeleine pan, made of tinned steel and with a dozen molds, to bake these little cakes.

These little sponge cakes, immortalized by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past, are at their most memorable when eaten as Proust himself liked them, fresh from the oven, still warm and a little crisp on the outside. As madeleines tend to dry out quickly, home-baked ones are best.

If you use a black nonstick madeleine pan, decrease the oven temperature by 25°F or shorten the baking time by a few minutes.

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