Eat this Word: Madeleine

madeleines WHAT? Sweet seashells. These delicate, scallop-shaped cookies have a history that long predates Proust's memory stimulant. Culinaria France recounts what sounds like a legend to us, that the cookies first became popular back in the 18th-century, when the Duke of Lorraine, a consummate party host, found himself short a pastry chef while entertaining one night. With no time to spare, the Duke was forced to turn to his chambermaid Madeleine to create sweets for his guests. She whipped up her grandmother's airy, bite-sized cakes and, thus, the madeleine was born. Chances are her grandmother, if she existed, came from Commercy, the town whose bakers have been known for centuries throughout France for their delicate, hump-back madeleines. The batter is a simple mixture of eggs, sugar, and flour; it is a molded pan that gives madeleines their distinct appearance. When fresh from the oven, the cakey cookies have a moist and light interior and crisp outer layer that make them the perfect accompaniment to hot drinks. Daniel Boulud turned tiny, warm madeleines into a petits fours trend, and many other chefs have been known to exercise their creative license to devise savory and sweet renditions of this classic French favorite. WHERE? Joseph Margate's Beard House dinner WHEN? March 29, 2011 HOW? Chocolate Pudding and Madeleines

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