The best Madeleines in the world are right here in Paris.
Well…duh. You don’t need to visit my blog to know that, do you? I’ve never been one of those people who waxed poetically about Madeleines, invoking Proust’s name whenever I can.
(As if I’ve even read Proust.)
So although I don’t have nostalgic ties to Madeleines, I do like the idea of something a bit buttery, with a gilded crust, relatively portable, and not too-sweet for my afternoon gouter, or le snack, as it’s often referred to around town.
But most of the time I’m disappointed. The Madeleine I buy is either too dry, too floury, or worse, has the acrid taste of baking powder. But then the skies parted one day when I was at a new bakery in Paris, blé sucré, in the vastly pleasant, but out-of-the-way Square Trousseau. This new boulangerie and pastry shop is owned by Fabrice Le Bourdat, who worked with Gilles Marchal, the pastry chef at the esteemed Bristol.
Madeleines are the proverbial ‘little something’ that goes well with tea. But to be honest, there’s nothing that makes me cringe more than when I read in the headnote of a recipe in a cookbook, “This goes well with tea in the afternoon.”
I mean, what little sweet thing doesn’t?
And if that’s the most exciting thing you can say about your recipe, then what the hell’s it doing in your cookbook?
Perhaps because it’s far from the madding crowds, prices at blé sucré are very reasonable but the quality is unquestionably high. I’m not going to tell you about the deeply-dark homemade caramels with salted butter or the shatteringly-flaky croissants they coincidentally seem to be coming out of the oven whenever I walk in the door. Nor will I mention the little sacks full of tender little almond financiers or the freezer full of housemade ice creams that made its début appearance just last week.
But these Madeleines are all that a Madeleine should be: Tender little cakes with the fine, flavor of soft French flour and bronzed with a butter crust. But the icing on the cake (or should I say the icing on the Madeleine?) is the light citrusy glaze that moistens and elevates these Madeleines from being something ordinary to being the moist, yet delicately-dainty little cakes that makes writers rhapsodize about. And although I enjoy them as a little snack, I also would agree that they’re definitely tea-worthy.
Just don’t tell anyone I said that.
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