Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Taking Apart Shortcakes for a Birthday

If anyone should be given a dessert for her birthday, it's Peabody. Her blog, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, has inspired hundreds of others to bake sweets and bake often. Sugar, butter and cream are no strangers to her. If you don't believe me, go check out her blog!
As she has mentioned in a comment on this very blog, I'm a nut about birthdays. That's my excuse for this post :)

I've been wanting to make madeleines for a while and it became a very strong urge once I had a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From my home to yours, as inspiration. Last week I finally purchased a madeleine pan and today I'm making Classic Madeleines from another Dorie book, Paris Sweets. These tender cookies are actually like little cakes. They have the distinctive shell shape and a sweet, buttery flavor with a bit of zing from the citrus zests I used. Next time I'll probably use a little less batter. Sweetie had a hard time to not eat every last one of them. They were that good.

Since it's berry season, and since madeleines are really just tiny sponge cakes, today's dessert is a deconstruction of Strawberry Shortcake. If you don't have strawberries, look for ripe seasonal berries. This would also be good with raspberries, blueberries, ollalaberries, marionberries, get the idea. I used locally grown strawberries that were so ripe they were almost falling apart. When it's strawberry season, you have to have shortcake (or something like it) with lots of whipped cream, at least once.

    Here is how to make Deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake:

  1. Bake the madeleines using the recipe below or your favorite madeleine recipe. I used both lemon and lime zest to go with the berries.

  2. Take a pint of fresh strawberries, wash and hull them, then slice in half if small or slice in 1/4 inch slices if larger. If not really ripe, sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar, stir, and let sit for 10 -15 minutes. Save a few good looking strawberries for garnish.

  3. Whip some heavy cream with a little sugar until soft peaks form. ) I started with about a cup of whipping cream) Divide in half. Fold the strawberries into half. Put the rest into a piping bag with a star tip.

  4. In dessert bowls or wine glasses, spoon a generous portion of the cream and berry mixture. Take 4 mini madeleines or two large ones and push them down into the cream and berry mixture. Garnish each serving with a whoosh of piped whipped cream and one strawberry on top. (This can be refrigerated for a short time, but is better served right away.)

    Classic Madeleines
    From Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan, adapted from patisserie Lerch

    ¾ cup all-purpose flour
    ½ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
    2 large eggs, at room temperature
    ½ cup sugar
    Grated zest of one lemon (I used zest from half a lemon and two key limes)
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    5 tablespoons (2 ½ ounces), unsalted butter, melted and cooled

    Sift together the flour and baking powder and keep close at hand. Working in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until they thicken and lighten in color, 2 – 4 minutes. Beat in the citrus zest and vanilla. Switch to a large rubber spatula and gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Cover the batter with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal, and chill for at least 3 hours, preferably longer – chilling helps the batter develop its characteristic crown, known as the hump or bump. (The batter can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If your Madeleine pan is NOT nonstick, generously butter it, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. If the pan is nonstick, you still might want to give it an insurance coating of butter and flour. If it is silicone, do nothing. No matter what kind of pan you have, place it on a baking sheet for easy transportability.

    Divide the batter among the molds, filling them almost to the top. Don’t worry about smoothing the batter; it will even out as it bakes.

    Bake large madeleines for 11 – 13 minutes, small ones for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and golden and spring back when touched. Pull the pan from the oven and remove the cookies either by rapping the pan against the counter (the madeleines should drop out) or gently running a butter knife around the edges of the cookies. Allow them to cool on a cooling rack .They can be served ever so slightly warm or at room temperature.

    Never keep them more than a day (although stale ones can be dunked in tea), but do store them when cooled in an airtight container. Since the batter will keep in the fridge a few days, the best bet is to freshly bake the number of cookies you will need, then bake some more the next day to enjoy.

    Happy Birthday Peabody! Hope this year is the best ever for you. Elle


  1. You're the best!!! I never would have thought to make strawberry shortcake using madeleines but it makes so much sense! I can't wait to make this now.
    Thanks for making it for me, you birthday lover you!

  2. I say it all of the time, but I really need a madeleine pan!! This looks like a fantastic dessert to celebrate Peabody's birthday!

  3. What a beautiful dessert and a fitting tribute to another amazing baker! A great idea to replace the shortcake with madeleines.

  4. You are so sweet, Elle! And Pea really deserve something so delicious. Love the idea of using madeleines this way!

  5. Beautiful!
    It's sort of silly how easy and how amazingly good madeleines really are. It's hard not to eat everyone you bake all at once!
    Really a lovely way you've put it all together.

  6. I want to lick my computer. This looks so yummy. It's the perfect birthday surprize. Happy Birthday, Peabody.

  7. Anonymous1:34 AM

    Ooh...I 've been wanting to make strawberry shortcake these days, but using madelines is another great idea to try...peabody is lucky to have a friend like you :)

  8. I have to try this before strawberry season is over. I so ever gently (like a bull in a china shop) hinted to Psychgrad to bring back some madelaine pans from France. We'll soon find out if she "got it"

  9. I like the idea of the deconstructed strawberry shortcake.

  10. Peabody, It's always fun to make something for you for your birthday...just wish I could get you a real serving, virtually.

    Deborah, Been wanting a madeleine pan for a long time...should have bought two.

    Cookie Baker Lynn, glad that a baker like you commented...I admire your baking skills, too.

    Patricia, Peabody is an inspiration. Never seen madeleins used this way, but it's a natural.

    Tanna, Yeah, they are sort of irresistable little cookies.

    Parker, glad the photos got the desired effect :) Thanks!

    Zita, It does make a fun shortcake variation.

    Giz, Do hope you get your madeleine pans...they are fun!

    Cynthia, Always wanted to try something deconstructed, but could never think what to do :)