When the email came asking for food for the school play potluck dinner, I quickly raised my hand to bring dessert. I just don’t make salad for 25, and besides, cookies fit easily in the incipient’s backpack, so no dropping off of large Pyrex dishes with my name written on the underside in Sharpie for this working mom!
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But I have become a bit bored with my usual offerings, and decided it was time to check the archives for a fresh confection option. When I hit on Cordelia’s Chocolate Orange Madeleine Cookies, I felt deeply excited. First, who doesn’t love a madeleine, especially one served without insipid references to memory? Further this recipe offered me the excuse to finally purchase a bottle of Grand Marnier, which I always imagined was for people who have a great deal of elegant glassware at their disposal, as well as some garments involving chiffon. Last but certainly not least, the recipe seemed to fit the bill on the weeknight cooking front -– two birds!
After coming home with my new bottle of booze, I pulled out all my ingredients and went cheerfully in search of my madeleine pan, which I had a vague memory of seeing when I unpacked after our move to D.C.. Hmm. Where was it? In the baking closet, there were Bundt pans, tube pans, eight-inch pans, cookie trays, and, who knew, the small casserole dish that went missing several weeks ago. No madeleine pan.
Panicked, I began to look in less-explored cookware closets in my house, including one in the home office, where I keep large roasting pans, and where I further discovered my missing cupcake carrier, one Spanish phrase book, the bottom of my ice cream maker and a small red bag containing a black light bulb. At this point I began asking loudly, and not rhetorically, HAS ANYONE SEEN MY MADELEINE PAN??? Friend, it is with deep sadness that I report to you that no one in my family seemed to care one small bit about this tragedy.
Bacon girl did not respond at all. The incipient managed, “No, but I can’t find my cell phone. Do you happen to know where that is?” My husband, after ignoring my wails for several minutes while he replayed a questionable goal in the Chelsea vs. Tottenham match, a well known and much-anticipated sporting event, finally walked around looking in all the places I did before, proclaiming that it “must be somewhere,” then disappearing again.
Well. What, exactly in the hell would I do with this new bottle of Grand Marnier? In my despair, I first mixed up a cocktail (call it Jenny’s Missing Pan Drink: over a large glass of ice, pour one shot of Grand Marnier, the juice of one orange, a tablespoon of yuzu syrup and a dash of Angostura bitters, and seltzer.)
Then suddenly, mid sip, an idea was born: what if I mixed up the dough for this recipe, but poured the results in a mini muffin pan, greased and sugared just as Cordelia instructs, instead?
So it began: I put together my dry ingredients as my butter and eventually sugar got rocking in the Kitchen Aid, continuing with the rest of the instructions almost to the letter, but using a scant half teaspoon of salt rather than a dash, because this is what my heart told me to do.
I filled my muffin tin holes three-quarters of the way, being mindful not to overfill them. In a mini muffin tin, this recipe takes exactly ten minutes at 360 degrees (really 360? Okay, whatever), but if you use the madeleine pan, check them after 13 minutes. Further, if you are making these treats my way, they only need to sit in the pan for 3 or 4 minutes, not fifteen, before you turn them out.
Friends, this is a most exquisite dessert, especially given the minimal effort here. The orange zest, a real boon ingredient to any baking, I think, and the liquor, which is more than subtle but not at all a hammer, make an elegant match with the melted chocolate you’ve tossed into the batter. Dusted with a bit of powdered sugar, these are sophisticated, pretty little additions to the table of inevitable brownies and chocolate chip cookies you are bound to find at the buffet.
Make this immediately, in either pan of your choosing, and be very glad you have an entire bottle of Grand Marnier on hand to repeat the recipe again soon.
Put the butter in the mixer bowl and whip on high speed for 2 min.
Add the sugar and the orange zest, and keep mixing for another minute or so on high speed.
Add the eggs one by one. Add another one only after the previous one is well mixed.
Add the salt, vanilla and the grand marnier and mix for a little longer.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder and the baking powder to a separate bowl. Add to the mixer bowl, while mixing on low speed, in 3 batches. Though every time mix only until the flour is just incorporated, so the dough won't get tough.
Cut the chocolate to small pieces. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1-1.5 min until it just starts to melt. Mix well to melt all pieces. Cool for few minutes and then incorporate into the dough with a spatula.
Oil a Madeleine pan and sprinkle a bit of sugar in each indentation (even if you use silicon pan). Put a very full tablespoon of batter in each indentation to just fill it. the dough is pretty sticky, but try to flatten it a bit.
Bake for 12-15 min, until risen (mostly in the middle) and springy.
Let it cool for 15 min and take out the cookies and put on a plate with the bottom side (shell-like) up. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).