Let me let you in on a little secret (and by secret I mean “a thing that I’m gonna try to force you to agree with because I’m right, damnit”). Menus aren’t just lists of the food you want to shove into your mouth, even if it’s that one at the Denny’s you like that shows you pictures of dancing ham when you’re drunk at 3 in the morning.
Menus are expectation-formers, and you’ll agree if you think for more than two seconds about it. You know the feeling: it’s late, you’re hungry as hell. You stumble into whatever bar/gastropub-like-thing is lucky enough to be graced with your presence. And you already know what you want, not because of what your stomach’s telling you, but because it’s been locked in your mind for the last week. I don’t even have to try to describe it to you, because you’re already thinking about it.
Despite all that, you go in and read it on the menu anyway. Why? Because you like putting the image in your head, that’s why. You want that same, warm, slow, methodical description on the page that you’ve read all the other times to paint you a picture, and you want that picture to marinate in your head for 30 minutes while you sip a beer and wait for it to appear in front of you. The actual eating part almost (almost) doesn’t even matter. It’s incidental to the real thing: the picture. I mean, the eating takes all of what, half an hour at the most? But the image, that’s the thing that stays with you; before, after, and during the digestion. Doesn’t that sound a hell of a lot more potent than the stuff on the plate?
Or maybe I’m just a fatass and like thinking about tiny cakes way too much. Either way I made madeleines, so enjoy thinking about those for a while. Or just look at that picture up there and dream away.
I won’t judge. —Fresh Beats, Fresh Eats
- Makes 14-ish
1 1/2 teaspoons
Chinese five spice
blood orange peel
blood orange juice
unsalted butter (melted & cooled)
powdered sugar (for topping)
- First, preheat your oven to 375.
- Beat together the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar in your stand mixer.
- Zest your orange, and use a kitchen torch to lightly burn the zest. This stuff tends to spark up quick, so give it light, one to two-second bursts of heat. When you see embers, blow them out, and repeat. Basically as long as you don’t have a smoldering pile of garbage on your hands, you’re doing ok.
- Mix in the vanilla, burnt orange peel, and orange juice.
- Whisk together the salt, flour, and five spice in a small bowl, then mix it into the rest of the batter just until blended together. Don’t over-mix this stuff, people: air bubbles are bad news here.
- Put the mixer on low, and slowly pour in the melted butter until it’s all mixed in.
- Spoon the batter into a madeleine pan (yes, you need one of those…obviously) that you’ve sprayed with non-stick. It’s a little tough to get it in there evenly, but if you use a spatula you should be ok. Just try and spread the batter as flatly as possible, or else you’ll have weird, misshapen seashell cakes instead of slightly more normal-looking seashell cakes.
- Stick them in the oven for about 16 minutes until they get nice and golden brown. Let them cool for 5, then take them out of the pan.
- Once they’re cooled completely, all you have to do is dust them with some powdered sugar and you’re set.