My mother’s parents, Angel and Miren, opened Pastelería Ayarza in my small town of Amorebieta in 1949 when my mother was barely two years old. The pastry shop became the center of their lives and work. My grandparents went on to have seven more children, and all but one ended up working in the family business. They lived in the flat above the shop. I was the third grandchild in this very tight-knit family of chefs and bakers. The shop, or gozotoki, as we referred to it in Basque, was also a center of our little community, where people from all walks of life came and went. It’s the aspect of hospitality that my grandmother loved the most: the socializing, the conversations, and the feeling that she was touching people’s lives.
My childhood days were spent at school and at the family shop, helping with all kinds of tasks—from peeling blanched almonds to dipping the top of cream puffs in chocolate. I also ate most of my meals there and finished my homework on the floral oilcloth-lined kitchen table. I particularly remember winter months in the cramped kitchen that was heated by the ovens, while brioche, shortbread, and madeleines were baking. The smell of butter permeated the air.
Christmas was the busiest time of year. The days before Christmas Eve, my mom came home late and left for work before the sun came up. My grandfather often worked through the night, taking short naps on a tiny cot propped open next to his workbench. My grandmother kept everyone fed and fueled with coffee. There was a feeling of anticipation and acceleration that culminated when the last patrons picked up their cake and pastry orders, and the doors of the shop closed at 6 p.m. sharp on Dec. 24. After that, the focus was directed at our family and what we were going to cook and bake for ourselves that evening.
We settled on the meat and fish preparation, and there was likely a warm apple custard tart wrapped in puff pastry to bake last minute. My grandmother took the lead and we followed orders. At least forty of us sat around makeshift tables, grownups and kids combined, elbow to elbow. I loved watching the adults in my life interact. I craved the stories they told of their past or how the pastry shop came to be.
The lingering that happened after the meal was always my favorite part and still is to this day. There is a proper word in Spanish for this time, sobremesa, which literally means "over the table." My childhood sobremesas were inevitably accompanied by madeleines. The small and tender cakes were baked right before my grandmother made coffee in her moka pot and served on her beautiful china.
This is the time when we would converse about our lives, about current affairs, and where gossip is permitted. It is always a time to deeply connect.
Recipe (c) 2019 By Aran Goyoaga. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Cannelle et Vanille by permission of Sasquatch Books. —Aran Goyoaga
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: Food52's Holiday Cookie Chronicles —The Editors
- Prep time 1 hour 15 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Makes Makes 16 large madeleines or 3 dozen minis
(115 g) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
(100 g) granulated sugar
finely grated orange zest
(90 g) superfine brown rice flour
(50 g) almond flour
(25 g) tapioca starch
powdered sugar, for dusting
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter until the milk solids start to caramelize, turn foamy and a little brown, and smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Pour the brown butter into a bowl and set aside to cool.
- Combine the eggs, granulated sugar, orange zest, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip the mixture on high speed with the whisk attachment until thick and very pale, about 5 minutes. Remove from the mixer and sprinkle in the brown rice flour, almond flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, and salt. Gently fold the ingredients together with a spatula, trying to keep as much air as possible in the batter.
- When you don’t see any streaks of flour left, pour in the brown butter and fold to incorporate. Again, try to be gentle to keep as much air as possible. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Grease a madeleine pan with a little melted butter. Fit a pastry bag with a medium plain tip (about 1/2 inch, or 1.2 cm in diameter), or use a large spoon to move batter into the mold or even a ziplock bag with the tip cut. Fold the top edges of the pastry bag outward, and when the batter is chilled and solid, scoop it with a spatula into the bag. Unfold the edges and twist the bag in your hand to pipe the batter into the madeleine molds, filling them nearly to the top.
- Place the pan in the oven, reduce the temperature to 375°F (190°C), and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the madeleines are golden brown, set in the center, and develop a “bump.” Carefully unmold the madeleines and dust with powdered sugar. They are best eaten right away.