A slice of cake with Marcel Proust

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“The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks’ windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness.”
M. Proust, Remembrance of Things Past. Volume 1: Swann’s Way: Within a Budding Grove


Proust made madeleines famous. Whether you think of them as cookies or cakes, madeleines are a deliciously complex little French dessert. Slightly crisp on the outside with a soft and spongy inside. Perfect with a cup of tea.

Madeleines are notoriously tricky to make so I wasn’t surprised when I ruined my first ever batch. I think I made the mistake of filling the mold with too much batter. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted lovely. They just didn’t come out exactly as I’d hoped. Afterwords I told my mom what had happened and she said that I should have put the dough in the fridge for about an hour before baking them. And really I should have known to call her before attempting the recipe to begin with because not only is she French but she is also my mother, which means she knows everything. I still ate the madeleines. Ever last one. It would be a shame to let them go to waste, n’est-ce pas?


“And as soon as I had recognised the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine.”

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