City Reading – The Delhi Proustians – VII, Indian Coffee House
A la recherche du temps perdu.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is the seventh meeting of The Delhi Proustians, a club for Delhiwallas that discusses French novelist Marcel Proust. Every Monday evening for an hour we read his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time.
It is 7.02 pm and The Delhi Walla is with a young woman. This evening we don’t plan to read, but eat Proust. A reader from France has parcelled me madeleines from Paris. In Swann’s Way, Marcel’s narrator suddenly remembers his childhood after eating a madeleine soaked in tea; this is the point when the novel meets its theme.
Therefore, a basic knowledge of madeleine is essential to understand Proust.
According to Larousse Gastronomique, the bible of French food, madeleine is a small cake whose ingredients are flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Lacam, a chronicler of the history of pastry-making, says that the great pastry-cook, Avice, when he was working for Prince Talleyrand, invented the madeleine. “He had the idea of using quatre-quarts mixture for little cakes baked in an aspic mould. M. Boucher and Careme approved the idea. He gave the name of madeleines to these cakes.” (Memorial de la patisserie.)
Other authorities, however, hold that far from having been invented by Avice, these little cakes were known in France long before his time. They believe that were first made at Commercy, and were brought into fashion about 1730, first at Versailles and then in Paris, by Stanislas Leczinski, father-in-law of Louis XV, who was very partial to them.
The recipe for madeleines remained a secret for a very long time. It is said that it was sold for a very large sum to the pastry-makers of Commercy who made of this great delicacy one of the finest gastronomic specialties of their town.
Recipe for Commercy madeleine: Work together in a bowl 2.5 cups (625 grams) of fine sugar; 5 cups (625 grams) of sieved cake flour; 12 eggs; 1.5 teaspoons (5 grams) of bicarbonate of soda; the grated rind of lemon; a pinch of salt.
Method: When this mixture is very smooth, add to it 1.25 cups (300 grams) of melted butter. Mix well.
Put this mixture in special buttered madeleine moulds. Bake in a very slow oven.
Recipe for plain madeleine: 1 cup (250 grams) fine sugar; 2 cups (250 grams) sieved cake flour; 1 cup (250 grams) melted butter; 4 eggs; a pinch of salt; vanilla or other flavouring.
Method: Put the sugar, flour, eggs, salt and flavouring into a bowl. Work with a spatula until the mixture is smooth. Add the melted butter.
Butter and flour the required number of madeleine moulds. Put in the mixture. The moulds should be two-thirds full. Bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
In Delhi, madeleines are available at L’Opera bakery in Khan Market.
The eighth meeting of The Delhi Proustians takes place on 6 February, 2012.
Where Indian Coffee House (it has three seating spaces; enter the enclosed area that looks to Baba Khadak Singh Marg), Mohan Singh Place, near Hanuman Mandir, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place Time 7 pm Nearest Metro Station Rajiv Chowk
Proust is served
Remember the past?
Soak in tea
Crumbs for you