Madeleines are small seashell-shaped "cookies" that are really miniature sponge cakes. They are synonymous with Marcel Proust (the npr story examines the question: why is my madeleine crumb deficient?!!) and his giant 7-volume memoire, a la recherche du temps perdu. The little seashells look very unimpressive until you actually see, touch, and taste one with tea. I recently purchased a flour sifter and a silicone madeleine mold just for the purpose of cheering myself up. Madeleines are most commonly had with tea, and for a good reason. The sourness of the lemon aftertaste (as with the ones I made, but some other common flavorings are almond, cocoa, etc) goes perfectly with the sweet aftertaste of tea. It's one of those combinations that goes beyond peanut butter and jelly, to enter in the realm of soy sauce and sesame oil - so simple and subtle yet so mindblowing. The only downside to making madeleines is filling each individual mold just right, repeatedly, so that the batter doesn't overfill and leave an unattractive skirt around the edge of the seashell. That took a couple batches to correct, but the baking took almost an entire night.
I highly recommend getting a silicone mold if you're going to be making madeleines. The tin molds stick and tend to burn the madeleines. With the silicone mold, all you had to do was pop the finished cookies out. Clean up for the molds involved light sponging. Non-stick silicone is my new best friend!
Madeleines are usually completed with a light dusting of powdered sugar. It's sort of hard to control where the sugar goes if you're using a sifter to dust, but some people have used stencils to make fun patterns on their madeleines.
The roommate and I had some fresh strawberries and blueberries around, so we made little strawberry (plus rogue blueberries) shortcakes. They are bitesized and SO CUTE! Oh, and the whipped cream was freshly whipped! I've never whipped whipping cream before, but it's not rocket surgery. A bit of sugar and some whipping cream makes for a workout for your forearm and tasty whipped cream. (textbook peak! so exciting!)
I got a little carried away with the tiny sculptures, but you can see how some berries and a madeleine can make for a fun session of miniature sculpting.
Some of the madeleines tasted like our refrigerator (read: don't use butter that has been sitting in the refrigerator for a long time), so as a way to compensate, I used this dirty little trick I learned from Jean Georges. Nothing quite beats the aroma of freshly grated lime zest. Add to that a bit of sugar, and you have a colorful citrus coverup that will do away with any odd flavors (refrigerator or otherwise).
Madeleines can also make good dessert hors d'oeuvres.