Remembrance of Things Past… madeleines for an anniversary tea.

One year ago today I started this blog. I can’t believe how many things I have cooked since then. One good thing about writing about what I cook is that I have been forced to cook new things. I know how easy it is to rely on the same old favourites all the time. I have been inspired by reading all the blogs my new friends have written or have pointed me to. I have made things I had just previously read about and discovered that things are never as tricky as they might seem. All it ever takes is a bit of time to read things through so you understand the process and love and determination in your heart. My main inspiration is the Bear – I just want to make good things for him… and after all, this blog is named after him.

When I look back at all the posts I’m amazed that anyone read them or that they continue to read them.

I had to celebrate a full year of blogging and all the friends I have made because of it. I’d love to be able to celebrate with you all here.. maybe laughing and talking about the past year over cups of tea and cakes….

And that made me think of Marcel Proust. And madeleines. Proust talks of eating a madeleine with a cup of tea and being transported back to earlier times….

She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place…at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…”

— Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1: Swann’s Way.

What better cakes to bake for a wet Sunday afternoon when I want to look back on the last year?

The rain was lashing against the windows and all over Britain people were staring at the dismal weather and deciding to stay inside. We were going to do the same but I was going to make tea time special to celebrate this special day.

To make madeleines you need a madeleine tin. These have a wonderful scalloped base that are essential for the perfect madeleine. You won’t regret buying one (if you need any encouragement, that is) If you are looking at kinds to buy, avoid the silicone ones – the metal heats better and is  much easier to handle than a wobbly, rubbery tray.

You also need good instructions and the best I have found (after intensive searches) is from David Leibovitz  on “Living the sweet life in Paris”

First of all melt, then let cool, 120g unsalted butter.

You will use most of it in the cake batter but just lightly brush the madeleine tins with a quick wipe of melted butter.

Sprinkle the buttered tins with flour

Then upend the tin over the sink and shake off the excess.

Put the tin in the freezer to chill down properly.

In the bowl of a mixer, put a pinch of salt, 130g of golden granulated sugar and three large eggs (that have been allowed to come to room temperature)

Whisk them together for five minutes until the mix becomes pale and thickens slightly.

Weigh out 175g of fine plain flour – I always use ’00’ (it’s available in most supermarkets now, in the baking aisle) and add 1 level teaspoon of baking powder. The baking powder makes them rise well, giving the traditional (and desired) “humpy” effect on the back of the finished madeleines.

Sieve the flour mix into the egg and sugar bow and fold it in carefully.

Zest a lemon and add it to the melted butter. Remember to scrub the lemon if it is a waxed one.

Once the flour is in, add a little of the melted butter and fold it in gently.


Gradually, add it all slowly and carefully. Don’t overwork it because all that will do is toughen the gluten. Just fold it in as lightly and smoothly as possible.

Pour your beautifully smooth and silky batter into a jug and put it in the fridge for at least an hour. You can make the madeleine batter up to 12 hours ahead, if that will suit you?  What a great thing that would be if you had people coming round!

When you are ready, heat the the oven to 220 degrees C/425 degrees F

Get your beautifully frozen tin from the freezer

… and spoon in a dollop of the madeleine mix

The madeleines will only take between 8 or 9 minutes, so while they are baking, make some  tea.

We love beautifully fragrant green tea and I think the pure, delicate taste would be perfect with the light, sweet cakes.

As the tea infuses the leaves unfurl.

At the same time,  the madeleines are ready.

Beautifully humped and golden.

They are tipped out onto a wire rack to cool slightly. The underside has the gorgeous scalloped markings of the perfect madeleine.

Golden, sweet, warm cakes. Light and delicious.

We ate them with our steaming cups of tea as we looked back over the past year. We used the random post picker button on the main website page (which you can also get to by clicking on the Bear in the top corner) and read about meals and treats and smiled as we did so.

The weather may have been awful but the madeleines were fabulous.

Happy Anniversary to the blog!

Lemon glazed cake

There’s something very nice about a plain cake to have with a cup of coffee or tea. A plain and simple cake with a single flavour… no huge amounts of whipped cream and jam… just something to have with a hot drink. Something to change a snatched drink and a quick pause from work into a relaxing break.

Easy enough to make, as well…. I had an old recipe that I thought I might do – hence the measurements being in ounces… I have converted them because I can’t, for the life of me, work out how to get my digital scales to switch from grams to ounces.

I thought a nice plain cake with perhaps a lemon glaze would be good…

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 Start off by heating the oven to 180 degrees then mix

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310g /11 oz caster sugar

56g/2 oz butter

3 egg yolks (you use the whites later)

Get everything mixed together

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See, it is still grainy here… keep going until it is smooth.. then add  225g/8 oz of yoghurt –

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Zest a lemon and add that to the mix

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Stir it in gently – don’t overbeat things at this stage, then fold in 170g/6 oz self raising flour

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Then whisk the egg whites

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And carefully fold them into the cake mix… start with a spoonful first to get the mix broken up slightly and then add more

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There you are, done.

All you have to do now is pour that into a cake tin – a springform is best as you can get the cake out easily afterwards, and popping in a paper cakeliner makes it the easiest job in the world.

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Into the oven with it for maybe 35 minutes.

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You can occupy yourself by making the lemon glaze….remember you zested a lemon for the cake mix? Squeeze it now

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and add it to some icing sugar  in a pan and heat it through, making a lovely syrup

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.. which needs to cool.

You can relax now until the cake is ready to come out… stick a skewer in to make sure it is cooked and then get it out to cool

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Once everything has settled… stick holes in the cake and then pour over the syrup to make a lovely glaze

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It is a really rather lovely cake, you know. Light and moist and beautifully tangy.. just the thing for a mid afternoon boost.

My boss, who doesn’t normally like cake, ate two slices and would perhaps have eaten more… but for the fact the whole thing had been polished off already. I suppose that is as good a rating as you will get for a cake.

Fresh Cheese

When I was young my mother would sometimes make cheese if milk had started to sour. Not a matured cheddar cheese or anything like that but a simple, home-made, fresh cheese, just as people have done all over the world whenever they have had spare or spoiling or leftover dairy products.

It’s easy enough – all you need is some milk or yoghurt, a sieve, a jug, some salt and some muslin. If you want to flavour it, you can mix in some chopped herbs say, or lemon zest, or garlic.. maybe crushed black peppercorns….. anything at all.

As part of the Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment I thought I would use some of the yoghurt to make cheese as I need some for another recipe.

You do need to allow some time for this but don’t worry, it’s not as if you have to be busy with it, hour after hour. Like much else we do, it is a case of starting it off and then leaving it to do its business until we wander back to it.

So, first of all, get your yoghurt

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………and think about what you want your cheese for.

I want to use it in a recipe that will involve roasted game, thyme and lemon so I will add lemon zest and thyme to it. If you want plain cheese then you make plain cheese – if you want something else then you add it. It really is as simple as that.

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My balcony herb box is looking a bit battered now but there’s still plenty of thyme.

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Strip the leaves from it and chop it finely.

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Get a lemon (make sure that you wash it properly – especially if it is a waxed one. You certainly don’t want wax in your lovely fresh cheese! If it is unwaxed then scrub it just as carefully because you certainly don’t want people’s dirty fingers in your cheese either)

Get a lemon zester and get some lemon zest (that was a difficult photo to take… clutching the lemon and the zester in one hand as I leant over to take a shot with the other) and then chop the zest finely

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And now for the important bit – using the yoghurt. This will make lovely, thick, smooth cheese. (If you are using sour milk it will be an awful lot thinner and more lumpy, more like cottage cheese.)

Total Greek Yoghurt is already strained so it is, to start with, thick and smooth.. look at it….

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it’s so thick you almost need to cut it.

Get it into a bowl and then add a pinch or two of salt and the finely chopped thyme and lemon zest

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Mix it all together and then….

…….Get your high tech cheese making equipment together

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You need a sieve and a jug and some muslin, if you have any

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I can’t find mine so I bought some new dishcloths – they are tightly woven and at 3 for 25p, a bit of a bargain. Give them a good wash in plenty of hot water, rinsing well to make sure they are clean

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and line the sieve, which is now placed over the jug

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and then scoop your yoghurty, herby, lemony mix in there.

Technical, huh?


Then you put it in the fridge and leave it. You’ll need at least a day, preferably two. I put it in on Friday night and now, Sunday lunchtime, it is perfectly drained. The Total site has a recipe for making much the same cheese – except they add mint and  call it Labna. Just goes to show that wherever you go people make the same food using the same ingredients.

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Even though it is strained, some whey can still come out… there’ll not be much, though and you will see the yoghurt is becoming more dense. More cream cheese like…

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See? It is so dense you can just lift it out of the draining cloth.

And that’s it… you’ve done it. Perfect cream cheese, flavoured exactly as you want it, made with the simplest ingredients.

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It’s ready for you to eat now, just as it is. What could be simpler?

I am going to use this in a couple of things I am making……. and I bet you will want to make them too, so start on your fresh cheese now and catch up with me later!