We are right in the middle of a practical life explosion. Joshua wants to do so many things himself and at the top of his list is baking. He has been going to his supplies area, digging out his bowl, getting out his wooden spoon, going to the cupboard and getting out flour and sugar and declaring “want to bake, Mama”.
I have been following a lovely blog run by Helene called French Foodie Baby. I LOVE this blog, Helene writes about all the lovely food she cooks for her little boy Pablo – and her family, everybody eats together. I have been following now for some months and the recipes on there are delicious! I highly recommend you go and check her out, I really enjoy her posts and she has such a wealth of information on introducing (tasty!) food to your baby. I picked out French Madeleines to bake with Joshua today as it is fresh, simple and toddler friendly.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter
Pinch of salt
Seeds from one vanilla bean
Zest of one lemon
8-10 strawberries (cut up), or a handful of chocolate chips
1. Have your toddler get out all the utensils required for this exercise. We will need a madeleine tray (we have the Soffritto madeleine tray which we got from House homewares in Australia, overseas this one looks good), a medium sized bowl, wooden spoon, whisk, measuring cups, measuring spoons, wavy chopper and chopping board. I always have Joshua put on his apron prior to starting baking.
2. Place the empty madeleine tray into the freezer. Do not skip this step, I researched a few recipes on madeleines and they all say to do this.
3. Melt butter in a small pan or in the microwave.
4. While you are preparing other parts you can have your toddler help prepare by cutting up the strawberries. Joshua has his chopping board and his wavy chopper and cut off the green stalks and chopped up the strawberries with his wavy chopper. (Australian supplier you can try is the General Trader or other shops that sell kitchen gadgets).
Joshua cut the tops off the strawberries quite efficiently and then systematically chopped up all the strawberries into little pieces before transferring these to the little bowl.
5. In a bowl have your toddler whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
6. Have your toddler crack the eggs into the flour mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon.
7. Add the melted butter, the zest and scrape the vanilla bean seeds. Mix, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
We took this opportunity to inspect the vanilla bean pod and to smell it before I cut it open and scraped out the seeds. I highly recommend using the vanilla bean pod and not vanilla bean paste or extract. The flavour that it adds to the madeleines is amazing, I promise you the flavour is worth it.
8. Preheat the oven to 220°c (450°F).
9. Grease the madeleine pan. Have your toddler stir the strawberry pieces or chocolate chips into the dough. (Since this is two batches, place the remaining dough back in the fridge). We used strawberries today as we had quite an abundant supply on hand.
10. Fill each shell about 3/4 of the way, and place in the oven for 6-8 minutes. This part needs an adult but I did have Joshua spoon a few of the madeleines into the tray. Watch them carefully, as they’re quick to burn, we did 6 minutes only and this was more than enough to cook the madeleines. As soon as they’re golden and puffed up, take them out of the oven and remove from the pan. Let them rest on a kitchen towel and cool down prior to eating. You could dust these with a little icing sugar prior to serving.
These quantities will make about two batches, so if you have one pan, don’t forget to stick it back in the freezer before making the second batch.
I would love to try this in orange, they can also be made in vanilla, chocolate and lavender flavour. I enjoyed one of these with a cup of tea, these are such a lovely goûter (afternoon snack).
An interesting literary reference to madeleines was brought to my attention by Helene. She referred to this delightfully as “Madeleines de Proust”, an expression which refers to a vivid memory from childhood that is triggered by a taste or smell and refers to a passage written by Marcel Proust in his book Remembrance of Things Past. He uses the memories brought back by madeleines as a way to contrast involuntary memory with voluntary memory and says that voluntary memories can never be as complete as they do not bear the essence of the past. Isn’t it amazing the memories that are evoked through our senses? Our senses are so powerful, that’s why I believe that Montessori education and concrete learning experiences offered are so effective.