French Madeleines

French Madeleines - Montessori Life As We Know It

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.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
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

Method:

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).

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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.

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6. Have your toddler crack the eggs into the flour mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon.

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7. Add the melted butter, the zest and scrape the vanilla bean seeds. Mix, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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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.

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10. Fill each shell about 3/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.

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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.

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Summer Days

Our little family has been spending a lot of time together and making the most of the fantastic weather before my husband has to go back to work. For us, the festive period and the summer break are a time for being together and recharging our batteries for the year ahead. We are usually extremely busy in the lead up to Christmas time and need time to spend on little projects and to nourish our relationships as my husband goes away frequently in the lead up to this time. This is a quick post on some of our doings in the last few weeks.

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From top:

  1. Enjoying home made banana ice cream.
  2. Riding a trike.
  3. Building Lego Technik earth mover with Daddy.
  4. Playing with matching Lego Duplo earth mover kit – piling up blocks in the back of truck.
  5. Joshua and his Daddy.
  6. Practical Life – Practicing turning screws on a small home project.
  7. Practical Life – Crushing biscuits for lemon slice.
  8. Enjoying a strawberry and mango frozen yoghurt pop.
  9. Piling up blocks in trike trailer.
  10. First go at riding his balance bike, a present from grandparents.
  11. Practical Life – Squeezing orange juice exercise.
  12. Practical Life – Nurturing the veggie patch, and a little tomato has appeared.
  13. Helmet on and starting to push off and ride balance bike properly with some help.

We’ve even managed to fit in some updates to our work spaces which I hope to share shortly. I hope you have all been having a wonderful summer break. The weather here in Melbourne has been wonderful and we have spent lots of time catching up with family and friends during this time.

What activities have you been up to during the summer?

Activity of the Day – Baking muffins

We decided to do a little baking today as we had not done much in the way of practical life lately; life gets busy this time of the year and it becomes more important to make the time to continue with our usual practical life activities. Baking together is something we have been enjoying for quite a while but I have been putting a lot of thought into how to prepare our environment to support Joshua’s budding cooking skills and to encourage independence in the kitchen.

I love cooking – when I’m prepared! We have made our kitchen accessible to Joshua, he has a step stool that is nice and sturdy enough for him to stand up and work on or to stand on to watch while I cook and he snacks. More often than not lately he wants to join in, sample the carrots, drag over the chopping board to see what I am chopping up and sample it or just feel the texture, look at the meat, see when I put things in to cook. All of these observations I feel are helping Joshua toward a natural love of food – he LOVES his food, especially a lovely home cooked meal – and is giving him a real desire to want to participate in the preparation of it. We are lucky enough that both sides of our family have grandparents that are wonderful cooks. Joshua’s Grandpa cooks wonderful traditional Malaysian staples that I grew up on (congee, curries, salads, stir fries, soups, stews) and Joshua’s Nanna and Nonno make wonderful traditional English and European dishes (Turkey, ham, salads, pasta, lasagnes, sweets and desserts). This has given our family a wonderfully diverse range of foods which we have been exposed to and fortunately my husband and I both enjoy both these ranges of food and have exposed Joshua to these from an early age.

Joshua is currently 22 months old. This is a lovely age to start introducing cooking for a variety of reasons:

  • Participating in family life – the child has pride in feeling he is contributing toward the family meal.
  • Independence – helping build life skills and letting the child do it themselves from an early age.
  • Practicing and refining fine motor skills – grating, peeling, chopping, pouring, stirring. What better way to practice than through doing something productive?
  • Intrinsic motivation – preparing something for yourself to enjoy and eat and knowing that you are able to do it for yourself.
  • Focus and concentration – starting a task, following through and completing a job. A continuance of the non-practical life activities that we do with Joshua at the moment, getting out an activity, preparing it, using it then putting it away after it is finished.
  • Exposure to food preparation instils an appreciation for healthy plant foods at a young age which helps to shape healthy eating habits. This is a lifelong appreciation that a child will have for how food is prepared.
  • Encourages child to enjoy a wide variety of foods – the best time to encourage this is from a very young age. As Joshua is half Caucasian and half Asian it is very important to me to encourage him to eat and enjoy foods that come from both sides of his heritage.

Today I decided it would be nice to utilise all the little cooking tools I have accumulated for Joshua and let him really do a recipe on his own. We decided to do some banana and strawberry muffins, an easy recipe if we get everything prepared first. I adapted this as a smaller version of a French Yoghurt cake that I make that is smaller portions of it. It is super easy for even the littlest cooks to make and very tasty.

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Before commencing I set up the kitchen bench with all of our ingredients and measured them out, talked Joshua through step-by-step what needs to happen and what we are making. And so we began.

Chop up the strawberries. Mash the banana. Stir all the ingredients into the mixing bowl.

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Interestingly, in the process there were some parts that Joshua balked at – particularly pouring the flour into the large mixing bowl. I suspect this had little to do with lack of ability and everything to do with his not being able to eat the mashed up banana and strawberries after the flour was poured on top. Joshua enjoys sampling while I am preparing food and today was no exception. It was interesting to observe as I know Joshua loves food and has a deep appreciation for all the ingredients. He also showed a lot of enthusiasm for the finished product!

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Once the ingredients were all in and being mixed together, Joshua enjoyed one of the greatest joys of baking – tasting the batter.

We plan on doing a fair bit of baking with the festive season upon us. Next on the cards is gingerbread and shortbread for the family.

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We actually made this one again but with mango and strawberries and it was delicious!