Elevating a Tea time treat to a Canapé (and making it go with Chai!)

Who doesn't love Madeleines?  Simple, shell-shaped mini cakes, that are light, moreish and perfect with a cup of tea.  Of course, you do need a madeleine tin, which I invested in last summer.  Great investment, because once I bought it, I realized that if you have unexpected guests drop in for tea, you are literally only 20 minutes away from serving madeleines hot from the oven.  Not to mention the fact that your guests will be hugely impressed and consider you to be a domestic goddess.  The basic batter is very simple, and also uses store cupboard ingredients you are more than likely to always have: flour, butter, eggs, sugar and lemon. 

Last week, I catered a cocktail party for 40 guests in Cos Cob, CT.  It was an event for the India Cultural Centre of Greenwich and held in a private home.  My remit was to make Indian canapés, both savory and sweet.  Boy, did I have fun planning (and taste testing!) for this event!  Here are a small selection of pictures of the items I made.  You'll find more detail on the Catering Page of my website.  I'm going to focus on one of my sweet items as the subject of this blog post today. 

After scratching my head to come up with something innovative for dessert, an idea came to me in a flash when it was mentioned I should make something to go with Chai.  I thought about that madeleine tin sitting gathering dust in my cupboard....ok, how to elevate this tea time treat to a canapé, and make it go with a cup of chai?  After some experimentation of flavors, and thinking about what could complement Indian food, I came up with the Pistachio & Rosewater Madeleine.  The pistachios, when ground up and added to the madeleine batter, add a nutty crunch, but also a lovely subtle green colour.  The hint of rosewater makes it exotic and Indian/Middle Eastern in its flavor.  It worked well, but something was missing.  It didn't feel like enough had been done to fancy up this canapé.  Then I thought, what makes an English Victoria Sponge cake, more than just a sponge cake?... the oozy generous jam filling!  I made a raspberry & rosewater dipping sauce to serve alongside the madeleines.  Fruitiness adds a sweet/tart flavor dimension, that also helps to keep the madeleine moist, especially when you won't be able to serve them fresh from the oven in large quantity.   I love raspberries for cutting through super sweet desserts.  I always serve them alongside anything rich and chocolatey like a lava cake or warm brownie to freshen up the dessert and add some tartness.  It also goes well with these Middle Eastern flavors, particularly complementing the rosewater.

Serving the items on a bed of rose petals added theatre and echoed the ingredients.  Try this recipe out for yourself.  Be careful with the amount of rosewater you use.  It's powerful stuff, and if over done, can leave you with a mouth tasting like perfume. 

Pistachio & Rosewater Madeleines (Makes approx. 20) & Raspberry Dipping Sauce

Ingredients (all measures are in grams. Apologies - this European recipe is not easy to convert into Cups without risking baking failure!)

2 large eggs

80g sugar

pinch of salt

50g unsalted pistachios

4tbsp confectioners sugar

100g unsalted butter, plus 1 tbsp for greasing pan

90g Italian 00 flour

2tbsp rosewater

Madeleine tin

Confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 390F.  Melt all the butter slowly in a pan, and set aside to cool.  Grind the pistachios together with the confectioners sugar.  Not too finely.  A few chunks of pistachio will add more flavor.  Set aside.

Add the eggs, sugar and salt to an electric mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat together on medium speed until the mixture thickens and is around 3 times the original volume.  Should take about 5 minutes.

While this is mixing, prepare the madeleine tin by brushing with melted butter and dusting with flour.  Tap away any excess flour by knocking the tin against your work surface. 

Remove the bowl from your electric mixer.  Gradually add the flour to the egg & sugar mixture, carefully folding in with a spoon.  Also add the pistachio & confectioners sugar mixture, remaining melted butter and rosewater, and mix gently until everything is combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared madeleine tin.  One level tablespoon will fill each shell.  The mixture will spread so don't overfill. 

Bake for 5-7 minutes until mixture is set.  Check after 5 minutes. Tap the madeleine tin to release the cakes straight from the oven and cool on a wire rack.   Serve dusted with icing sugar once completely cool. 

To make the Raspberry Rosewater Dipping Sauce:  Combine 2 pints of raspberries with 1/4 cup of sugar in a pan.  Set on a medium heat and bring to a simmer.  The raspberries should start to break down and the mixture thicken up.  This takes around 10-15 minutes.  Add 1 tbsp. of rosewater at the end of cooking.  Taste and adjust sugar (you may need to add a little more if your raspberries are less sweet).  Strain the raspberry mixture through a sieve to remove any seeds, pushing through as much of the raspberry pulp as possible.  You should be left with a thick, crimson red sauce.  Pour into a serving bowl and serve alongside the madeleines for dipping.