The secret of the Madeleine, or a voyage in the depths of your heart

Have you ever tasted this tiny shell-like soft sponge cake melting in your mouth as it unleashes a lemon or vanilla bean flavour? The name of it is, “madeleine”. Here is one of the translations of the famous part about the madeleine written by the French author Marcel Proust to give you an idea of my plan.

She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary 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 mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses (by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin. New York)

This is all about the madeleine, which takes you back to those early years where simple things were touching you in the depth of your heart. It could be the strawberry you picked from the grandparent’s garden, hot on the surface from the sunshine and fresh and juicy when you bite it. It could be the ratatouille, or that special ice cream. Anything that gives you comfort and peace in this rough world.

As simple as it looks, however, the secret of the madeleine isn’t that easy to find. My friend Trish told me she read that some Americans tried to bake madeleines, but it fell apart when they dunked it in their tea. The real recipe I am happy to share is in the recipe section.

The Madeleine is all about a lifestyle I would like to encourage, which is not only about food but everything that brings a bit of magic into everyday life. When I came to Australia, my obsession soon was to find those sweet things I miss. Treasures are to be found, made by artisans who deserve to be known. It is my tribute to childhood souvenirs, a medicine against stress. And it is important for me to share my quest for the European like dolce vita in the wide wild Australian continent.

Laurence Arthur/On the picture: Rebecca Worth, the photographer

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