Saffron, orange and honey madeleines

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Last minute lunch invitation and obviously I can’t turn up empty handed; I was lucky enough to have all the ingredients in my cupboard to make these deliciously beautiful shell-like cakes. These tiny treats are easy to make, but you need to be aware that the cake batter needs to be chilled for at least an hour and it is also recommended that the tin is greased, floured and then chilled. All this chilling is in order to achieve the hump that gives the madeleine its authenticity.  The recipe of course is from Sweet; what a brilliant buy that was, I’ve made so many of the recipes. Anyway, I packaged the madeleines into a box and tied a ribbon round it and presented it to a delighted hostess. Naturally, I ate one first; one has to taste test these things. The verdict: sweet, delicate perfection.

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Ingredients

90g unsalted butter, plus an extra 20g, melted, for brushing

2 tsp honey, plus an extra 3 tbsp, for glazing

¼ tsp  saffron threads

2 large eggs

75g caster sugar

scraped seeds of ¼ vanilla pod

 finely grated zest of 1 small orange (1 tsp)

90g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp baking powder

⅛ tsp salt

20g shelled pistachio kernels, finely blitzed

       Directions

  1. Place the butter, honey and saffron threads in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to come to room temperature.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla seeds and orange zest in a food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture. Pulse a few times, just to mix in, and add the cooled butter, honey and saffron mixture. Process once more, to combine, then pour the batter into a small bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. If you are using metal madeleine trays, brush the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Silicone trays should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter, if you like. Tap to ensure that all the moulds are dusted and then shake off the excess flour.
  4. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould: it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. If you only have one madeleine tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge until you have baked the first batch. You will need to wash and dry the mould completely before greasing and flouring again and repeating with the second batch.
  5. Bake for 9–10 minutes, until the madeleines are beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back once tapped lightly in the middle. Remove the tray(s) from the oven and set aside for a minute before releasing the cakes. The best way to do this, with a metal tray, is to go around the edges of each madeleine with a small knife or spatula (to make sure they are not stuck) and then tap the edge of the tray on the bench until they fall out. With a silicone tray they should just fall out of their moulds. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Pile the blitzed pistachios on to a plate in a straight line and set aside. Melt the 3 tablespoons of honey in a small saucepan (a microwave is also good here) until very runny, then brush lightly over the shell-patterned side of one madeleine. With the shell side facing down towards the nuts, roll the narrower end of the madeleine along the pile of pistachios so that you have a straight 1cm strip of pistachios at the base of the madeleine. Repeat with the remaining madeleines, and place on a serving platter, nut side up.

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