I bake. I write about famous people who make food. I research articles. I develop recipes. I review events. I take photos in professional people’s kitchens. I blog. I manage my family business’ books. I walk hundreds of miles for breast cancer awareness. I don’t eat gluten. I used to write plays. I grew up with Lyme Disease. Sometimes now that stays hidden. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how that all comes together here.
I used to feel like I had a “voice” on this blog, one that was quirky and fun and so focused around the joy that is throwing flour in the air and making a mess and being all scrappy in NYC and not letting the whole gluten-free thing be the thing that stops someone from baking and being all dusty in the kitchen. And then two things happened; I started getting a lot more writing/cooking work and my Lyme Disease-related symptoms started making me not feel well again.
Bare honesty here: I don’t feel well a lot, nowadays. I do a lot of things through an incredible doc who does intensely focused plant-forward immune supporting regimens. I also take a combo of pain killers regulated through a pain management doctor I’ve trusted for over ten years. I also meditate, and work with a life coach, and keep a positive attitude, and sometimes let myself cry in the bathtub because in certain moments none of that seems to make a difference.
Sometimes I don’t know how to express this person I am in this body, at this point in my life. I have a good life. I love my work, value my relationships and have a home that I adore. But I have a history, and even as I’ve tried to start sharing the reason why I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for twenty years, I’ve worried about how it will translate on here.
But then I had a conversation I really needed yesterday.
Audra from The Baker Chick and Lauren from Keep it Sweet Desserts are two of my favorite bloggers, on screen and in person. They are great bloggers. Their recipes are stellar, and their sites are gorgeous. They are much more involved and “in the know” than I’ve been in a long time on what goes on in the bloggosphere, yet remain grounded and passionate and sweet and humble. And within fifteen other conversations about our lives, all of the angst above came out and they gave me a boost to just tell it all on here.
So, along with continuing to share gluten-free sweet recipes I’m not really eating because I’m on a no sugar regime for a while, you’ll be getting a bit more about who I am and what I get to do.
Because – illness be damned – my life is still pretty fricken cool.
Even with my illness… I interview some ridiculously inspiring chefs. They work hard, they’re passionate, they’re sometimes famous, and I research the crap outta them and then get to pick into their brains.
Even with my illness… I develop recipes for awesome websites. And I want to share them with you.
Even with my illness… I meet fascinating women in the food and beverage field and I’m finding more and more ways to get their stories told.
Even with my illness… I am going my tenth 60-mile walk to raise funds for breast cancer awareness in August, knowing I may only make 15 or 20 miles this year, and I want to share that with you, too.
Even with my illness… I (now more gently) pound the New York City pavement, and try to capture why I am still so in love with my city, on the crest of our ten-year anniversary.
Even with my illness… I can be a lot of damned fun.
Even with my illness… blogging can have a place in my life.
And because of my illness… I am a grounded, calm, peaceful, thankful, creative, humble human being, and maybe someone in the same boat will get a boost from French Lemon Madeleines, too.
And I thank you (and Audra and Lauren) for being here with me.
Makes about 18 cookies
One of the perks of interviewing chefs who really know their shit is that I can shoot a few emails out asking for recipes and have several of the best at my disposal within hours. After doing a few batches of lemon Madeleines for the past few weeks, something was still missing; that stupid bump. The bump that defines many a Madeleine, though it contributing to the authenticity of these little cookies is in constant debate. So I sent out the call and got some stellar responses.
Yes, the bump is still missing from the photos above. But I was very much pleased with the texture of these little cake-cookies – much more so than my other batches that came before them – and so wanted to share them with you.
They’re based off the recipe given to me by Chef Damien Herrgott, at Bosie Tea Parlor in New York City. I’d interviewed Damien for my column and adore the very classic approach he takes to French pastries. Even before I was aware that, I was in love with the expertly-brewed tea selection and the very romantic air of the space, in which I’ve spent many hours typing and talking, starting only a few weeks after they opened.
Damien’s recipe was sent to me very much in a professional pastry-chef way; the weights of ingredients in multiple batch sizes, with a few basic directions he’d jotted down. They didn’t include things a professional would know – like temperature or time or when to add all of the ingredients – but I got the gist of it and he’d shared some tips in his email. I didn’t get my “bump”, but I don’t blame him.
I’m getting closer. One day… gluten-free dough… one day.
On top of halving his smallest quantity of measurements, I worked on several blends of flours, landing on the texture of brown rice flour (works better than white in these) softened with a bit of starch and bound with just a tiny bit of gum. I altered the eggs and baking powder a bit to help the gluten-free flours in their rising structure. And while I largely increased his amount of zest, these are not as lemony as other incarnations I’ve made using fresh juice as well. But I love how using only the zest gives them a beautiful aroma and a subtle (rather than head-bashing) flavor. More than anything, I love the texture of these springy cookies. Flavor is never my problem in our gluten-free world; it’s texture I’m particularly picky about.
- 2 large eggs
- 150g white sugar (about 2/3 cup)
- 70g brown rice flour
- 45g arrowroot starch (tapioca works too)
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
- 4g gluten-free baking powder
- 5g lemon zest (a good amount Microplaned from one preferably organic lemon)
- 115g unsalted butter, melted (the better the butter, the better the flavor… go for the gold on this one)
In a small bowl, whisk the flours, xanthan gum and baking powder, then sift them into another bowl so that they’re beautifully light and fluffy.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk eggs on medium/high speed until foamy, about 4-5 minutes or so.
Turn the mixer to medium and stream in sugar. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Turn the mixer down to low and mix in the dry ingredients, until just mixed in. Then stream in the melted butter, and mix until smooth with no remaining butter floating. Add lemon zest and mix until just combined.
Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. This helps the flour dissolve completely (like you want for crepes and pancakes) and then the butter firm up, which makes a beautiful difference when it melts again while baking.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° and lightly butter and flour a Madeleine mold. Note: I made these in a pan coated in melted butter, again buttered and floured, and finally just sprayed. I’d say either butter and flour with rice or millet flour or use cooking spray; melted butter alone made them very hard to remove from the pan.
Fill molds about 2/3 full with the now-thick dough (don’t worry about the shape – they’ll melt down completely), and bake in batches for about 12 minutes, until the edges are lightly brown. Cool for a few minutes in the pan before gently removing with the help of a tiny offset spatula (or knife).
While they’re best eaten the day they’re baked, my roommate confirmed that they were perfect for sopping up her coffee for the next few days.