Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Corn Muffin Madeleines and Homemade Chili

A few days ago, it was my turn to feed my Book Club. The day was rainy and cold, so I decided to make chili and cornbread. I like a hearty, slightly rough cornbread; none of that poofy, cake-like cornbread for me! (See both recipes, below.)

Instead of baking the normal 9x9 pan, I thought it would be fun to try making corn muffin madeleines.

This is a madeleine pan. Traditionally used to turn out delectable little cake-like cookies, the shell-shaped pan can also produce other bite-sized goodies. Any quickbread with a cake-like consistency, such as gingerbread, banana bread, or--in my case, cornbread--works well in this pan:

Each mold produces a cake or muffin of about three bites' worth:

But all those little ridges and bits in the pan can make it difficult to pry the madeleine out in one piece. To make sure the pan releases its bounty, I hit it with a good dose of vegetable spray:

Secret Weapon #1 for making madeleines: Suspend the pan over the kitchen sink (so you don't accidentally coat your counters or floors with a fine coat of oil). Holding the pan at one end, spray it thoroughly once, then turn it 180 degrees and spray it again. That makes sure you've coated every nook and cranny of the mold.

Fill each cup about 2/3 full of your batter. Don't worry if there's a little drip over the side. Just wipe it up with your finger:

Because the molds are small, the madeleines bake up pretty quickly--maybe 8 to 10 minutes or so, depending on your recipe.

You can tell when your madeleines are done because if you touch one gently, it will spring back a bit. Also, it should have just a bit of a browned edge at the thinnest part:

When they're golden with a tiny bit of a brown edge, pull the pan out of the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool a bit--maybe five minutes or so:

Secret Weapon #2 for making madeleines: Don't attempt to remove the cakes from the mold until you've let them cool a few minutes. Then--and only then--use a slim knife or spatula with a rounded (not pointed) edge and gently loosen the sides and the butt end (that's the end opposite the scallops) a little bit:

Loosening the butt end

I've found out the hard way that a pointed knife tends to tear into the madeleine. A round-tipped knife helps prevent this.

Loosening the sides

In my kitchen, the perfect tool for the job is my "Juli" knife, the sole remaining member of a fork-knife-spoon set of child-sized cutlery that my Nana had engraved with my name, then gave me when I was a tyke. Unfortunately, when I wasn't using them for eating, I was digging with them in my mom's garden. That's how I lost both the spoon and fork. (The knife didn't make a good digging tool, so it escaped that horrible fate.)

Somewhere in the dirt in Dayton, Ohio, the mates to this knife are hiding:

Oh, how I treasure this one, remaining piece!:

Anyhow, take your time gently loosen each madeleine, then tip them on their side and let them continue to cool in the pan:

Or if, like me, you only have one pan and you need to use it right away for the next batch, you can turn the madeleines out onto the rack as they continue to cool:

Even with all that preliminary spraying, the pan will have a lot of little bits clinging to it after you turn out the cakes:

Secret Weapon #3 for making madeleines: Resist the temptation to just spray the heck out of the pan and dump in your second batch of batter. You'll regret it! Take the time to wash and thoroughly dry out the pan before you prep it for the second batch, and you'll pop out perfect madeleines until the last dab of batter is all used up.

You'll end up with tasty and visually appealing little bites:

The corn muffin madeleines have just a hint of a shine to them, which adds to their visual appeal:

They are the perfect accompaniment to a hearty bowl of chili or soup on a cold winter's day:

As for the chili, I made a double batch so I had enough for all the ladies in Book Club as well as my some for my use. If you're going to the trouble of cooking from scratch, making a double batch of whatever-it-is just makes sense. It's no extra trouble to double most recipes, and then you can freeze half to use another day, when you don't feel like cooking.

But, when you make a double batch of anything like soup or stew or chili, that's a HUGE amount of dense, hot food to ask your fridge to cool. Putting the pot directly in your fridge can raise the internal temperature to unsafe levels.

The solution? An ice bath!

Put some cold water and ice in your sink. Gently lower the hot--but not boiling hot--pot into the ice bath, and about every five or so minutes, give the pot's contents a stir. (This cools down the food quicker.) After about 20 or so minutes, the entire pot is ready to pop in the fridge:

Extra added bonus: after cooling a pot like this in an ice bath, you can safely place it right on top of a plastic-wrapped, ready-made pizza crust, like you see above. And--full disclosure for those who love to see what's inside other people's fridges (I sure do!)--that's a bottle of Pom juice next to the chili, and on the shelf above, nonfat plain yogurt, Bombay Sapphire Gin, and a plastic quart container with home-made soup stock.

Corn Muffin Madeleines
3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. cornmeal
1/4 C. wheat germ
1/4 C. granulated sugar
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground mace
1 C. milk
3-4 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
2 eggs, well beaten
vegetable cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine milk, butter, and beaten eggs. Combine dry and wet ingredients quickly (do not overmix, or the cornbread will be tough, not tender).

Thoroughly coat a 9x9 or 8x8 baking pan (or a madeleine mold) with cooking spray. Pour batter into the baking pan. (If using madeleine molds, fill each cup about 2/3 full.) The baking pan will take about 20 minutes; the madeleines will be ready in 8 to 10 minutes. Cornbread is done when it is golden and the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly before running a rounded-tip knife around the edges of the pan or mold to release the cornbread. When partially cooled, turn out and serve immediately or allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Produces one square pan of cornbread, or about 3 dozen madeleines.

Homemade Chili
1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 12-oz. cans chopped or diced tomatoes (not drained)
16 oz. canned tomato sauce
3 tsp. chili powder (or more, to taste)
1-2 tsp. granulated sugar (optional)
scant teaspoon of salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne red pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
3 15-oz. cans beans (drained) (I like to use a combination of kidney, black, pinto, and/or cannelini--basically whatever is in the cupboard)

In a large soup pot, cook and stir the ground meat and onion until the meat is no longer pink and the onion is tender. Drain off any fat (there will be very little, if any). Stir in remaining ingredients except beans.

Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (Or cook uncovered, about 45 minutes.) Stir in beans; heat through and serve immediately (or cool, using ice-bath method described above).

Makes 4 or 5 servings. Recipe can be doubled. Chili always seems to taste better the second--or even third--day, so you can make this recipe ahead.


  1. I love the idea of using a madeline pan for something other than traditional madelines, like these little cornbread bites- super adorable!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...