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We, Not Me

Canada has an election next week. Politics aside, the Conservative party slogan has been bugging me and now I know why.

Conservative party slogan
“It’s time for you to get ahead.”

Not “us.”

When I first came to Canada from the U.S. one of the things that stood out for me was a subtle but telling difference in language. Driving north, I saw a billboard that read “Let’s remember…” Let us, together, for the good of all. Once I noticed it, I saw that same framing in many other places as well.

I don’t see that as much in the States. I still love my first country but I’m not blind to its faults, either. There’s a lot more “Do this” followed by ”here’s how you’ll benefit,” sometimes accompanied by “or else.” Not “let’s come together to build a better world” but “look out for yourself.” The unstated follow-up is that no one else will. Not so here. No country is perfect, of course, but there’s a reason folks here can see a doctor or fill a prescription and not break the budget.

This tendency to work for the communal good is one of the many things I love about Canada, and one of the things that, regardless of political party, I hope we all remember.

Today, a recipe!

I decided to take this year off from birthday cakes, but I did make the delicious bite-sized treats that are madeleines. Reminiscent of pound cake but more flavorful, these French cakes have been one of my favorites for years. Now I’ve got the recipe down. Good thing, because they don’t last long!

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This is a simple recipe with terrific results. The only real surprise is the amount of chilling time, so plan ahead. Also, I was fortunate enough to inherit a set of traditional European madeleine pans, and with the liberal application of butter and flour they work well. That said, if you don’t happen to have these single-purpose pans, I’ve had decent luck making them in cupcake liners. The shape is different, of course, but the edges pick up a small flute from the liners. The darker cupcake pan made the bottoms cook a bit too fast, but cut baking time by a minute or so and it should turn out fine.

On ingredients:

I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour (thank you, Costco) but you don’t have to. I also use granulated sugar that’s been toasted to bring out a caramel flavor that’s subtle but noticeable. If you have the time to do this, I suggest making a big batch so you have extra. It’s great in everything. As a note, I toasted a batch of organic sugar but pulled it after an hour. Turns out the higher molasses content means it’s faster to melt and burn, so keep an eye on it if you go that route. Still tasty!)

On rise:

There’s also a whole debate around whether to baking powder or not to baking powder. The traditional approach is most definitely (and defiantly)not, but it’s up to you. I am still haunted by a pre-teen angel-food cake debacle (pancake, meet actual cake, also tears and a lifelong dislike of recipes that rely solely on whipped egg whites for volume). I use the baking powder. It worked well, even when I let the batter sit in the fridge for 6+ hours, and tasted fine. Just be sure your baking powder doesn’t contain aluminum.

On lemon flavor:

like love the flavor of lemon but am not fond of chewy, waxy, dry lemon peel. I leave it out here, but if you find yourself with a nice, thin-skinned organic lemon on hand, I say use the zest. I also boosted the amount of glaze because the smaller amount in the original recipe didn’t quite stretch far enough. (I also use all lemon juice because I’m crazy like that, but the water will help it flow. Adjust as you like. Or use lime juice. Or 2T. orange concentrate, 1T+ water.)

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And as a bonus for Mr. Man’s father and all who love writing, a taste of literature:

An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings … my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it.
— Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu

I prefer lemon glaze to a tea dip but the choice is yours. Whatever you do, have fun:) Also, here’s a picture for you, showing the perfect amount of browning. It’s not my picture as I ate all my madeleines before I thought to get a shot (because delicious:).

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Lemon-Glazed Madeleines
Makes about 24 cookies
Adapted from this recipe (in The Sweet Life In Paris by David Lebovitz)

Cake:
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130g) granulated sugar, toasted
rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup (175g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
zest of one small lemon (optional)
9 tablespoons (120g) butter, melted and cooled to just above room temperature, plus additional melted butter for the molds

Glaze:

7/8 cup (175g) powdered sugar
3 T. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 t. water
pinch salt, to taste

Prep pans and batter:

1. Thoroughly brush the indentations of a madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer. (Haven’t tried this with non-stick spray because it weirds me out but I imagine that works too.)

2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened. (Don’t have a standing mixer? use the regular kind, because honestly.)

3. Spoon the flour and baking powder, if using, into a sifter or mesh strainer and sift over the batter in batches, using a spatula to fold in each batch of flour. (This is a little tedious but worth it.)

4. Add the optional lemon zest to the cooled butter, then dribble the butter into the batter a few spoonfuls at a time, while folding each time to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.

5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours.)

Wait, then bake:

6. To bake: preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

7. Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation with enough batter which you think will fill it by 3/4’s
(you’ll have to eyeball it, but it’s not brain-surgery so don’t worry if you’re not exact; I used a rounded 1 1/2 t. cookie scoop) Do not spread it.

8. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cakes just feel set (10 minutes for me with baking powder; the tops will be light but the fluted base should be a light-to-medium brown). While the cakes are baking, make a glaze by stirring together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, water and salt until smooth.

9. Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a rack. The moment they’re cool enough to handle, dip each cake in the glaze, turning them over to make sure both sides are coated and scrape off any excess with a dull knife. After dipping, rest on the rack, scalloped side up, until the cakes are cool and the glaze has firmed up.

Storage:

Glazed madeleines store well uncovered or loosely-wrapped. They can be kept in a container for up to three days, if necessary (but, yeah, they won’t last that long. Unless you are a saint. Are you a saint? I am not). These also froze fine in a plastic bag, then defrosted on the counter. Emergency madeleines for the win!

 

The folks over at Boing Boing have listed last night’s 2019 Hugo award winners, complete with links:

Best Novel: The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Best Novella: Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com publishing)
Best Novelette: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
Best Short Story: “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
Best Series: Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
Best Related Work: Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
Best Professional Editor (Short Form): Gardner Dozois
Best Professional Editor, Long Form: Navah Wolfe
Best Professional Artist: Charles Vess
Best Semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine
Best Fanzine: Lady Business
Best Fancast: Our Opinions Are Correct
Best Fan Writer: Foz Meadows
Best Fan Artist: Likhain (Mia Sereno)
Best Art Book: The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press / Gollancz)
Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book: Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Jeannette Ng
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)

So excited to see my favorite Murderbot and the Wayfarers series get some love, and I’m looking forward to checking out some of the others on the roster. For more reading material, check out Tor.com’s full list of nominees. Enjoy!

It’s summer and I’m enjoying a bit of vacation time (yay!) and what do I spot on my new Asclepias tuberosa? A monarch butterfly caterpillar!

 

I’ve seen a monarch or two in the neighborhood this year but not many. (Not like during my childhood down south, when my mother used to pull the car over just about anywhere to find caterpillar-rich milkweed by the side of the road.) There’s a reason why these butterflies are listed as at endangered in Ontario:(

That said, awareness of the issues around butterflies and their disappearing habitat is rising, and it’s not all bad news. I’m happy to see milkweed left to grow by the roadside, to find native milkweed varietals at the garden center, and to watch butterflies flitting in the park. If we had more sun and space I’d plant a butterfly meadow, but for now, we went with butterfly weed. Glad we did:)

As an added bonus, I also saw fireflies in the yard a couple of weeks ago for the first time north of the border:) Here’s wishing you a happy and constructive summer!

Happy Solstice!

That’s right, today is the summer solstice. At 15:54 Universal Time (that’s 11:54 a.m. in my neck of the woods), summer officially starts in the northern hemisphere! For more on the analemma, or figure-eight described by the sun as it arcs across the sky (think the calendar Tom Hanks etched on a rock in Castaway, or check out this composite photo from NASA). And NatGeo has a nice, detailed piece on the solstice here: What is the summer solstice? The answer might surprise you.

What is summer? So many things, not least light, glorious light to do as you will. Or, you know, mess up bedtime;)

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

Bed in Summer, Robert Louis Stevenson

Have a wonderful summer day!

Finally!

Today was the last day of snow here at Maison J. Very exciting! Sure, the south-facing neighbors have been basking in the beauty of Spring for ages now (days at least;) but today was finally our day. Snow has melted, cardinals are singing, the trees out front are just about to bud and all is well.

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden 

Also, the Easter Bunny says hello!

High Spirits

Hooray, my space pirate draft is complete! At almost 18,000 words, it’s the longest “short” story I’ve written to date. Ok, fine, it’s a novella and I’m ok with that.

I’ll need to go back over it, check a few things, get a degree in orbital mechanics (not really) and answer that age-old question, “Do donuts stay fresh longer in space?” Inquiring minds want to know! In the meantime, the draft is on its way to beta readers.

I like it, hope they do too!

 

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson