I’m back from the abyss — swallowed by the real world for almost 10 whole weeks!
I return with tales of triumph, sugar, and adventure.
Let’s get my timeline straightened out — first, I vanished in order to concentrate on finishing up pastry school and exams. Thankfully, my dedication and efforts paid off, because I graduated at the top of my class. It was pretty great. I was pretty proud. My mom got all misty-eyed. It was a milestone.
So, what did I do next? I did what any overburdened graduate would do — take off, of course!
My partner and I purchased one-way tickets to Russia (he’s got family over there) and figured we’d stay across the ocean for as long as possible (or at least until our life savings ran out).
It was a once-in-a-lifetime gallivant around the old continent — 24 cities in 12 different countries — we lived out of our backpacks, stayed in budget hostels, and indulged only in sight-seeing and dessert.
We landed in St. Petersburg via Moscow and New York — believe it or not, it’s cheaper to fly to Europe from anywhere but Canada — spend a few days there, then headed west and south, through Stockholm, and Copenhagen, and then into Germany.
After seeing Berlin, I insisted that we travel the scenic route though Prague and to get to the one, the only, Sacher Hotel in Vienna. That was a definite high point for me, as a pastry person, to actually eat one the annals of foodie history.
Passing through Vienna was convenient anyways, because, from there, we caught a sleeper train into Venice. From Venice we skipped through Pisa (best pasta of my life, people), then down to Rome.
Oh, Rome, you captured my heart — if you don’t mind the big city noise, then everywhere you walk is beautiful. Ruins here, vespas there, gelato everrrywhere!
Words don’t even describe how good gelato is in Italy. Nothing I’ve ever had in Vancouver even compares.
Alas, we couldn’t stay in Rome forever, so we took a train up to Milan, saw the sights, then traveled all day on local trains to get to Nice — and, again, Nice was amazing!
It was like every time we arrived in a new place, it was even more fascinating and more beautiful than we expected it to be — the blue Mediterrean, the historic center of town, the 25 minute train ride to Monaco… oh, and nevermind gelato — Nice had it’s own award-winning resident ice cream maker to boast about!
From Nice and Monaco we booked it through Marseilles and into Barcelona, where we spent three nights and still didn’t even see half of what there was to see and do there. Barcelona, unlike other European cities, doesn’t have a condensed core that you can walk around and absorb in a day.
Next time I go to Spain, I spend at least two weeks in Barcelona. Minimum.
After Barcelona came Paris — the hub of which so much of my discipline revolves around. All the beautiful food was so overwhelming, though, so I just decided to concentrate on sampling one particular treat: macaron!
I swooned when I saw Ladurée. I squealed like a kid when I saw Pierre Hermé. I sampled the goods from Lenôtre and Fauchon, too. The French had flavours that were especially creative, too — peach with apricot and saffron, cherry blossom, olive oil and mandarin… heaven!
We left Paris behind (but packed a few macaron to go!) and headed into Brussels.
It was pouring rain when we arrived, so my partner and I plopped ourselves down in the world famous Delirium Cafe and proceeded to have the best beer of our lives. We drank, we chatted with fellow travelers, some new friends treated us to even more beer, we washed it all down with fries and waffles, and I woke up with a massive hangover.
Totally worth it.
From Brussels, we went to Bruges, then Amsterdam, and Mannhiem. We flew out of Frankfurt and landed in Anchorage, Alaska. The last few days of travel seemed to speed by ever faster than before, and, before I knew it, I was back in Vancouver.
I’ve been taking it easy over the last week, just to get my groove back and figure out what to do from here — getting a new job right away would seem like the obvious thing to do at this point, but I’ve got something better in the works.
Anyways, consider this recipe like a “souvenir” from me to you!
It’s from a cookbook devoted completely to sweet and savory madeleines that I picked up in Milan — considering the recipes are all in Italiano, you won’t find it anywhere else in the English speaking world.
Just two things to remember when it comes to making salted anything — salt should always be “to taste”, and while I didn’t find these delicately flavoured madeleines salty enough until I sprinkled each one with a pinch of sea salt, take care to not over do it.
Salted Caramel Madeleines
for caramel sauce base…
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15g) honey
- 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons (80g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, or more…!
for salted caramel madeleines…
- 3 large eggs
- 10 tablespoons (135g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 & 1/2 cups (150g) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (130g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup (125ml) salted caramel sauce
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
First, make the caramel sauce base — in a large skillet over medium heat, combine the sugar and honey. Stir constantly (it will look all gross at first) until all the sugar melts and the caramel turns a nice, deep shade of amber.
Remove the caramel from the heat and quickly whisk in the heavy cream, followed by the butter, one or two cubes at a time. Whisk until all the butter is incorporated into the caramel, then set aside to cool (it’s cool enough to use once it feels warm to the touch).
Once the caramel has cooled, start the madeleines — cream the eggs and sugar together, then slowly pour in the caramel sauce and cream until smooth.
Add the melted butter, mix until smooth once more, then sift the flour and baking powder together and fold into the creamed ingredients.
Now, cover the batter and allow it to rest in the fridge — for at least 2 hours, or as long as 24 hours.
When ready to bake your madeleines, preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C. Fill each mold in a generously greased madeleine tin with batter — no more than 2/3 of the way full.
Bake the madeleines at 400°F/205°C for 10 minutes, then rotate the tray and turn the oven down to 300°F/150°C to bake for another 5 ~ 7 minutes (or until the edges are golden brown and the tops appear dry).
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before gently loosening and turning each madeleine and sprinkling with a pinch of flaky sea salt — that is, if you can handle even more salty caramel goodness.
Enjoy these little treats while still warm! Madeleines are at their best the day they’re baked.