Fennel, orange and black olives. A simple salad typically eaten during the winter in Italy. Simple yet intriguing – there is something alluring about the different textures, the crunchy fennel, the juicy orange segments and almost chewy black olives. And that is before you even get started on the different flavours – freshness and sweet acidity from the orange, the briny olives, flavours that are only enhanced by the anise seedy or liquorice flavour from the fennel. A match made in heaven.
And with that, I have had two words in my notes folder on my phone for a few months: liquorice and orange. I have been meaning to pair them, maybe adapting the Absinthe Cigar recipe from the Blue Bottle Coffee book adding in some orange zest, revisiting a fennel granita I made a few weeks ago that was perfectly fine on some fresh ricotta di bufala and served with orange segments and savoury chili and olive biscotti but that just didn’t wow me. Yet when I finally came across some liquorice powder in a random Danish pop-up store in Turin a few weeks ago, I was in the mood for madeleines, mini madeleines so small you eat 5 right out of the oven and don’t even realise how many are gone until you notice the number of madeleines on your plate doesn’t quite match the number of indentations in your madeleine mould.
It took me a couple of tries to get the balance of flavours just right. The liquorice powder I had (made from Iranian liquorice, I suspect by evaporating juice extracted from the liquorice root although the packaging did not specify this) is incredibly potent on its own but mellows significantly after baking. I was careful at first as I did not want the liquorice to be overpowering but in the end settled on a full teaspoon for this small amount of madeleine batter – enough to get noticed without killing the orange yet not too little to only play second fiddle.
Liquorice and Orange Madeleines
Makes 30 mini madeleines
Note: the holy grail of madeleine baking are the little humps on the backs of the madeleines. Trial and error, a good dose of frustration and some research have pointed to the following key ingredients for achieving those little humps: making sure you cream the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes (I now use a timer) – you want to make sure the mixture is thick and ribbony and has tripled in volume before you move on to the next step in the recipe; and, once the batter is ready, cooling it in the fridge for at least 1 hour (and up to 12 hours). If you have to bake the madeleines in batches, keep the batter in the fridge between batches. Some people swear that using metal moulds rather than silicone moulds also helps get little humps but I like my little silicone moulds for the ease of removing the baked madeleines and how easily they are cleaned and I still get little humps on my madeleines.
50g caster sugar
1 tsp liquorice powder
1 tsp orange zest
40g butter, melted and cooled
60g plain flour
1. Place the eggs, sugar, orange zest and liquorice powder in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until thick and ribbony and the mixture has tripled in volume (ca. 5 minutes).
2. Pour the melted butter over the egg mixture and add the flour. Carefully fold in the butter and flour until everything is well amalgamated. Place the batter in the fridge to rest for a minimum of 1h and up to 12h.
3. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. If using a metal madeleine tray, grease the indentations. Fill about one teaspoon of batter into each indentation before placing the tray in the oven for 7-9 minutes or until the madeleines are well risen and gold brown on top. Leave to cool in the tray for a couple of minutes before carefully removing the madeleines from the tray.