As the sun blazes high in the sky over the English countryside my thoughts inevitably turn to cricket and, of course, what to eat and drink while watching the noble game. Sadly I rarely watch cricket any more. Gone is the deeply satisfying experience of the last day of a thoroughly pointless draw against the Minor Counties. These days people seem to care about who wins and I can’t see the point of that myself.
In my youth refreshments while watching cricket consisted mostly of strong cider and anything resembling a Cornish pasty but in my more reflective, some might say wistful, advancing years I'm more likely to be drawn to a cup of Assam tea and a small cake. Should you have a spare week or two, then you only have to read the first few sentences of 'Du côté de chez Swann' to realise that Marcel Proust was an accomplished and resourceful leg spinner. So what better offering to accompany a slow left armer bowling a maiden over to a number 11 than a madeleine?
A word of warning: I believe that madeleines are widely considered suspect in the cricketing community and should on no account be served as part of the classic and sacred “Cricket Tea”. To do so would risk the sort of brouhaha I remember when Mr Harold “Dickie” Bird gave J.P. Sartre out LBW in a limited overs match at Taunton some years ago. I'll never forget the words the batsman muttered on his way back into the pavilion: “Hell is umpire people”.
I use a little baking powder in this recipe and I believe I once heard a French baker say that it should never be added to true madeleines. On the other hand, despite my best efforts, my grasp of French remains terrible and he could have been discussing an obscure aspect of the Duckworth-Lewis method.
This recipe should make at least 20 small madeleines, although the size of moulds seems to vary a lot.
80 g caster sugar
90 g unsalted butter, melted and left to cool a little
100 g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
Zest of ½ lemon, very finely cut
1 tbsp limoncello
Prepare a madeleine mould by thoroughly rubbing with butter – you don't need to bother if you have a silicone mould, which I have to admit are a lot easier. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Using an electric mixer (unless you're really keen on physical exercise), beat the eggs and sugar together until they look very pale. Turn the mixer speed down to its lowest setting, add the limoncello and butter and continue to mix until thoroughly combined.
Sift together the flour and baking powder. Gently fold the flour and lemon zest into the egg and butter mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the mould and bake until lightly golden. This will take around 8 minutes for small madeleines but it's best to keep a close eye on them.