Monday, October 10, 2011
a beetime story
I had a bit of a surprise when I started unpacking my groceries from the market the other day...I heard a slight buzzing noise. At first, I thought I was losing it, but lo and behold, there was a HONEY BEE IN MY KITCHEN! Fortunately, honeybees are not as terrifying (looking) or belligerent as wasps, and they're generally more concerned about sweet things than people - so I just closed the bag back up, walked outside, and let him go. It seemed like every bee in the city was attacking the Concord grapes at the market - either that, or it's because the honey man sometimes travels with his bees - but my farmer and I both inspected the bunches to ensure we were good to go! Alas, we both failed.
At this point, I had two concerns: Could he find his way back?! I figured yes - apparently, bees have a pretty good sense of direction. Hopefully that's the case, or we've got a country bee trying to live big in the city. Concern #2 - I didn't want to have a hand in our recent honey bee crisis/colony collapse disorder. One-third of the food we eat is produced by honey bee pollination (who knew?), and there is some epidemic causing the global honeybee population to decline. Granted, this was one honeybee taken from his hive, but my brain works in strange ways. That being said, I felt as though I had to honor said honeybee with my next creation!
On a side note - Concord grapes are unbelievably delicious, so I understand why all these bees were hanging around them. I've never been the biggest fan of "grape"/"grapes" but these definitely swiped that notion aside. Once I returned home, I'd pop a few here and there, but I knew I wouldn't be eating an entire quart of grapes - so instead of letting them go to waste, of course I had to make granite! Logical enough, I'd say. Add some honey-lavender madeleines, and call it a dish.
Concord Grape Sauternes Granite
1 1/2 cups fresh Concord grape juice
1/3 cup Sauternes
The granite is ridiculously simple. A lot of time, people will add extra sugar or even a simply syrup to their mixture, but I think the sweetness of the grapes is just enough - that and the Sauternes added a hint of sweetness without being too cloying. To get the grape juice, I popped the grapes out of their skins and pureed them in a blender, straining out the seeds and skins by squeezing the mixture through cheesecloth. You could also use a juicer, or go the Lucille Ball route. Mix in the Sauternes, pour into a shallow dish, and pop into the freezer. Every so often, scrape through the mixture with a fork to break up larger frozen pieces. The granite is ready to eat when it's fully frozen. Also - if you've never had fresh Concord grape juice, you are seriously missing out. It is like grape nectar, and absolutely delicious. And look at that color! (WEAR BLACK!)
For the Madeleines:
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 C plus 2 T sugar
2 large eggs
1 T honey
1 T packed light brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 T lavender buds
6 T unsalted butter, melted and kept warm
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
This recipe necessitates at least a 1 hour wait period, or overnight chilling - just remember that when you're ready to make them! Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugars, honey, and orange zest. Either crush the lavender buds in a mortar and pestle or pulverize them, then stir them into the mixture as well. Add the flour mixture and whisk just until combined. Slowly add the melted butter stirring just until incorporated. The butter and batter will stay separate for a bit, but be patient. Finally, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.
madeleine pan with non stick cooking spray or wipe liberally with butter. Place the batter in a pastry bag - or a simple plastic bag with the tip cut off - and pipe the batter into the mold. Fill the molds about 2/3rds of the way - the batter will rise while baking and spread.
Bake these until the edges are golden brown and the centers have puffed up just a bit. Mini madeleines should take about 4 minutes, and large madeleines about 9 minutes - ensure to rotate the pan halfway through cooking. Remove from the oven, invert the pan and tap it against the counter to release the madeleines. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve warm. Forewarning - the scent from baking these madeleines is haunting.
So, not only are these two treats fabulous on their own, but they go together beautifully! The madeleines are soft and cloud-like, with just a hint of lavender and orange, and the interplay between frozen cold granite and the warm madeleine couldn't be any better. The granite itself has an intense grape flavor, but is mellowed out and actually elevated by the flavor of the Sauternes. This is definitely a refreshing treat for a nice Indian summer! Enjoy!