Tag Archives: Herve This

Lemon madelaines


Recipe from Herve This
This is such an iconic French cake that it received a place of choice in Marcel Proust famous novel “A la recherche du temps perdu”: the narrator dips his madelaine into a cup of tea and as he bites in it he is suddenly transported in his past childhood and the souvenirs of his grand-mother. Tastes and fragrances do have this uncanny ability to render alive past memories and bring you back all of a sudden to a particular day or a particular mood…  Lets give them to our children so one day they might be able to use the sensations experienced in works of the imagination and relive happy times through a simple smell!

Ideally, you need a Flexipan style tray for madelaines but other small shapes trays may work too.

Ingredients list:
Butter 60g
Flour 125g
Sugar 125g
Orange blossom water 1 tbsp
3 eggs
Lemon zest plus juice

Melt the butter in a pan, pour into a bowl and add to it the flour, sugar, orange blossom and a spoonful of honey. Beat well with a wooden spoon then add the yolks, lemon juice and last beat the egg whites to peaks and add them in carefully.

Bake in a 12 pan tray at medium heat (180°) for 15 minutes max.

Those madelaines are light and deliciously fragranced, but never too buttery. Their citrus  hint goes perfectly with a cup of earl grey tea…


Soufflés variations


No, I am not talking here about music or windpipe but simply about the simplest of sophisticated dishes: the soufflé! I fell for it when I was a student in Paris. During a visit from my father, we discovered the magnificent soufflés of the eponymous restaurant “Le Soufflé” on rue du Mont-Thabor in the first arrondissement. The variations on their specialty were mind-boggling and belly-rumbling at once! We worshipped all of them and went back often.
But since then, I have always approached Le Soufflé with awe and a slight nervousness. I should not have since my reading of Hervé This‘ book “Révélations Gastronomiques” (Belin) has now rendered all this molecular mystery as clear as cristal and today I feel much more confident when tackling so iconic a recipe.
The one offered here includes roquefort cheese but souffles can be made in any sort of flavours, from sweet to savoury, and here lies their curiosity appeal: Follow your own taste and experiment on the given structure…
Eager to share my new proficiency on the subject, I will try to summarise.
First you have to understand that a soufflé will rise if there are three conditions:
  1. A good binding made by the flour and yolks mixture- in which the yolks are put in off the hob so they don’t curdle by cooking too fast.
  2. Enough oxygen in the molecules of the egg whites so that when they dilate with the heat, the mixture then expands upwards! The more you beat the eggs, the more bubbles you create and the more stable the substance becomes.
  3. The heat must come from the bottom of the oven so the souffle will rise in the best fashion.
So far so good.
A scientist at the INRA, Hervé This is a also a fantastic educator and some of his classes are available on video. I could spend hours listening to him! Always enjoyed being taught though – science especially but only since I left formal education behind and don’t have to deal with fractious maths teachers…
  • Ingredients list for a roquefort soufflé:
    Roquefort 80g
    Butter 30g
    Flour 50g or 40g of potato flour (my favourite for lightness)
    Egg yolks 6
    Egg whites 6
    Milk 250 ml
    Pinch of baking soda in the whites
    Cayenne pepper


Take two bowls and separate each egg : no yolk in the white or the fat will prevent the protein skin forming around each bubble of oxygen. Remember your science. Keep aside.
Now, melt the butter in a small pan, then add the flour. Turn continuously with a wooden spoon while you add the milk slowly and the mixture will start thickening. Do keep on low heat and be patient so you get a good coating of your spoon.  Turn off the hob and add the egg yolks one by one, still turning the spoon in regularly. Add the cheese and spices while its still hot then put aside.

Whip up the whites until very firm. It is important to beat them well and long enough so the bubbles are as numerous and dense as possible. Very fresh eggs are a pre-requisite for successful egg whites; discard any watery or discoloured eggs for they are likely to ruin your best efforts. Which would be a pity! The traditional pinch of salt or baking soda in it helps break up the molecules and sets the mix quicker.

Gently but swiftly fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, avoiding to break up too many of the precious bubbles!
Pour into a greased soufflé dish immediately and put straight into a warmed oven: 20 min at 180°C. Less if you are making individual soufflés.

Lastly, a soufflé should not wait but as I discovered last week, if your guests are not sat down by the time it is ready, do not despair: Back for a few minutes in the oven, it will actually rise again!
Mi-ra-cu-lous.More tips for the perfectionists – not that I am counting myself in:
Herve This also advises to use a slightly tulip shaped container, as opposed to the cylindrical shape of most soufflé dishes. I used both and I am not sure either had an incidence but both raised beautifully (see both pics and draw your conclusions… ).
In fine, Monsieur This recommends putting the mix for a few minutes under the grill – before baking- in order to achieve the top-hat effect soufflé you get in restaurant – but I like my crackled and bumpy look…
Think I’m definitely not a perfectionist… That’s what 3 babies and married life do to you.

I am in a chocolate kind of mood!

>Manille’s melt-in-the-mouth chocolate cake
Ingredients list:
Eggs 6 (whites whisked separately)
Sugar 150g
Vanilla sugar 2 paquets
Dark chocolate 200g ( no less than 70% cocoa)
Butter 125g
Pinch of bicarbonate
One spoonful of cornflour (optional)
One thimble of good dark rum

One very important point when baking is to take all the ingredients out of the fridge at least 30mn beforehand.

When ready to bake, set your oven to 180 degrees. Melt the chocolate and butter on low heat then set aside. In a large bowl, vigorously beat the yolks with the sugar and the vanilla sugar until the mix turns paler and fluffier. Vanilla sugar is sold in small individual portions in France and is an ingredient I have always seen my grand mother make an ample use of! But it can easily be homemade by putting a split vanilla bean into a jar of caster sugar and forgetting it for a little while in your cupboard.

Now whisk the egg whites with a tiny pinch of bicarbonate. At that point I add a thimble of dark rum so the eggs are flavoured and increase in volume due to the added liquid! According to scientist Hervé This you can make up to one cubic metre of snow with one single egg white! But don’t attempt this now… Click and see the video later if you want to know more! Science is amazing when taught like this: I could even see some poetry in chemistry…

Mix the chocolate and the yolk mixture, add the cornflour (not in the original but I find it a good addition), then gently fold in the whites until you have a light, blended mix.

Pour into a deep, lined cake tin and into the oven for 30mn. The cake is ready when the first cracks form on the surface. Do not overcook it – this is truly scrumptious when still moist and creamy inside.

I shared a bite of this cake yesterday with a few good friends and with a second thimble of rum before heading home in the rain! My thank yous to everybody who came.