You know what they say: Christmas is for kids. Well, here at Alphabet Soup, we hope to bring out the kid in you.
Look who dropped by for tea: Madeline, Anne Shirley and Eloise! Three spunky girls we all love for their inimitable personalities. They each agreed to share a little something from their stories if we
bribed honored them with special treats. We were more than happy to oblige, yet with these three, you just never know.
So here’s to a little magic, some quality kindred spirit time, and lotsa ho ho ho zippity jingle Christmas cheer. Put on a cheery bib and ring when you’re ready to join the fun! 🙂
🇫🇷 MADELINE’S MADELEINES 🐕
Who can forget your iconic opening rhyme:
In an old house in Paris That was covered with vines Lived twelve little girls In two straight lines. They left the house at half-past nine in two straight lines, in rain or shine. The smallest one was MADELINE.
She was happy to tell us about one of her favorite adventures. It took place one Christmas Eve, when everyone (including Miss Clavel) was in bed with miserable colds. It was up to brave Madeline, the only one up and about, to take care of them.
When a rug merchant knocked at the door, Madeline purchased all twelve of his rugs, a good solution for their “ice-cold in the morning feet.” But the rug merchant soon regretted the sale, for without his rugs he felt very chilly outdoors. Madeline welcomed him back into the house, where she gave him medicine to help him thaw out.
Wishing to show his gratitude, the rug merchant agreed to help with the dishes.
His magic ring he gave a glance And went into a special trance – The dirty dishes washed themselves And jumped right back upon the shelves.
Then, with a profound abracadabra, the rugs turned into magic carpets, flying all twelve girls home to surprise their parents on Christmas day.
After hearing this heartwarming story, resident Chef Lapin Rotund presented Madeline with her treat. Chef thought it was very clever making madeleines for a girl named Madeline. Besides, she had always been partial to those exquisite little sponge cakes shaped like shells with their buttery brown ridges on one side, and a cute hump on the other. Were they cookies or were they cakes? She just knew that each was two little bites of heaven.
“Oh! J’adore les madeleines! Did you know they were named after me? I am ‘the smallest one,’ just as madeleines are often called ‘petite madeleines.’”
“Good things come in small packages,” observed Mr Cornelius. He had fun saying “Madeline’s madeleines” over and over while pouring the tea. (Not quite as challenging as, “Les macarons de Macron ne sont pas des macaroons,” but still quite a tasty mouthful.)
If you’ve ever researched madeleine recipes online, you know basic ingredients are pretty standard (butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon or orange zest (optional), all-purpose flour, salt) – but there are differences of opinion regarding technique.
Since classic madeleine recipes don’t call for any leavening, rise depends on beating the eggs for about 8 minutes to incorporate lots of air bubbles. Should you chill the dough before baking (how long?); should you chill the madeleine mold pans? Should you butter the pans, or butter and flour them?
This can all be a fussy business, so after studying many different recipes, we took what we considered to be the best advice and adapted accordingly (we especially appreciated the suggestion from several bloggers to add baking powder as a safeguard). Not hard to make, but requires patience and precision.
Happy to say we were very happy with the results. They were light, golden brown and delicious! Chef Lapin was proud of her génoise batter and Mr Cornelius liked learning that madeleines date back to 18th century France (don’t tell Madeline). He has even taken to reciting this passage from Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu:
… And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
Now, if only we’d had the rug merchant’s magic ring to help with the dishes. Go ahead and dip a madeleine or two. 🙂
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (+ 2 tablespoons to grease pan)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (sifted)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop in a small pot over medium heat. Set aside to cool.
- Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Beat the eggs and sugar together with the wire whisk attachment in the bowl of your stand mixer, or use your hand mixer in a large bowl. Beat approximately 8-9 minutes until the mixture is light yellow in color and thickened with a silky texture. The beater will leave “ribbon trails” when it’s ready. Add the vanilla and lemon zest (if used) toward the end.
- Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the batter and gently fold in until just combined. Add the remaining flour in thirds and fold in, being careful not to overmix.
- Add about 1/4 cup of the batter into the melted butter and mix until it is incorporated. Then drizzle this mixture into the rest of the batter against the side of the bowl, gently mixing until combined.
- Cover the batter with plastic wrap and chill 30-45 minutes (do not chill for more than an hour).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter the mold pan, making sure the ridges in each well are thoroughly coated. (If you are not using a non-stick pan, then you must also flour your pan. Shake off excess.)
- Scoop 1 tablespoon of batter into each well, then bake for 10-12 minutes. They’re done if they spring back when lightly touched. Tap the cakes out of the pan and cool slightly.
- Serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar if desired. These are best eaten fresh from the oven the same day. Store any leftovers in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.
- The batter is delicate, so be careful not to overmix.
- A non-stick mold pan is best, but if you’re not using one, be sure to butter and flour each well thoroughly to avoid sticking.
- Be sure to use room temperature eggs to achieve maximum volume when beating.
⛄️ RASPBERRY TARTS FOR ANNE 🇨🇦
“Which would you rather be if you had the choice – divinely beautiful or dazzlingly clever or angelically good?”
Our poetical friend Anne Shirley is back! Fresh from the White Way of Delight and the Lake of Shining Waters, she danced into our kitchen with a basket of homegrown raspberries.
Dazzlingly clever Mr Cornelius thinks Anne is divinely beautiful. (We all agree she’s not angelically good, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.)
Anne couldn’t wait to tell us about her very favorite Christmas at Green Gables. Her beloved teacher Miss Stacy had come up with the brilliant idea of giving a concert to help raise money for a schoolhouse flag.
Anne and her fellow Avonlea scholars had been practicing choruses and recitations since November, and Diana would be singing a solo. Anne was excited about her two dialogues.
Unbeknownst to her, Matthew had something else on his mind. When he saw Anne and her school chums practicing “The Fairy Queen” in their sitting room one December evening, he noticed that while the other girls were gaily dressed in blues, pinks, reds, and whites, Anne was in a plain dark dress. This just wasn’t right and he needed to fix it.
He decided to get Anne a pretty new dress for Christmas – one of the latest fashion with big puffed sleeves. Easier said than done for shy Matthew, who was terrified of the clerk at Lawson’s Store. Unable to muster up the courage to ask about a dress, he ended up buying a garden rake and 20 pounds of brown sugar.
Since he couldn’t possibly tell Marilla about his plan (she’d never approve and would spoil the surprise anyway), he turned to Rachel Lynde, who agreed to sew Anne a dress.
On Christmas morning, they awoke to the hushed pristine beauty of newly fallen snow.
‘Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem real, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green — they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why — why — Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!
Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.
Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was — a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves — they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.
‘That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,’ said Matthew shyly. ‘Why — why– Anne, don’t you like it? Well now — well now.’
For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears.
‘Like it! Oh, Matthew!’ Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. ‘Matthew, it’s perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream.’
~ L.M. Montgomery (Chapter XXV, Anne of Green Gables, 1908).
But there was more. Diana came by with a gift for Anne from Aunt Josephine: a new pair of dainty kid slippers with beaded toes, satin bows, and glistening buckles. Just what she needed to go with her new dress!
The concert went off swimmingly, with Anne “the bright, particular star of the occasion.” Her puffed sleeves even helped her get over a bout of stage fright. She had to live up to them, after all.
Anne had a faraway, dreamy look on her face as she told us this story. Kindred spirits all, we sighed right along with her. What a Christmas that must have been!
Meanwhile, our Canadian chef Gosling had been busy whipping up some tarts with the raspberries Anne brought. He found the recipe in The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate Macdonald (L.M. Montgomery’s granddaughter). Anne was delighted, as these reminded her of the tarts she sometimes had at school.
Anne remembers when Diana once brought “three juicy, toothsome raspberry tarts” to share amongst ten girls. How many bites would each girl have?
The little girls of Avonlea School always pooled their lunches, and to eat three raspberry tarts all alone or even to share them only with one’s best chum would have forever and ever branded as ‘awful mean’ the girl who did it. And yet, when the tarts were divided among ten girls you just got enough to tantalize you.
~ L.M. Montgomery (Chapter XV, Anne of Green Gables, 1908)
We’re happy to share these with you now. How many bites will you get out of them?
Tantalizing Raspberry Tarts
- For the Crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice For the Filling:
- 1 (l0-oz) package frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed, or 2-1/3 cup fresh raspberries
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles tiny peas.
- Combine egg yolk, water, and lemon juice with a fork.
- Sprinkle egg yolk mixture over flour mixture and stir together with a fork until it forms a ball.
- Divide dough into 8-10 even pieces. Press each piece into the bottom and sides of tart tins (or muffin pan), to about 1/8 inch thickness. Refrigerate until ready to use. Filling:
- Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small saucepan until smooth. Stir in sugar and raspberries. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until thickened, about 6-8 minutes. Allow mixture to cool.
- Spoon filling evenly into tart shells, filling each no more than 2/3 full.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.
- Remove from oven and cool, in tins, for 15 minutes. Gently remove from tins to cooling racks and cool completely.
🎄 ELOISE’S RAWTHER CRINKLY PEPPERMINT WHITE CHOCOLATE COOKIES 🐢
Ho Ho Ho and jiggledy ping – Eloise is in the building!
Here’s what she brought
a big voice
Here’s what might happen
After skibbling and skiddling and positively sklathing around the kitchen, she settled down just long enough to tell us what she and Nanny do every Christmas Eve at the Plaza.
Even when it’s four below and blizzard-y outside, they’re warm and cozy in their suite on the tippy top floor.
There’s SO much to be done! On with her jingle bells and mistletoe halo, then she’s off to zoom around the entire building to spread Christmas cheer. Holly and berries in all the halls, tassels on the thermostats. Must also write ‘Merry Christmas’ on all the walls for lord’s sake! 😮
Fa la la la fa la la lolly ting tingledy here and there. Blow music of trinkles and drinkles of glass it’s Christmas everywhere
They trim their own tree, set out cookies and fruities and American beauties – oh do, oh do, oh do!
Oh candy the apples Oh shell the nuts Oh crackledy crack yum yum Trink trinkle around the taffy box Oh yum gulp gulp and yum Weenie usually helps me But this year he will not budge unless he has two of peppermint puffs and one and a half of fudge I usually have two of peppermint puffs and three or four of fudge Skipperdee dislikes peppermint puffs and won't even smell the fudge
Then presents for everyone —
I am giving the bellboys earmuffs The waiters baseball socks Thomas is getting a vest with a bib Room service a music box
(If anyone remembers the porter needs suspenders.)
There are stockings to be hung and songs to be sung!
I'm rawther fond of caroling Fa la on every floor Fa la la la to catering Fa la from door to door We sang Noel for 506 Silent Night for 507 We didn't sing for 509 at the request of 511
Eloise tries to think of a way to stay up hawlf the night, but they’re tired tired tired. Nanny thinks it best to sleep sleep sleep so they can carry on the next day.
Then some of us sort of closed some of our eyes to have this Christmas dream of some steaming hot plum pudding with extra cream cream cream Of reindeers with sunglasses on ice-skating on the stars with mittens on their antlers and mufflers made in Mars
When they awake Santa has come and gone (they could see “reindeers zimbering through the trees in Central Park”).
But now it’s Christmas!! They sklinkle off to the tree to open all their presents.
Then oh oh oh absolutely oh oh Oh wrinkles and sklinkles of glee Oh look oh look oh will you look at the presents under the tree
Finally, it’s time for Christmas breakfast on Christmas trays.
“Hello, Room Service? Charge it to me, ELOISE!”
Jingle here, jingle there jingle Christmas everywhere
Ooooooooooooooooooooo! Eloise absolutely loves Christmas!!
Cornelius, his head still spinning from Eloise’s story, asks if she’s ready for her treat.
“Of course of course of course!”
Well, since Eloise did bring along a boatload of peppermints – in the form of puffs and candy canes, the logical thing to do was to make some Peppermint and White Chocolate Cookies. 🙂
Chef Bearjolais whipped up a batch in no time, and quick as a wink, Eloise gobbled up five in a row.
She liked the cookies so much that she invited us all to have tea with her at the Plaza’s Palm Court on Christmas Eve. Rawther splendid!
Here’s what we like
watching you sip and chew
Here’s what you should do
sip and chew
Rawther Crinkly Peppermint White Chocolate Cookies
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- a pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (optional)
- 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup crushed candy canes + more for dipping
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg, vanilla and peppermint oil.
- Add the flour mixture gradually until it is incorporated.
- Stir in the white chocolate chips and crushed candy canes.
- Form the cookie dough into balls (you can use a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop or roll the balls by hand). Dip each ball into a bowl of crushed candy canes, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Chill cookie balls on baking sheet for about 5-10 minutes in the fridge.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned and the middle is a little soft.
- Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet before removing to avoid breakage.
🎁 HAPPY HOLIDAYS! 🎅
Wow, are you on a sugar high after feasting on Madeleines, Raspberry Tarts and Peppermint White Chocolate Cookies? *bouncing off walls*
Hope you enjoyed taking tea with these charming girls. Rereading their stories always puts me in a festive mood.
Who do you think you’re most like – Madeline, Anne Shirley or Eloise? I identify most closely with Anne because she loves literature, cultivates her imagination, and cherishes her friends. I wish I was as fearless as Madeline and as exuberant as Eloise. Though precocious and melodramatic, Eloise is generous and has her tender, endearing moments. We do love reading about someone who does things we dare not do. 🙂
Perhaps these characters endure because there’s a bit of each of them in all of us. One thing is certain: they inspire us to keep our hearts open, believe in magic, make time for play, be our best selves and to have fun while doing it.
Here’s what I like
everybody’s a kid at Christmas
Have a very merry, absolutely scrumptious, ting tingledy, crackledy crack holiday and a very happy and healthy new year! See you in January!!
The shockingly clever coffee connoisseur Karen Edmisten is hosting the Roundup this week. She’s sharing a beautiful, must-read poem about kindness by Michael Blumenthal. Check it out in addition to the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere. Enjoy!
🎄 O Tidings of Comfort and Joy! ⛄️
*Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.