I was perusing Wikipedia's listing of various cake types and was troubled - troubled! - by the sheer number of cakes I either hadn't made or haven't heard of. But given my ongoing fixation with baking green things, one recipe stood out above all others: the mysterious pandan chiffon cake.
Pandan, a variety of screwpine, is a plant used extensively in South-east Asian cooking. Its bright green extract pairs particularly well with coconut in sweet dishes such as rice puddings. It has a wonderful earthy perfume (not unlike that of jasmine, thank you Wikipedia), as I found out when I bought a tiny bottle of it in a local Asian supermarket. Sadly, most bought extracts use artificial green dye - a real plant would yield an equally deep colour.
Back to the recipe. There was only one problem: I'm not a huge fan of chiffon cake. It's a gravity-defying feat in itself but tastes a bit boring and eggy and inevitably needs one form of garnish or another, such as whipped cream or fruit, to serve. I did make one but most of it ended up harshly tossed in the bin. Instead, I decided to put my recently acquired madeleine pan to use and made coconut pandan madelines.
There's a catch with these beauties: obviously they're best when freshly baked but at that stage their coconut-y, pandan-y flavour isn't especially pronounced. On the other hand, if you let them sit and go stale for a few days (as Proust would like) then the flavours start to creep through. Not to mention they just beg to be dipped in some jasmine tea...
adapted roughly from Dorie Greenspan's "Paris Sweets"
- 70g plain flour
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 115g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 Tbsp coconut milk (I used the thick fatty bit you get at the top of a can of full fat coconut milk)
- 1 Tbsp pandan essence
1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Sift together the flour and baking powder.
2. Mix the eggs and the sugar together at medium speed until pale and forming a ribbon when dropped from the beaters, about 3-4 minutes.
3.Whisk in the vanilla, coconut milk and pandan essence
4. Very lightly fold in the flour mixture.
5. Leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or overnight
6. Preheat the oven to 200 deg C. Grease and flour your madeleine pan. Drop a tablespoon of batter into each mould and bake for 12 or so minutes until just golden. Try not to get too sentimental when devouring these, lest you'll end up writing an unreadable novel.