This weekend I took a friend from the states back to the airport to bid our farewells. I fought back tears as she disappeared beyond security before I turned to face the chilling rain that has settled over Paris. It had been almost a year since we’d last connected yet everything seemed to pick up right where we’d left off, only this time it was espresso instead of coffee, and fresh croissants instead of scones. After a week of belly-aching laughter and heart-to-hearts, neither of us were very eager to say goodbye.
While she was here I shared with her many of my favorite places and things to do in Paris and she confirmed that French life is rubbing off on me more than I had realized. I won’t ever know what it’s like to “feel French” but I do feel somehow less American – a hodgepodge of influences bundled up into what has become me. But no matter how long I am away from my original country, there is a familiar craving that accompanies the golden leaves and dark grey skies which reminds me I’ll always be an American at heart, if not by stomach. While I may refuse to walk around Paris with a paper cup of coffee, I will always love just about everything pumpkin from late September to December.
Pumpkin was one of the first traditionally American flavors I began to miss while adjusting to France (right after potato and eggs for breakfast). It quickly became as valuable as gold and if any of the other students studying abroad received some from home, it was closely guarded, rarely shared and highly coveted. The craving has only slightly lessened as I prepare for my fourth Thanksgiving away from the States, though it is unclear if this is because I’ve been away for so long or because I have a “Y2K-ready” stash of pumpkin purée under lock and key (don’t even think about crossing me!).
With my friend on her way, I wanted to make her a special treat – something a little Frenchie to welcome her to Paris. It was also when, like today, Paris was damp with rain not to mention that irksome chill that sets into your bones (scarves, mittens and hats have come out of hiding). And this time of year there is only one thing that can make this type of weather seem like the best day on earth – and that’s pumpkin. So I set out creating my own recipe for Pumpkin Spiced Madeleines (shockingly there isn’t much online). What a happy marriage between my Frenchness and my Americanness! The Madeleines came out so delicious that I decided to share my Pumpkin Spiced Madeleine recipe as well as how to adapt it to make Cinnamon Madeleines with Maple Glaze. And just so we’re clear – I’m no professional chef and I’m still going to play with the recipe before I’m 100% happy with it. But the results were still delicious and I think you’ll enjoy!
Funny I had all of the rarest ingredients but no powdered sugar (sucre glace) which is not uncommon in France – just uncommon enough that three Monoprix and a few Franprix didn’t have any. The caramel glaze pictured here is made with sugar that is melted down in boiling water with pumpkin spice for the Pumpkin Spiced Madeleines and maple syrup (with less sugar unless using maple extract) for the Cinnamon Madeleines – though for the recipe card I added the recipe for a spiced powdered sugar glaze. To make the Cinnamon Madeleines, do not include the pumpkin purée and substitute the Pumpkin Spice with cinnamon. You’ll also notice many recipes with Baking Powder which I have omitted. In my opinion it’s not necessary. After all I’m sure the French did fine without when they came up with Madeleines purportedly in the 18th century.
Where to find pumpkin in Paris
If in Paris, you can find the maple syrup, sucre glace and even pumpkin purée at the cheapest prices I’ve found in Paris at G. Detou on Rue Tiquetonne. If not, check La Grande Epicerie de Paris. Picard also sells frozen pumpkin purée however when I used it to make pumpkin muffins they turned out incredibly heavy and moist. For the Madeleine pans, I recommend E. Dehillerin on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau.