Stuck in the House with a Bunch of Pistachios: Nut Brittle and Madeleines

Today I had to stick around the house for most of the day while we had some work done on our chimney. The first to-do item I wanted to tackle was making a little thank-you gift for our next door neighbors, who looked after our house while we were on vacation last week. I thought about making some caramels, but there was no cream in the house (we got back in town late last night and I didn't have a chance to go to the grocery store yet). I started thinking about other ideas for gift-y items and considered making peanut brittle, but I couldn't find any peanuts in the house, either. After I found a pound and a half of pistachios, I decided to make some pistachio brittle instead.

This recipe is easy, so long as you have a candy thermometer. The brittle does set up really quickly, so you have to work fast to spread it out on the pan before it sets. This stuff is quite tasty, very attractive, and does in fact make a great gift.

I also decided that it was a good day to try a recipe for pistachio madeleines that I've been holding onto for years. The recipe is adapted from the Keswick Hall Hotel in Charlottesville, VA, and I spotted it when it was featured in the Los Angeles Times Culinary SOS column in 1999, and again a few months ago when the column ran the recipe a second time. Previously, I only had silicone madeleine pans, which I didn't particularly like (I have a bunch of silicone making pans, most of which I never use because I find them extremely difficult to clean). I recently received some nonstick metal madeleine pans as wedding gifts (thanks Katherine, Chris, and Yee!), and I was eager to try them out.

Today was an especially good time for me to try out this recipe, because the first step of making and chilling the clarified butter requires a few hours. I usually don't have that much time to make anything on a weekday after work. But being stuck at home for almost the entire day, I had lots of time to make my own clarified butter and refrigerate it until it was firm.

I used a cookie scoop to drop rounded balls of batter into the greased madeleine molds, and the batter spread nicely to fill out the molds and bake into the distinctive shell shapes. I was happy with the way these turned out; they had a nice golden crust on them and they were light, moist, and had a nice pistachio crunch. Plus, I love the dainty appearance of madeleines. I hope these are only the first of many different delicious types of madeleines I bake with my new pans!