Mixed Review

We bake from the box.

Mixed Review: Barefoot Contessa Coconut Madeleines

Ever wonder about a mix you've seen in the store? Is it any good? Could it replace something you'd otherwise make from scratch? Welcome to Mixed Review, where the whole point is putting mixes to the test! —The Mgmt.

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[Photo: Lucy Baker]

Lately it seems like every time I stop by a specialty food store, Ina Garten has debuted a new baking mix based on one of her popular recipes. In fact, according to her website, she now has more than twenty breakfast and dessert mixes. At this rate, she's poised to take on King Arthur Four and Betty Crocker. This week I tried out her new coconut madeleines. Dainty and delicate, they seemed perfect for spring.

At $7, the coconut madeleine mix is one of the cheapest in Ina's line. (Of course, that's assuming you already have a madeleine pan.) The box contains two pouches: one filled with madeleine mix and one filled with a scant amount of plain ol' confectioners' sugar.

20110515-151667-coconut-madeleines-4.jpgWhile by no means difficult, the instructions for preparing the madeleines were very precise. First, I beat three eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Next I added 1/4 cup of the mix, which was generously flecked with sweetened dried coconut, and beat it for exactly three minutes. Finally, I beat in one stick of melted butter alternately with the remaining mix. Like I said: not hard, but not exactly dump-and-stir either.

I spooned the batter into a greased and floured madeleine pan and baked them for exactly 12 minutes. When they were done I had to admit they looked absolutely perfect: fat and golden-brown, with one perfectly smooth, scalloped side: a cake and a seashell in one. All they needed was a quick dusting of confectioners' sugar.

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The best aspect of these madeleines was their consistency. They were thick and cakey, yet they still had a delicate crumb. Along with a cup of coffee or a mug of tea, two would make a very satisfying snack. Another thing I liked was their pure, homemade flavor. These madelienes didn't taste the least bit artificial. (I brought them into work, said I made them myself, and no one was the wiser.) But I did find the coconut flavor to be a little bit lacking. It came through as more of a hint or an afterthought, and I would have preferred a bolder tropical coconut taste. Also, be forewarned that (like all madeleines) these are best the day they are made because they dry out quickly.

If you are a fan of Ina Garten, and you already have a madeleine pan in your cabinet, I would recommend giving this mix a whirl. The madeleines are light, elegant, and taste just like homemade versions. Best of all, they are something a little bit different than the same old brownies and cupcakes.

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