Thursday, March 24, 2022

Coconut Madeleines inspired by Champagne Widows #WomenHistoryMonth

I am happy to be celebrating Women History Month with you.  Many of my blog posts have focused on women in food, in wine, in books and in films.  Today I am again honoring the women of history.  I am making a recipe that was written by Ina Garten, a well known female chef, in what was once a male dominated field.

Coconut Madeleines

I was inspired to make these delicious little cake/cookies after reading an historical fiction novel written by a female author, Rebecca Rosenberg, featuring the Women of Champagne who kept the wine flowing during the reign of Napoleon.

I received a free e copy of this novel in celebration of an event hosted by Gwendolyn of Wine Predator for our French Winophiles group.  She arranged with author, Rebecca Rosenberg, to provide those of us who wished, copies of this novel as we were celebrating France's Women in Wine.  There was no requirement to post about this novel but I so enjoyed it that I wanted to share it with my readers.

Champagne Widows

This novel follows the life of Barbe-Nicole during the reign of Napoleon and the Coalition Wars until the battle of Paris, from 1792 until 1814.  I knew very little of Napoleon or the history surrounding his tyrrany.  I guess that is because the Americas were so new and our country was not really involved in these travesties. 

Barb-Nicole was blessed with Le Nez, the gift of a very sensitive sense of smell that was passed down to her from her grandfather who was a winemaker.  Le Nez is very important when making wines.  Barb-Nicole was very close to her grandmother who shared this information to her much to her daughter's (Barb-Nicole's mother) distress as she wanted only for Barb-Nicole to get married to a rich man and live in luxury. 

This novel centers around Barb-Nicole and all the women of France who were left to tend the vineyards and their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons were conscripted into Napoleon's army and slaughtered by the thousands.

A couple of  passages caught my eye in regards to wine making which is very interesting to me.  One of my favorites was this passage that talks about all the differences in opinion on what makes a good wine.

"Veuve Demers told us it was the terroir: the soil, topography, and the weather in which the grapes are cultivated.  Fourneaux said it was the timing of the harvest.  Renee, the widow who took over her husband's presser job when he died at war, said pressing the grapes with a light hand was the key to capturing the taste.  Jacob said it was the temperature of the caves.

Great wine is a mystical alchemy of all those factors.  But the final responsibility lies with the winemaker to blend various years grape varietals, and terroir to create the ultimate wine."
I think the Armenier sisters, who I featured in my Winophiles article this month, have handled this responsibility very well.

The protagonist in this story, Barbe-Nicole, was not content to be a "typical" french woman during her life.  She did not believe that she was any less able to be successful in winemaking than a male and, in fact, knew that she was much better equipped than many others, male and female, because she was Le Nez.  

She was at odds with her mother on many things starting with the fact that she loved her sweets and didn't care that she was not lean and lithe.  This was my inspiration for making this iconic French treat.

Desserts, Cakes, Cookies, French, Coconut
Yield: 24 servings
Author: A Day in the Life on the Farm
Coconut Madeleines

Coconut Madeleines

Tender little cookie sized cakes that are perfect with afternoon tea or as a light dessert.
Prep time: 5 MinCook time: 12 MinTotal time: 17 Min


  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 c. sweetened shredded coconut


  1. Place eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light yellow in color.
  2. Add the butter and mix to combine, remove bowl from mixer. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt together and add to the batter, mixing with a rubber spatula until combined. Stir in the coconut.
  3. Divide the batter between 2 (12 count) madeleine pans that have been liberally treated with baking spray.
  4. Bake in a preheated 375* oven for 10-12 minutes, until the cakes spring back when lightly touched.
  5. Turn onto a piece of parchment to cool.


Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris Cookbook

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