I always loved Valentine's Day in lower school. I would trot home, backpack brimming with little mini postcards bedazzled in amorous mugshots of Pepe Le Pew, or the heart-shaped curve of the neck of My Little Pony. The bottom of my bag would be a morass of red glitter, ripped paper doilies, and crushed SweetHearts, imperially commanding to "Kiss Me." But even though it's nice to know that everybody loves you (after all, didn't the teacher insist that everyone give everyone valentines?), it's still so much better to know that you pair off perfectly with just one person.
I was just six years old when I went to my little mailbox in the classroom to pick up my graded short story. As I lifted out the little dental floss-stitched volume, down floated a note, torn from the corner of a sheet of lined paper. I don't remember what it said, but I remember that it was signed by a boy's name. Luke. And the Rs in my name were backward.
My wide eyes opened wider. My palms started to sweat. And my heart started to beat in a dangerous way that was even more thrilling that a SweetHeart sugar high. Instead of dumping my favorite valentine in with Pepe Le Pew and the ponies, I carefully folded it, and tucked it neatly into the pocket of my uniform. Because all of a sudden, I wasn't everyone's valentine. I was just his. And sometimes, less is more.
When cooking for Valentine's Day, I like to think of perfect pairs, things that are great alone, but so much better together. That's how my mom described true love to me later that day when I got home and showed her my funny little valentine, and I still hold my relationships up to that standard. Is he the peanut butter to my jelly? Are we better together than we could ever be apart? That's another column altogether, but for this one, here's a breakfast-in-bed suggestion: peanut butter and jelly madeleines--little shell-shaped French muffin-cakes flavored with peanut butter, and stuffed with strawberry jam. The perfect culinary couple.
PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY MADELEINES
7 ounces unsalted butter
6 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
¼ cup whole milk
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup strawberry preserves
Butter and flour for the molds
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a small saucepot, melt the butter and peanut butter. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and sugar to combine. Whisk in cooled butter and peanut butter mixture.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into the wet mixture. Whisk gently just to combine. Allow to sit on the counter for 10 minutes.
Butter and flour 2 12-cup madeleine molds. Divide the batter between the 24 cups. Bake until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on a rack. Use a 6-mm pastry tip and pastry bag to inject the strawberry jam into the very center of each madeleine.