Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Underdog Stories

Madeleines with powdered sugar
It’s a lifelong habit of mine to root for the underdog. No matter what the situation, I’ll always empathize with the little guy. Maybe it has something to with being short myself, or maybe I just want a happy, All-American ending to the stories I witness.

This week, I have two stories with happy endings:

First, a quick hockey headline, in case you hadn't heard: YALE BULLDOGS WIN NCAA NATIONAL HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP!!! 

(Not a hockey fan? Neither was I, until recently.) 

This win is an enormous accomplishment for a team that was ranked as the 15th seed in a 16-seed tournament. No one but the slightly delusional yet deeply committed Yale fans had any hope that we’d come home with a trophy. Personally, I think it was my family’s presence in Pittsburgh that tipped the scales, but the boys on the team might ascribe their win to something else – sheer heart.  Either way, it was a fabulous event to witness first hand, and I’m thrilled that we got the chance to go. When Disney comes calling, this story will be ripe for the next made-for-TV special, entitled “The Dogs Have Their Day.”

And for my second tale, I have a story about my most cherished underdog, the MOTH, and his mother, Madeleine. Yes folks, this is obliquely related to the TWD assignment of the week. As I whipped up the eggs for the madeleine cookie recipe, praying that they would ultimately rise to great heights, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share a little family lore.

Back when the MOTH-to-be was a junior in high school, working on applications for college, he made a deal with his mother: If the MOTH got into Yale, mom (Madeleine) would buy him a car. The prospect of the MOTH being accepted to an Ivy League school seemed outrageous – no one could deny his intelligence, but his grades and extracurricular activities were less than stellar, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, the MOTH insisted that the deal should be put into writing and stored in a safe place.

As expected, the MOTH didn’t get accepted to Yale for undergraduate school. But somehow, through sheer force of will, the MOTH eventually learned how to study, and earned himself a reasonable degree at a state university. This accomplishment, along with some work experience, gained him entry into a wacky little graduate program at New York University. From there, it was only a small leap to being accepted at the illustrious Yale University for a Master’s in Business Administration. (Okay, so it was a few years of employment, a couple of long-distance moves, then a few years of unemployment and 6 months of wait-listing hell – but the point is, he finally got in!) Approximately eight years after he first began his quest, the underdog had won!

When that acceptance letter arrived in the mail, the MOTH hurried to unearth the agreement that he and his mother had signed all those years before. Upon receipt, Madeleine was true to her word. She bought a car for her son. Unfortunately for him, the car measured about four inches by two inches, and it was produced by the Matchbox company. She claimed the previously signed agreement had expired long ago, citing something about a statue of limitations. But I digress.

The point here is that both these stories have to do with underdogs rising to the top despite all the odds. I’m proud of my husband for all he’s accomplished with his education, and proud of our Yale hockey boys. They’ve all proven that, with a little luck and a lot of perseverance, smart kids can achieve their dreams.

Now about those cookies: I’m not a huge fan of the spongy texture, but I’m happy to report that despite potentially massacring the egg-folding process (let’s just say I’m glad there were no witnesses), they turned out okay. See the photos above and below for details. 

If I make them again, I will add a flavored extract or a quick dunk in chocolate, as other TWD'ers have suggested. This should improve their grades considerably. Then they could be real contenders!

For the recipe, visit Katie and Amy of Counter Dog and be sure to check out the other TWD'ers blogs about madeleine’s here.

Never got to the "airy, pale and tripled in volume" stage, but this seemed close.

Folding in the butter. I think I need professional help.

Overfilled the pans! Don't do this at home.

Sad attempt to make ladyfingers with leftover batter -- without a pastry bag. Take it from me: not all ziploc bags are made the same. And this really can't be done without a tip. Eventually I gave up and scooped the batter into the pan again.
Little Mexican-hat-peaks means I didn't totally deflate my eggs while folding. Win!


  1. What a cute story! And great peaks, Tammy!

  2. Great stories! And lovely, hump-y madeleines.

  3. Great post and lovely madeleines!!

  4. Cute story - I love it. Your mads look fine to me. Go Yale Bulldogs.

  5. Loved the story! Thanks for sharing and your little cookie cakes look great! Blessings, Catherine www.praycookblog.com

  6. Hooray for underdogs! I enjoyed reading your story and feel the same way you do about these madeleines. They turned out beautifully.

  7. I remember how proud I was last year when Union made it to the Frozen Four. I was thinking of you when I saw Yale take out Quinnipiac this weekend. How awesome to have an ECAC play-off at the end of the Frozen Four. Yay for hockey!

    Glad to hear you survived your Madeleines (P.S. I totally recommend using a different recipe - Dorie has a good one in her book Baking - which she has also posted on her website).

    1. Thanks for the tip re: the other recipe. I was unimpressed with this one.

      And just so you know, my husband noted several times that Union had a great team this year. With slightly different luck, they would have been in Pittsburgh too. After all, they kicked our rear ends during regular season play! See you on the ice...

  8. I loved your story, underdogs coming out on top is always a favorite, and you wrote this so well.

    The Madeleine's look fabulous and I would love to taste one (or more), Mother's Day???
    And, will I never hear the end of the "promised" car story?!!!

  9. Lovely story. Yay for the underdog! And your madeleines achieved the signature hump - mine did not.


If you're having trouble leaving a comment, send me an email at tammyjkleinman [at] gmail.com to let me know.