Corpus Christi, also known as Corpus Domini, is a Christian festival honoring the body and blood of Christ and its presence in the Holy Eucharist. We have Juliana of Liège, a 13th century Belgian canoness, to thank for its institution: Juliana was part of a group of women who dedicated themselves to Eucharist worship and she always longed for a feast in its honor. Her persistence paid off in 1246 when her wish was granted by a high ranking Bishop who ordered a celebration of Corpus Christi to be held each year on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.
Since then, Corpus Christi is celebrated by Catholics around the world by receiving Communion and taking part in a procession around the parish. In some parts of Europe, the processions can be quite elaborate. Throughout Italy, the tradition of making carpets of flowers is carried out in dazzling fashion at Infiorata festivals in late spring. The crowning moment is always when the Corpus Domini procession passes down the center of the gorgeous flower carpet. In Catalonia, Corpus Christi brings the famous spectacle of the “dancing egg,” a hollowed egg placed over a fountain, which then appears to turn and dance in the stream of water.
The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated in many parts of Spain with outdoor processions featuring saints and Bible characters. Altars are lavishly decorated with spring flowers and traditional galletas de miel (small honey cakes) are eaten. We’ve tweaked this tradition by making honey madeleines, delicious confections that split the difference between cake and cookie in the best possible way. On the side of a scoop of homemade honey-lavender ice cream, they are the perfect sweet treat to usher summer in.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for molds
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
⅓ cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest (from ½ medium lemon, preferably organic)
Special equipment: a madeleine pan, either metal or silicone (if using silicone, no need to butter and flour; do place on a baking sheet)
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat eggs and sugar until thick, about 4 minutes. Add honey, vanilla, and lemon zest, and beat 1 minute longer. Gently but thoroughly fold in the dry ingredients, then fold in melted butter. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of batter and chill at least three hours and up to one day.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Butter and flour madeleine molds thoroughly, tapping out excess flour. Drop 1 scant tablespoon batter into each mold. For classic mounded shape, you can chill batter in molds for ½ hour.
Bake madeleines until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 11 minutes. Sharply tap pan on a counter to loosen madeleines, then turn out onto rack. If you have more batter, wait until molds are cool, then wipe them clean, butter and flour and repeat. Serve cookies warm or at room temperature.
Makes about 18 madeleines
Honey-Lavender Ice Cream
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Homemade ice cream is one of the world’s great secrets. The hardest part by far for us is finding room in our freezers to store the bowl! You don’t need a fancy countertop appliance, just a self freezing one; our favorite is the ice cream attachment for the Kitchen Aid mixer. Some homemade ice creams are eggless, and some have no cream, but all are delicious, and offer you the chance to make flavors that you can’t find at the supermarket, with simple and wholesome ingredients. This richly flavored, silky ice cream is made from a traditional custard, and the lavender adds a gently herbal note. It’s so easy–what are you waiting for?
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
½ cup mild honey
2 tbsp dried edible lavender flowers (you can find these at baking stores, in the spice section of Whole Foods or online)
2 large eggs at room temperature
⅛ teaspoon salt
Special equipment: a candy or instant-read thermometer and an ice cream maker
Bring cream, milk, honey and lavender just to the boil in a medium saucepan. Allow to steep off the heat for ½ hour to an hour. Strain through a sieve, wipe pan clean, and reheat mixture over medium-low heat, not allowing it to boil.
While milk mixture is reheating, whisk eggs and salt in a large heat-proof bowl. When mixture is hot, pour one cup of it into eggs in a slow stream, whisking constantly to temper eggs. Whisk eggs and cream mixture back into saucepan, taking care to whisk until fully combined. Whisk or stir constantly over low heat until mixture reaches 170-175°F and begins to thicken, coating the back of a wooden spoon, about five minutes.
Pour mixture through a sieve and allow to cool completely before refrigerating at least 3 hours or overnight for best results. Prepare according to directions of ice-cream maker (in our Kitchen-Aid ice cream attachment, it took about 20-25 minutes of churning). Transfer into airtight containers and freeze.
Makes 2 pints