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Madeleines make pretty cookies for Christmas

Madeleines are one of the most popular cookies, or little cakes, in France. In order to make them, you need to buy a special shell-shaped tin, which can be purchased in a housewares or cookware shop.

It is good to have two tins, because the batter should be used all at once and not allowed to sit while some cookies are baking.

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The flavoring can be changed according to your preference and taste - perhaps adding a teaspoon of vanilla, or substituting grated orange rind for the lemon rind.

The pretty shape of this cookie makes it especially nice to make at Christmas. This recipe comes from ''The International Cookie Jar Cookbook'' by Anita Borghese (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. $2.95). Madeleines 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup sugar 1 cup cake flour Pinch of salt 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind 2 or 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour madeleine tin. Grate lemon rind on a piece of wax paper. Put butter in saucepan and set over low flame until melted. Remove from stove and set aside to cool.

Sift cake flour onto piece of wax paper. Measure and place in mixing bowl. Add sugar, salt, and lemon rind, then mix together. Add eggs and mix well. Add melted butter and mix well.

Spoon dough into madeleine tin until it's just a little more than half full. Bake 15 or 20 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Remove tin from oven and remove madeleines from tin. Cool on wire rack. Sift confectioners' sugar over madeleines. Makes about 18.

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