Madeleines

26 Dec

The origin of the madeleine, the shell-shaped sponge cake eaten as a cookie, is disputed, although most food scholars believe it originated in the Lorraine city of Commercy. It traveled first to the court of Louis XV at Versailles and then on to Paris, gaining converts at each stop. Today, the pâtissiers of Commercy are still considered Frances premier makers of madeleines, and boxes of madeleines de Commercy are sold throughout the country. You will need a madeleine pan, made of tinned steel and with a dozen molds, to bake these little cakes.

These little sponge cakes, immortalized by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past, are at their most memorable when eaten as Proust himself liked them, fresh from the oven, still warm and a little crisp on the outside. As madeleines tend to dry out quickly, home-baked ones are best.

If you use a black nonstick madeleine pan, decrease the oven temperature by 25°F or shorten the baking time by a few minutes.

Madeleines

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. orange flower water
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) softened unsalted butter
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions:

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F. Generously butter the molds of a 12-place madeleine pan.

Sift together the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the egg, granulated sugar and orange flower water on medium speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has quadrupled in volume and is very thick, about 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the flour mixture and then the butter. Spoon the batter into the prepared molds, filling each one about three-fourths full.

Bake until the madeleines are light brown around the edges and on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the madeleines from the pan to a wire rack. Using a sifter or fine-mesh sieve, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm.

Makes 12 madeleines.
Adapted from Celebrating the Pleasures of Cooking, by Chuck Williams (Time-Life Books, 1997).

Feel free to sub in oranges for lemon, honey for sugar, add some earl grey or matcha powder. Coat in icing, dust with powdered sugar, sprinkle with granulated sugar or leave as is.

***

Lemon Madeleines

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Using a pastry brush, heavily brush softened butter over each of the 12 molds in a madeleine pan, carefully buttering every ridge. Dust the molds with flour, tilting the pan to coat the surfaces evenly. Turn the pan upside down and tap it gently to dislodge the excess flour.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar and salt. Using a wire whisk or a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat vigorously until pale, thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Sprinkle the sifted flour over the egg mixture and stir or beat on low speed to incorporate.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the lemon zest and half of the melted butter just until blended. Fold in the remaining melted butter.

Divide the batter among the prepared molds, using a heaping tablespoon of batter for each mold. Bake the madeleines until the tops spring back when lightly touched, 8 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and invert it over a wire rack, then rap it on the rack to release the madeleines. If any should stick, use your fingers to loosen the edges, being careful not to touch the hot pan, and invert and rap again.

Let the madeleines cool on the rack for 10 minutes. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the tops with confectioners sugar and serve. Makes 12.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Paris, by Marlena Spieler (Oxmoor House, 2004).
***

Honey Madeleines

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for brushing
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the 6 Tbs. (3⁄4 stick) butter until it starts to brown and gives off a nutty aroma, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small heatproof bowl and let cool.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high speed until pale yellow and thick, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and honey and beat until thick, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, then the lemon zest, vanilla and melted butter and beat until well blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 375ºF. Butter and flour a 9-well silicone madeleine mold and place on a baking sheet.

Whisk the batter briefly. Fill each prepared well three-fourths full of batter. Bake until the madeleines are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Immediately invert the mold onto a wire rack and remove the madeleines, using a toothpick to gently loosen them, if needed. Let the mold and the baking sheet cool completely, then repeat with more butter, flour and the remaining batter.

Makes about 24 madeleines.
Hubert Keller, Chef/Owner, Fleur de Lys Restaurant, San Francisco
***

Rosemary & Parmesan Madeleines

As this recipe demonstrates, the feather-light French cakes known as madeleines can be savory as well as sweet. After baking, they’re sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fleur de sel, one of the most prized sea salts in the world. This grayish-ivory salt from Brittany, France, highlights the natural flavors of foods and adds a pleasing crunch.

Ingredients:

  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling*
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Directions:

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

Brush the molds of two 12-well madeleine pans with 2 Tbs. of the butter and dust with all-purpose flour; tap out the excess.

Sift the cake flour into a bowl and gently stir in the rosemary, the 1 tsp. fleur de sel and the pepper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high speed until yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the cream of tartar and sugar and beat until the mixture drops from the whisk in ribbons, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture and the 1 cup cheese, then fold in the remaining 6 Tbs. butter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared molds so the batter is even with the rims. Bake until the madeleines spring back when pressed lightly, about 12 minutes. Immediately remove them from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel and cheese and serve. Makes 18 madeleines.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

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One Response to “Madeleines”

  1. Perfecting Motherhood February 1, 2011 at 5:08 PM #

    You should try this super easy, delicious, authentic French madeleine recipe:
    http://buyproductsfromfrance.com/2011/01/19/authentic-french-madeleines-recipe-recette/

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