Traditional madeleines are made up of classic ingredients: butter, flour, sugar, eggs. And while quite simple in this respect, there is still some technique necessary to craft the perfect little cake with a crisp shell and a billowy soft inside. Oh, and that distinctive bump!
We moved to London, Ontario last week, leaving Ottawa after more than 10 years. Moving can be tough. We left a lot of lovely friends behind. But you know what I will not miss? Ottawa winters. Winters that set records for the most days in a row below -27ºC. Leaving Ottawa has drastically reduced my chances of meeting my end, frostbitten in a snowbank. Feels pretty good.
Moving brings new experiences! It's exciting! It can also be stressful. And where can a baker find comfort in the unknown? In the kitchen. In my fab new kitchen at that, equipped with a *convection* oven and a built-in dishwasher. This is the nicest kitchen I've ever had. Ironically the cats are more skeptical of the quiet hum of this dishwasher than the previous roll-up, which made a dump truck in your living room sound quiet.
And so, madeleines. A beautiful little cake, cookie-like in size and totally delicious. Sort of like Lays potato chips (and just as sophisticated), I bet you can't eat just one.
Madeleines can be dressed up, flavoured, dipped, and adorned with all sorts of creams, glazes, and ganaches. Like many baked goods, there are limitless possibilities. But it is important to start with a good base and to know what a madeleine should look like in its true form. I love the simplicity of the light lemon flavour and dusted icing sugar.
Traditional madeleines have either ground almonds or a bit of lemon zest, and the butter is typically browned before being incorporated into the batter to enhance the flavour.
Madeleines take no time at all to whip up. It's easy, right? If however you want the perfect madeleine, that signature camel hump, you have to do a few extra things.
- Let the batter rest in the fridge, preferably overnight (*communal groan*). I know, I know. When I get in the kitchen and start baking, I expect to wait between 1-3 hours MAX for a baked good I can eat. Look on the bright side: think of how many batches of cookies you could make while your batter chills.
- You really have to whip the eggs for a while, until they are a pale yellow, almost white. Using a stand mixer for this will make your life easier, if you have one.
- You have to chill the molds in the freezer until you're ready for them. The key to madeleines is temperature shock: refrigerating the batter and the molds is what makes for the signature bump and the even browning of the outer shells.
There are many, many types of madeleines molds: nonstick, silicone, tinned steel, mini shells, large shells... I have two nonstick (in the photos) and one larger tinned steel. They all work really well. No matter the mold, I butter and flour each shell and freeze the pan before using them.
Regular bake versus convection bake. Legend has it that convection ovens are always ideal. The results for madeleines are just... different. Bake the madeleines at 350ºF for 7-8 minutes on convection heat and you will get delicately browned madeleines, paler than their regularly baked counterparts. With regular bake, you have to watch the madeleines more closely as they will darken a lot faster. I do prefer the regular bake for this recipe because the more intense browning also creates a lovely, crispier shell.
Adapted from Piroulie’s Lenôtre recipe
Total active time: 30 minutes
Total time before mass consumption: 1-3 hours
Servings: 24 madeleines
130g granulated sugar
145g all-purpose flour
125g salted butter, room temperature
5g baking powder
zest of half a lemon
pinch of salt
Tools & equipment
stand mixer (optional)
Prepare your madeleines molds by greasing each shell with butter and a dusting of flour. Place the pans in the freezer until ready to use.
In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Once melted, continue to heat, swirling the pan occasionally. The butter will begin to foam and then gradually darken. When the butter is amber in colour and smells nutty, remove from heat and strain into a clean bowl to prevent the milk solids from the bottom of the pan from being transferred. Leave to cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, and honey. Whisk on medium-high speed for about a minute and then increase speed to high and continue whisking for 4 minutes until the batter doubles in volume and is a pale yellow or white.
While the eggs are whisking away, in a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix to combine and set aside.
When the eggs are ready, gently fold in the flour mixture in two batches until well incorporated.
Fold the browned butter into the batter.
Add the zest of half a lemon, and mix again to combine.
Cover the batter and refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
When the oven has preheated, spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into each chilled shell mold. The batter will be stiff after having been in the fridge but will spread out quickly in the oven.
Bake for 7-8 minutes, until the outer shells are golden brown and the backs of the madeleines have the characteristic bump.
Immediately remove madeleines from the pan and cool on a baking sheet.
Madeleines can be enjoyed any time of the day (or night). They are best eaten within three hours out of the oven but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days.