Madeleines are little cake-like cookies that are baked in special molds that give them a delicate shell shape. I do love a bit of history and always love to share background about food that I love and make. There are so many stories about how Madeleines got their name but my favourite one which might be somewhat closer to what actually happened is like so – According to one story the name “Madeleine” was given to the cookies by Louis XV to honor his father in-law’s cook Madeleine Paulmier. Louis first tasted them at the Chateau Commercy in Lorraine in 1755. Louis’ wife, Marie introduced them to the court and they soon became all the rage at Versailles. Whatever the origins, they have become inextricably linked with the author Marcel Proust, who described them as “…little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating.”
I am no great writer but I do love some dessert porn, even more so if it is in written form by Proust –
“From In Remembrances of Things Past, here is Proust’s description:
…when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreay day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake.
No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it-was-me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. When could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy?
I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savors…”
Told you Proust is good ! For some of you who have tasted Madeleines it might be difficult to grasp what makes them so special but Proust gave words to my feelings about these little gorgeous mouthfuls.
The very first time I tasted Madeleines were in Paris 4 yrs ago, until then I was blissfully unaware of them (yes people like me do exist !) I fell intensely in love with the country, its culture and especially its patisserie scenes. I could go on and on about France, all this may very well be an eruption of joy from the fact that I will be travelling to Bordeaux soon and cannot wait to share my travel stories and more about France with you all. I will be doing couple of French recipes with my take on them in next few posts and hope you all like them and try them too.
Tonka Bean is a beautiful ingredient and almost a cross between burnt vanilla and butterscotch. Brown butter and Tonka bean combination is what makes these Madeleines so addictive, You have been warned ! I bought the baking mold from Amazon and my pan is by french brand Gobel. I love them because they are made of tin/carbon steel and those kind of trays give you best results, trust me when I say this because I have tried all of them and only proper tin ones will give you success and the infamous “hump”. These days you can also find good ones on Etsy from french sellers. I sourced my Tonka Bean from Steenbergs on Amazon.
Madeleines are usually finished with icing sugar and some like them dipped in chocolate (dark or white, both go well), etc. I like them warm and straight from oven, hence mine seldom make it to the dipping and sprinkling stage.
Recipe adaptation from PurpleFoodie who is a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef and taught me the right way to make Madeleines.
- 90g browned butter (I started with 125g)
- 15g wild forest honey (approx 1 tbsp)
- 1 tonka bean
- 100g plain flour
- 4g baking powder (approx lilttle less than 1 tsp)
- 70g eggs (approx 2 medium eggs)
- 25g milk
- 65g sugar(use caster sugar if possible)
- Start with 125g butter and warm in a pan on medium heat. I would suggest using a enamel pan or a light coloured lightweight pan. The main reason being that you won't be able to see the bottom clearly to judge when brown butter is ready. Another reason is enamel pan cools faster than a cast iron pan which will reduce the chances of burnt butter.
- Soon as the butter reaches a light golden state watch it like a hawk as the heat from the pan will brown the butter faster at this stage. You will see lot of froth, this is normal. Shake the pan slightly to avoid bubble over.
- When you start noticing the froth has reduced by 90% this means the water content has boiled away and what is left is browned butter.
- Turn the heat off and transfer the brown butter to another bowl as this will stop butter from over browning from the heat of pan.
- To the warm browned butter add honey and grated Tonka bean. Stir to melt the honey.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together
- In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and sugar. You can do this by hand held whisk as we do not want extra frothy but a lightly frothy mixture would be perfect.
- Add the dry ingredients to your egg mixture and fold gently until well combined. Next, fold in the browned butter mixture. MIx until homogenous
- Transfer to a piping bag and let it chill for 2 hours , ideally overnight.
- Whilst your batter is chilling grease your madeleine tray with butter and then dust it with flour.
- Keep the greased tray in fridge if baking on same day and leave until ready to bake. This is the key to getting chilled batter on chilled tray onto very hot oven that give us the perfect hump.
- Preheat your oven to 210 deg C. Pipe into the mould in a single line pattern and do not try to fill the mould as heat from the oven will do that for you. Bake for 7 minutes or until hump appears then turn the temperature down to 180 deg C, rotate the pan and bake for further 2-3 minutes.
- Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving (although they are just as nice with or without any sprinkling or dipping).