A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Madeleines are alluring to me.  I love their dense yet spongy texture, lovely crisp edges and subtle citrus flavor.  I love that they are shaped like shells.  And their name is sweet, too.  I never made Madeleines before because I didn't  have a Madeleine pan and am resistant to purchasing cookware that has one and only one purpose.  Recently I scored a $3 Madeleine pan at a thrift store and quickly made an exception to the one-purpose rule and started hunting for a recipe to get started.
$3 Madeleine pan
I found recipes that sounded good on trusted foodblog faves: 101 Cookbooks and David Lebovitz.  I also poked around online to try to figure out what makes a Madeleine a Madeleine.  What makes them so special?  My understanding is that traditional Madeleine, which originated in the Lorraine region of northeastern France, uses a génoise cake batter.  I read Madeleine cakes in several places.  It seems that a Madeleine is a cake and not a cookie.  Ok with me.

A génoise cake does not contain leavening.  It gets its loft from extra air in the batter, a result of super-whisking the whole eggs and then adding (and again super-whisking) the sugar.  Some Madeleines have tall 'humps' that are the result of adding baking powder.  There are some controversies about the 'hump' of the Madeleine.  David Lebovitz's recipe offers baking powder as an optional ingredient -- if you want the prominent hump, you may choose to add the baking powder.  I did not.

In the end, I took some hints from both 101 Cookbooks and Lebovitz, but used my own recipe.  We had such beautiful oranges from Bill's tree, I couldn't resist substituting orange zest for the traditional lemon zest.  I didn't regret it for a second.

Madeleines (makes 3 dozen 3" cakes)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 T melted butter or non-stick spray for oiling the pans
1 cup cake flour, sifted
3 large eggs
a pinch salt
2/3 cups sugar
zest of one medium orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar
a bit of extra flour for dusting baking pan

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Brown the butter:  Heat the butter on medium high heat in a small pan for about 20 minutes.  It will bubble away until it suddenly develops a rich, nutty, caramel-y smell and brown particles will float about.  Strain the brown parts out through a fine sieve (or whatever sieve you have layered with a paper towel).  Allow the browned butter to come to room temperature (which is about the same amount it will take to get everything else ready). 
straining the browned butter
Prepare your pan(s): Brush well with melted butter and then dust with flour, tapping out excess.  Lebovitz suggests freezing the pan after preparing it, which I did not do.

Prepare the batter: Whisk the whole eggs on high speed for about 5 minutes -- they will get very fluffy.  With the mixer still running, add the sugar and continue whisking for a couple more minutes.

Turn off the mixer and fold in the orange zest and vanilla.  Then fold in the sifted flour, folding until just mixed (make sure you check the bottom for hiding flour).  Lastly, fold in the room temperature browned butter.  The purpose of folding rather than mixing is to keep the batter as fluffy as possible.  It should be thick and creamy.  Lebovitz also suggests chilling the batter at least 3 hours at this point, which I did not do.

Fill the Madeleine pans: Spoon the batter into each shell, about 3/4 full.*

Bake 12 - 14 minutes (less for smaller forms).  The edges of the scallops should be browned.  Turn onto a cooling rack.  Once cool, dust with confectioners sugar (or glaze, as in Leibovitz's recipe).

Madeleines are best fresh (and oh, so much better than any you could buy in the store, and only keep a couple days before they get stale.  

*I read accounts of not smoothing the batter into the form.  I had the urge to tap the form on the counter to settle the batter, but this may have been a mistake.  Some of my Madeleines had funny air pockets in the scallop ridges -- was it because of my tapping?  Or not freezing/chilling?  Don't know.  They were still mighty tasty.

No comments:

Post a Comment