I’ve been reading Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and doing so gave me a serious craving for madeleines. After getting some pretty unsatisfying ones from the store, I decided the only real way to cure the craving was to make my own, so I’ve been trying and modifying various recipes for a few weeks now. After many batches, I finally have a reliable recipe that isn’t too tricky and produces consistently delicious cookie-cakes (madeleines lead to some serious ontological problems, but I’ll leave those for another post). The recipe I’ve landed on is mix of the Cooks Illustrated recipe (which is pretty easy but doesn’t quite get the texture right for me) and the first two recipes in We Love Madeleines (whichnail the texture but either take too long or produce too eggy a flavor). I’ll probably keep tweaking it, but now that I’m getting good results, I figured I’d post something about it.
- 1 oz of unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
- 1 oz cake flour (I use King Arthur unbleached for this too)
- ¼ tsp double-acting baking powder
- A pinch of sel gris sea salt (kosher would work too, but I love fancy salts and it is a French food)
- 2 egg yolks (use large eggs) and 1 whole egg, combined and brought to room temperature (this really truly matters)
- 60 g granulated sugar
- The seeds from 1 vanilla bean OR 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter for the batter, melted and cooled
- 2 tbsp butter to keep the madeleines from sticking to the pan (I actually use salted butter for this part, but unsalted works just as well), melted and cooled shortly before you’re ready to bake
- Preheat your oven to 375 either now or step 5.
- Whisk together AP flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together eggs and vanilla on high until the eggs lighten in color and get fluffy. Then, add sugar and beat on high until the mixture is thick and falls from the whisk in ribbons. A hand mixer should work here too, but it’ll take longer.
- Fold the dry ingredients into egg-sugar mixture with a rubber spatula, sprinkling the dry ingredients in a little at a time (I sprinkle in about a fifth at a time, but no need to be too precise). Once the flour and egg mixtures are just combined (there can be a little unmixed flour), add the melted butter and continue folding until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Let the batter sit for at least an hour (if it’s only an hour, I let it just sit out in the bowl; otherwise I transfer to an air-tight container and put it in the fridge)—this lets the flour absorb the eggs fully and ensures the cookies raise to get the little bumps that are characteristic of madeleines. You can skip this step if you’re really in a hurry, but they won’t rise as well and the texture will be more delicate and less suitable for dipping in tea.
- After the batter has rested, using a basting brush or paper towels, paint the butter into molds, then fill the molds with the batter, flush to the rim. Because the batter is extremely airy, I find it’s easiest to put a scoop in each mold first, then add additional after I’ve flattened out the first scoops a bit, to ensure they are all evenly filled.
- Bake for 9 or 10 minutes, until the madeleines are brown at the edges and spring back when touched. Cool for a few minutes on cooling racks. If you let them cool for about 10 minutes, they’ll be warm but crisp on top, which is pretty amazing. If you let them cool to room temperature, they’ll be soft and still delicious.
We serve them with market spice tea from Seattle and intense memories of our childhoods.