A few months back, when I was making whoopie pies, I set out to buy a madeleine pan. I figured they would have more uses that muffin-top pan and since I’d always wanted to make madeleines, I thought this would give me an excuse to make them in the future. A trip to the baking supply store, however, convinced me otherwise. Apparently, the pretty little scalloped pans are crazy-expensive! I had no idea. So, I settled on a boring muffin top pan, convinced that the madeleines would never happen…and then, look what showed up at work on day! Oh Christmas, you’re a fun guy.
So madeleines clearly had to happen the following weekend and so they did. I knew exactly where I planned to get the recipe: David Lebovitz, king of all things baked and currently residing in Paris, was the clear choice. The former pastry chef from Chez Panisse, hilarious blogger and fabulous writer knows his way around french goodies. I recently read his book The Sweet Life in Paris, which is a sort of memoire intermingled with recipes. Although I was fairly sure that one of these recipes was for madeleines, a late-night, semi-intoxicated search came up empty handed. Note to self, don’t bother looking for recipes after a night out with the girls. The next morning, there it was, Page 221, clear as day! It had not, as I had decided the night before, disappeared from the book without explanation. Go figure.
Madeleines are small, scalloped shaped, little frech cookies; though they’re really more like cakes. At their best, they’re tender, buttery, lemony (but just a tad!) and only slightly sweet. Honestly, I probably like the delicate little things most because they’re just too darn pretty…and also the butter…that probably has something to do with it. I’m only vaguely aware that there’s some sort of difficulty surrounding madeleines: too difficult to make; too difficult to make right; too difficult to make like the French; something, I’m not really sure. Honestly though, I tend not to listen to those types of murmerings and jump right into new recipes.
I was shocked at how simple these were. The batter quite literally came together in about 10 minutes, not including the chilling time. David’s instructions were meticulously clear and I found myself wondering what on earth could have earned these simple little things their troublesome reputations? When they puffed up like a dream and then easily slid from their buttered pan, I couldn’t have been more thrilled! A quick glaze and no more than 20 minutes cooling time and I was ready to sample.
And they were dry. Sadface. They were sooooo pretty and the flavor was lovely—buttery and delicate and whispy with lemon—but dry. I’m a notorious underbaker; I would SO much rather something be a little raw in the center than even remotely dry. I had watched these like a hawk , pulling them the second I thought they were done. I think I was just a minute too late. Since these cakes are so mini, they only cook for 8-10 minutes, total. So you can understand that 1 extra minute is a significant time, proportionally. Next time, I will pull them out when the tops are just barely still soft, rather than just barely firm. I think one less minute will make the difference and next time, they will be awesome.
Madeleines with Lemon Glaze
Taken directly from David Lebovitz’s A Sweet Life in Paris. Makes 24 cookies.
I truly believe that this is a really good recipe; please don’t fault it for my shortcomings! I urge you to try it and if you do, please report back! On his blog, but not in the book, David suggests using aluminum- free or double-acting baking powder. Also, keep in mind these are best the day they’re baked!
3 lg eggs, at room temperature
2/3 c. granulated sugar
rounded 1/8 t. salt
1 1/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder (optional)
zest of one small lemon
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional for preparing the pan
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T freshly-squeezed lemon juice (about that 1 small lemon you zested)
2 T. water
- Brush the madeleine molds with melted butter and flour lightly, tapping off any excess. Freeze until you need it
- In an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and salt for 5 minutes until thick and frothy
- Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg/sugar mixture and fold in with a spatula
- Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter and then slowly add the butter to the batter a spoonful at a time, folding as you go
- Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour (I did about 2.5)
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- Add enough batter to each mold so that you think it would be 3/4s filled (this is a judgment call…just guess, you’ll be okay). Leave it mounded and do no spread it
- Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cakes are just shy of set (please, I encourage you to poke them lightly)
- While they bake, mix together the lemon juice, powdered sugar and water to make the glaze
- Remove from the oven and immediately til out onto cooling racks
- When they’re cool enough to handle, dip them in the glaze and scrape off any excess with a spoon or knife. and allow to harden on the cooling rack, scalloped side up