You may remember, way back in June, I bought a madeleine tin from E. Dehillerin in Paris. It’s been languishing in the bottom of the cupboard together with the other madeleine tin I bought in my suitcase all the way from South Africa. You might say I’ve had these in mind for a while. Given that this blog is called Philosophy and Madeleines I’m a little embarrassed to say that until today I’ve never actually made them. They’ve been on my to do list for ages but I’ve just never gotten round to them. Last weekend though, I bought a new recipe book – Sweet Paris – and inside was a recipe for orange madeleines that I thought I would try. Then on Monday my copy of Annie Bell’s Baking Bible arrived in the post and she has two recipes (three if you count the variation) for madeleines. It’s like the universe was speaking to me.
So this morning when I woke up, (no alarms!) I made my first coffee and melted the butter for these madeleines. I love the smell of just browning butter, which is what you need to do for these. The nutty aroma is comforting first thing on a Sunday. The recipe is fairly easy but you need to allow time for chilling. It’s basically a genoise sponge with a little butter melted in. Annie says that the coldness of both the batter and tin and the heat from the oven act together to form the little dome that is a quintessential part of any madeleine. I’m no scientific expert on these matters so I just did as I was told. I used the instructions from both recipes but used the ingredients mainly from Sweet Paris except I made them plain. For a first attempt I’d say I did pretty well. They all had the dome shape (as stressed by everything I’ve ever read on madeleines) and they tasted best straight out of the oven. I made small ones and bigger ones. I like the small ones best – slightly crisp on the outside but cake-like and substantial on the inside. The bigger ones are good too – more like a piece of cake than a snack though. You could eat five of the little ones without a thought or care in the world. They got crisper as they cooled so I’m not sure whether I over baked them or if that is just the nature of these cakes? These also tasted fairly eggy so I’m going to try some more later in the week. There’s a recipe for date ones. And another for maple-nutmeg ones. I’m going to have to try both.
In the meantime, make these. To have with tea. They feel appropriate for this time of year. Today the sunlight is streaming onto the changing leaves outside my window. It’s freezing outside. Thoughts of Johannesburg are ever present.
Adapted from Sweet Paris and Annie Bell’s Baking Bible
130g unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
120g golden caster sugar
pinch of salt
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Melt the butter until it starts to turn golden brown. Grease the madeleine tins (it makes 2 tins of small madeleines or 1 small and 1 large tin) with a little of the melted butter before setting the butter aside to cool. Dust the tin with flour, shaking off any excess. Place the tin into the fridge.
Whisk the eggs, yolk, sugar and salt until doubled in volume and very light. It should produce a very thick ‘ribbon’ when you lift the beaters out of the mixture.
Sift the flour and baking powder together. Normally I would skip this step but in order to get lightness into a genoise sponge, aeration of the flour is a key step. Fold the flour into the egg mixture.
Drizzle the butter into the batter, until it is all incorporated. The mixture will change slightly and it might be a little difficult to mix the butter in at first, but persevere!
Now you need to cover the mixture with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I left mine for about 5 hours or so.
When you’re ready to make the madeleines, preheat the oven to 220C.
Remove the mixture and tins from the fridge and, using a teaspoon, drop dollops of the mixture into the moulds. You should aim to fill them about 3/4 full but don’t get too uptight about it. They do spread slightly onto the tin if they’re over full.
Bake at 220C for 4 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 170C and bake for a further 4-5 minutes. The madeleines should be risen and golden.
Run a knife around the edges of the madeleines to loosen them before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool. I would argue you should eat them immediately…