I was out shopping for a pepper mill (which I did not find…) at Marshalls one night a few weeks ago and came across two madeleine pans in the clearance section. I am a sucker for red stickers. I had never had madeleines before, let alone made them but I thought, for $7 each why not? How could I NOT buy them? And I need both of them. Because who wants just one pan? I justify things by thinking, I will need two pans for a full recipe and I don’t want to have to do it in batches, waiting for a pan to cool down and whatnot. Turns out I only needed one 12-mold pan for this recipes but yea… Next time maybe I’ll make a double batch! And maybe I’ll make some sort-of holiday madeleine and I will want o mass-produce them. Just giving you some insight into the way my mind works… My mom thinks along the same tracks as me in these matters so we are a good pair when shopping together. (And by “good pair” I mean we have a TON of fun but also tend to spend a TON of money. Maybe not a ton. And it’s mostly on things we need or were out looking for… Here I go again, justifying everything, bwahaha…).
Anyway, if you’ve never had a madeleine before I will give you some background. They are a small cake, kindof like a lighter pound cake, traditionally from the Lorraine region of France. They have a distinct shell-like shape due to the vessel they are cooked in. These “madeleine” pans have shell-shaped indentations, usually 12 per pan. The batter that fills these molds and is later turned out of them is a “genoise” batter. This basically means that it contains no chemical leavener (i.e. baking soda, baking powder). It instead gets its volume from the process of beating air into the batter. Whole egg and egg yolk are mixed with granulated sugar (also with vanilla and almond extract in this recipe) until they reach the “ribbon” stage. The ribbon stage basically means the mixture is pale, thick and when the beaters are lifted from it, the batter falls back into the bowl in a ribbon which absorbs back into the rest of the batter after a few seconds. After this stage is reached, flour and ground almond (at least in this recipe) are folded in gently. Melted butter is then folded in to bring some fat to an otherwise fairly lean dough. Ground nuts are a common ingredient in traditional madeleine recipes and I chose to stick with that and make one with ground almond. My package is actually labeled “almond meal” but it is the same thing (also pretty much the same as almond flour). I talked some about this in my Thumbprint Cookies recipe in which I also used almond meal.
As the cakes bake, the tops (meaning the side facing up while cooking which will be the bottom later on) will turn a light golden brown and will puff up slightly. I have seen pictures of madeleines where their is a pronounced “hump” in the center of this side which mine did not get. I’m not sure if maybe I didn’t beat my batter enough, that is my suspicion, and that is why mine didn’t get the signature hump. **I did some more research on this (because it was bugging me) and I read that if you want that “hump” on the one side you must chill the dough for 1-2 hours. You can even make the dough ahead and time and store it in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.** Mine did puff up a bit for sure and I didn’t want to let it cook longer because I knew that it was done (it sprung back to the touch). The shell-side may turn quite dark during cooking which is normal. This actually creates a wonderful “crispiness” on the surface. This crispiness will fade upon storage when the cakes will soften a bit.
So what do the darn things taste like you’re wondering? Think somewhere between cake and a cookie. They are light, slightly crispy and full of subtle almond flavor. Not scream-in-your-face-almond, which is a good thing. They will become softer and even a bit more moist upon storage, much like when you store a quick-bread. They are not a heavy, rich dessert but the perfect fix when you want something sweet and satisfying. I chose to dust mine with confectioner’s sugar, although I had dabbled with the idea of dipping them in chocolate. I am surprised I found the strength NOT to dip them in chocolate but I figured I had better stick with simplicity for my first batch.
The take-aways for me for this first run through are: don’t rush the beating process, you want make sure you get enough air into the batter, make sure you grease your pans well so the batter won’t stick and don’t overcook them because you don’t want a dry cake. These are delicious. They would be perfect with tea in the afternoon. Or on a plate at a party. They really are quite beautiful. I think my next endeavor will be to make citrus madeleines and yes, I might just have to dip those in chocolate…
Oh yea, if you don’t have a madeleine pan, just use mini loaf or mini muffin pans instead! Just fill them a little over halfway and watch the baking time, it may be more or less depending on the size of the molds and your oven.
(Adapted from “Almond Madeleines” on cooksillustrated.com)
- 1 tsp. + 3 tsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp. cake flour
- Pinch kosher salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp. almond extract
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. + 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- Powdered sugar for dusting, optional
- In a small ramekin mix together 2 tsp. melted butter and 1 tsp. flour.
- Brush this mixture thoroughly but lightly over the molds and lips of the molds.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with rack in the lower center position
- Sift 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour, 3 tbsp. cake flour and salt together in small bowl. Mix in the ground almond and set aside.
- Beat egg yolks with whole egg in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until pale yellow, light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (Or use hand-mixer- you will need to beat it slightly longer).
- Add sugar and vanilla and beat until a ribbon drops from beaters, about 5 minutes with hand mixer, 3 minutes with heavy-duty mixer.
- Gently fold in flour mixture, then melted butter. Allow to chill in the fridge 1-2 hours (or overnight) if desired. If you skip this step the madeleines will not have the signature “hump” on the back sides which won’t affect how they taste so it’s really up to you!
- Spoon batter into molds. (Batter should come just flush with mold rim.)
- Bake until tops are golden and cakes spring back when pressed lightly, about 10 minutes.
- Turn madeleines onto dry tea towel (as opposed to a cooling rack to avoid impressions in the cakes) and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Dust with sifted powdered sugar if desired
- Can be stored in airtight container up to 3 days or frozen up to 1 month.
I’m also thinking that next time I make these I might make a light glaze for the top to take it to the next level. If I stick with the plan of making citrus madeleines next, I will make a simply lemon or orange glaze by mixing juice from the fruit of choice with confectioner’s sugar and then brushing this mixture over madeleines while they are still a bit warm after baking!