French Madeleines

As it is the jubilee weekend I’ve had a chance to do some work at home – which obviously meant I should throw in some baking at the same time.

I feel quite a burst of honour this weekend and would like to salute our lovely Queen. She’s been an absolute trooper and has been everywhere this weekend which is quite a feat for an 86 year old in some really cold and wet weather. For what you did at such a young age, and for what you continue to do – To you Queen Elizabeth II.

I recently bought two new baking tins, a round Bundt tin and a Madeleine pan, so I thought I should try one of them out.

I have never made Madeleines before but they are a favourite of my parents. They are moorish little shell-like cakes, with quite a pedigree background to them. Marcel Proust who was a french novelist and critic wrote ‘In Search of Lost Time’ back in the 1920’s and recalled Madeleines in a very nostalgic way…

“I raised to my lips a spoonful of the cake . . . a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.”

This is just a snippet to quite a lengthy passage that gave Madeleines an almost ‘celebrity’ appeal.

So back to today and they are classed as little french royalties used throughout places like Betty’s Tea Rooms and Fortnum and Mason.

Apparently the key to the beauty of these little cakes is the lightness of them. It requires a buerres noisette which is french for ‘brown butter’ or in the literal sense ‘hazelnut butter’ as it has a lovely nutty aroma. Traditionally these are flavoured with lemon zest as the recipe below, but you can flavour them with other things as well – I’m going to try Orange and Cinnamon next time.

Below is the recipe I used and there is only a couple of things I would have done differently which are written at the bottom (**) if you are interested.

To get the desired affect you will need a proper Madeleine pan which you will be able to find at any good cooking/kitchen store. I purchased mine at Lakeland which is heaven for bakers and cooks alike.

Traditional French Madeleines

Ingredients

  1. 60g (2 oz) lightly salted butter
  2. 1 medium egg
  3. 50 g (1.5 oz) caster sugar
  4. 30g (1 oz) plain flour
  5. 20g (1/2 oz) ground almonds
  6. 1 lemon, zested

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180c, Gas mark 5.

2. To make the ‘buerres noisette’, warm a thick based pan over a moderate heat and add the butter. Cook the butter slowly until it has melted, turned a golden colour and gives off a nutty scent. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. In a metal or porcelain bowl, whisk the caster sugar and egg until the mixture is light and fluffy.

4. Sieve the ground almonds and plain flour into the bowl and gently fold in with the lemon zest. When fully incorporated add the buerre noisette and gently stir it through the mixture.

5. Leave to rest for about an hour if you have time. This will allow the gluten in the mixture to rest which ensures the cakes will stay light.

6. Spoon the batter into the Madeleine pan filling them 3/4 full.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and springy to touch.

8. Leave the Madeleines in the mould for a while until cool enough to take out and place on a wire rack.

**When you whisk the egg and sugar together it says that when it is done you should be able to do a brief figure of eight in the top of the mixture. You can but do not be perturbed if you can’t because the mixture is so loose it moves fast. When it looks a peach colour and has a light bubble on top then it should be light enough for the rest of the ingredients.

**When it says to fill the moulds to 3/4 full I found that the cakes came out a little small and there was still a level where the cakes could have risen. The cakes don’t rise around the edges, because the batter is quite airy and sticky as opposed to runny. So my advice would be to make sure the mixture reaches the top of the moulds but has a little dip in the middle as this is where the rising will happen.

**I lightly rolled the shell side of mine in caster sugar which gives it a lovely finish, but you can do anything with them really as they are really quick little things to make and very versatile. Maybe some cinnamon or vanilla sugar instead, or even put a little lemon juice in the vanilla sugar which would compliment the lemon in the cake beautifully.

French Madeleines ready!

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