Classic French Madeleine Recipe
Madeleines are a classic French pastry and wildly popular in France as a teatime cake.
History of Madeleine:
18th Century: Madeleines are always associated with the little French town of Commercy, in the region of Lorraine. Legend has it that a young servant girl named Madeleine made them for Stanislas Leszczynska, the deposed king of Poland when he was exiled to Lorraine.
19th Century: It is also believed that the origins of the madeleine was with Jean Avice, considered the “master of choux pastry,” who worked as a pastry chef for Prince Talleyrand. Jean Avice is said to have invented the Madeleine in the 19th century by baking little cakes in aspic molds.
Madeleines were made famous by Marcel Proust (1871-1922) in his autobiographical novel la recherche du temps perdu, translated Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1, Swann’s Way. This novel was left unfinished upon his death, and his brothers published the book in 1923. The excerpt from the book is at the foot of this page.
These whimsical treats are a pleasure to bake and require only four ingredients. The technique makes all the difference. Using the technique below guarantees the famous bump, that makes it madeleine worthy as a sign of quality and well controlled baking.
Techniques and Tips:
I am going to start off this recipe with some techniques and tips as it really makes a difference.
Eggs should be at room temperature. This ensures that we don't 'shock' and clump the butter.
Butter should be fully melted and allowed to cool till its a touch warmer than room temperature. This will help coat the gluten strands to ensure that the gluten does not form strong strands, which is important for the texture of this cake.
Preheat oven to a high temperature. This technique combines hot and cold and as the mixture reacts in a very hot oven, the batter will rise up, then half way through the temperature is lowered to finish baking. This is called Cuire à chaleur tombante (bake at decreasing temperature).
All-purpose flour - 2 cups
Sugar - 1 cup
Eggs - 4 (room temperature)
Unsalted butter - 2 sticks (melted)
Baking powder - 1 1/2 tablespoon
Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Lemon zest (optional) - zest of 2 lemons
Softened butter to grease the pan (optional)
Madeleine pan for baking
Melt butter and cool till lukewarm and add lemon zest if preferred.
Sift the flour and baking powder well.
Gently beat eggs and sugar with a whisk and incorporate the sifted flour and baking powder.
Add the warm butter with zests to the flour and egg batter and fold. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before baking.
Grease and then chill the madeleine pan.
5. Set the oven rack adjusted to the middle position and preheat to 425 degrees F.
6. Spoon the batter into the molds of the chilled greased pan and bake immediately.
8. Bake in a 425 degrees preheated oven for 5 minutes, then lower temperature to 325 degrees and
continue baking till the madeleines turn golden brown. This usually take 5 to 7 minutes.
Take them out and place them on the cooling rack. Give them a light dusting of powdered sugar. All done!
7. Eat them within the hour as they are at their absolute best! Baked madeleines can be
stored in an airtight container for a few days or frozen for a month.
Excerpt from "la recherche du temps perdu, translated Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1, Swann’s Way"
"She sent for one of those squat plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell … I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure invaded my senses …
And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray … when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane …. and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and garden alike, from my cup of tea."