Madeleines. That little French butter cake that most (non-French) people think of more as a cookie. Madeleines appear to be simple to make but actually they require a fair amount of patience and careful following of instructions. In the end, though, you are rewarded with a truly unique little cake, browned and crispy on the outside and spongy and soft on the inside. A perfect accompaniment to your afternoon cup of tea.
In classic Madeleine recipes, butter is normally browned slightly to add nuttiness to the butter. But browning butter just right can be challenging as it can quickly turn from nutty to burnt. If you’re not confident with this skill, simply melt the butter and skip the browning part. Your madeleines will still be delicious.
Another barrier for making madeleines is that you need specific equipment, namely the scallop shell pans to bake them in. Try to get two as most recipes will make 2 dozen and it’s a little troublesome to have to wash and rebutter the pans between baking sessions. It also really helps to have a pastry brush to coat the pans with the butter and flour mixture.
Madeleines come in many flavors such as chocolate, rose, vanilla, lavender, and orange which are all popular versions. Some people add mini chocolate chips and some people add a glaze, but the original madeleine taste just fine too 🙂
Madeleines are delicious when eaten just from the oven and cooled until barely warm. They will keep for a day or two in an airtight container, but will start to lose that nice crisp texture after awhile.
Now, moving on to creating that signature bump on madeleines. Many recipes say that the colder the dough is kept, the more likely it is that the madeleine will form the classic “bumps” on the back. If the bumps on the madeleine are important to you, be sure to freeze the pans and then get the filled pans in the oven right away. You can even freeze the already filled pans for about 10 minutes before placing immediately in the oven.
And like most sponge batters it starts with a beaten mixture of eggs and sugar into which is added sifted flour. The slight difference compared to a sponge cake recipe is that we add warm melted butter(can use browned butter) to make the Madeleines light and tender with a nice buttery flavor. The melted butter needs to be warm, so it does not solidify once it is added to the batter, causing streaks. The melted butter is also added in last. (In most baling, the butter is usually creamed with the sugar, then the eggs are added and the flour stirred in last.) Before baking, the batter also needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour to chill and hydrate the flour. You can leave it for longer than that, even overnight. Madeleines should not be over baked if not they will be dry so do remember to check once in a while to prevent them from turning too brown.