My friends Sandra and Jim kindly gave me a madeleine tray for Christmas on the grounds it was the most indulgent cook’s present that they could find.
As always I am charging around doing this and that so I hadn’t got round to using the tray until recently.
I had never made madeleines before though I had often enjoyed them, and I found to my surprise that the process laid somewhere between making a clafoutis and a sponge cake, essentially simple, but with a very distinct ‘method’.
The madeleine or petite madeleine is a traditional small cake from the Lorraine region in north-eastern France.
The exact origins are rather lost in the mist of time, my Larousse Gastronomique offers two versions of the source, one version is that madeleines were named after a 19th century pastry cook, Madeleine Paulmier, but alternatively it is also suggested that Madeleine Paulmier was a cook in the 18th century for son-in-law of Louis XV of France, who named the cakes after her. The madeleine is quintessentially French and is readily available in varying degrees of artisanship in bakers and supermarkets across France (the quality range runs from sublime to ‘I would rather lick armpits that eat another one of those’). The madeleine was chosen as France’s contribution to the Café Europe initiative of the Austrian presidency of the European Union, on Europe Day in 2006.
Madeleines are traditionally cooked in baking trays with a distinctive shell-like shape (hence the special nature of my present), but it is perfectly ok to cook them in fairy cake/cupcake tins.
A génoise type cake batter is used. The flavour is similar to, but somewhat lighter than, sponge cake. Some traditional recipes include very finely ground nuts, usually almonds and flavourings such as lemon zest, chocolate, and honey are sometimes introduced, more recently to suit modern tastes savoury madeleines incorporating goats cheese, herbs and charcuterie are becoming available.
I decided for my first cook to just use a reliable traditional version (Madeleines à l’ancienne) and this is how I cooked them.
- 3 eggs
- 100 g caster sugar
- 100 g flour
- The finely chopped zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp of baking powder
- 90 g salted butter
Gently melt butter in a saucepan or a microwave then leave it to cool (but not re-solidify).
Finely chop the lemon zest, years ago I picked up a lemon zester in a mildly self-indulgent moment but I think I would now be lost without it, it gets a fair bit of use, is quick, simple and efficient, if you don’t have one I would recommend you get one or drop hints at present time!
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the sugar and whisk until you have a light, airy, batter or foam. Add the flour and baking powder and fold into the batter. After the flour has been successfully incorporated add melted butter and lemon zest and carefully combine the ingredients. Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes.
Carefully fill two thirds of the madeleine or fairy cake moulds on your cooking plaque and place them in a moderate oven at 220 °C or Gas mark 7 for 5 minutes and then reduce heat to 200 °C degrees or Gas Mark 6 and cook for a further 10 minutes. The madeleines are ready when they are puffed up and golden.
Here’s a picture of the finished product, I think they look OK for a first go, my new oven is a little vicious and has scorched a couple of edges, but I’m getting a used to its bad habits now. I enjoyed the few that I ate, but I had to go to work, when I returned a few days later they were all gone, I assume others enjoyed them as well