Madeleines

Is it awful if I admit that the first and possibly best madeleine I ever ate came in a Starbucks wrapper? (That’s right…it wasn’t even fresh…)

I mean, the madeleines in France last summer were delightful, and I really enjoy the madeleines I make at home (yeah…I nearly single-handedly polished off the whole dozen…), but I tell ya, that Starbucks madeleine was really delightful. It was so rich and moist…much denser than a regular madeleine, which is kind of airy and light, the way little cakes shaped like shells should be. I’m sure Starbucks pumped it full of preservatives and other chemical helpers, but I didn’t care. I just savored.

Ahem.

Meanwhile, back in a real kitchen, it’s Spring! And I’m making madeleines from Dorie Greenspan! They are lovely, light, and slightly lemony. Seems like a great combination for Spring, n’est-ce pas?

Madeleines take a little time, and of course, a special shell-shaped pan. You can’t really cheat with those…

Start by rubbing the zest of half a lemon into the sugar with your fingers. You could use a whole lemon, but I feel like that will make the lemon flavor much too strong and ultimately throw off the balance. Plus, vanilla is awesome, so why hide it?

Whisk in the room temperature eggs (the first time trap!…room temperature usually takes about 1 hour in my house). Whisk for 2 minutes, or until the mixture becomes light and airy. Beat in the vanilla and scrape the edges of the pan.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg-sugar mixture.

Now it’s time to mix in the butter. Honestly, this is the trickiest part for me. I like to mix about a third of the batter into the melted butter, then mix that back into the remaining batter. You could also try mixing the butter in just a little at a time—but you don’t want to over-mix the batter or it will produce tough, rather than tender, madeleines.

The danger here is that when you chill your madeleine batter for 3 hours, any little pockets of butter that haven’t been completely mixed into the batter will harden. Ultimately, this means that your madeleines won’t puff in the oven. (They will still taste great…though they may have some holes in them.)

As I said, this is the trickiest part for me. I only manage to get puffed madeleines about half the time…but I try not to worry about it, because the picture right in Baking: From My Home to Yours, shows some flat-backed madeleines in the background.

When the butter is incorporated, gently press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the batter to prevent it from growing a skin. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

*Note: In the past, I have had better results (vis-à-vis the butter and puffed cookies issue) if I immediately scooped the batter into a VERY well buttered and floured madeleine pan, then covered and refrigerated the whole pan for 3 hours. I did not do that this time, but I will be doing that in the future. If you prefer to chill the dough in the bowl, consider refrigerating the buttered and floured madeleine pan separately. The cold pan also helps the cookies puff up while baking.

After 3 hours, scoop the batter evenly into a buttered and floured madeleine pan. If you, like me, have a dark nonstick pan, you can get away with lightly greasing the pan with butter or cooking spray, but keep in mind that the cookies will become darker in color on the outsides if you go that route.

Bake at 400° for 11–12 minutes.

Immediately release the warm madeleines from the pan by holding it upright and gently knocking on the bottom of the pan until they fall out. You can use your fingers to pull any stubborn stragglers out.

Eat cool or warm, with tea or coffee.

Madeleines

very lightly adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
makes 12 regular-size

Ingredients:
½ cup sugar
zest of ½ a lemon
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
⅔ cup flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Directions:
Working in a mixer bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl and whisk for 2–3 minutes on medium high speed until pale, thick, and light. Beat in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Fold in the melted butter; make sure the butter is thoroughly incorporated, but do not overmix.
Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days. Do not skimp on the chilling time, as this will help the madeleines to puff up in the oven. (Alternatively, spoon the batter directly into a buttered and lightly floured madeleine pan, cover, and refrigerate the whole pan.)
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 400°.
Spoon the batter evenly into a buttered and lightly floured madeleine pan (or a lightly greased, dark nonstick madeleine pan). Don’t worry about spreading the batter evenly; the oven’s heat will take care of that.
Bake for 11–12 minutes, or until madeleines are golden and spring back when pressed.
Remove the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any resistant cookies from the pan using fingers or a butter knife. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm. The madeleines are best the same day they are baked.

Enjoy!

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