Madeleines

Spot the eager small child trying to reach up for a madeleine

It started with the purchase of a madeleine tray. Because, ya know, I don’t have enough baking tins. Then came the hunt for the perfect madeleine recipe.

Big disappointment. Many were nothing more than a sponge recipe that you then baked into a shell-shape.

Then I came across a recipe by Heston Blumenthal in, I think, The Times. If I recall the tale correctly he made these for his wife when he was courting her. They are exquisite.

Here’s what you need:

125g unsalted butter, plus a bit extra for greasing the mould
100g icing sugar
40g ground almonds
40g plain flour, plus again a bit extra *
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons of honey
Finely grated zest of a lemon
Salt

*I have made these, really successfully (like can’t tell the difference successful) with rice flour for those that can’t have wheat. I made these for the super talented opera singer Sarah Connolly with rice flour and she LOVED ME FOR IT. I think she may have even shed a tear, although that may have  been at my singing.

This is what you do.

Don’t preheat any ovens just yet.

Put the butter into a small sauce pan over a medium heat and melt it, keep it on the heat until it starts to sizzle and, Heston says, have a nice nutty scent to it. I have an atrocious sense of smell so this never happens for me and I do it by eye, it goes darker is the only way I can describe it and takes about five minutes. You’re making beurre noisette.

Don’t panic. It’s not like making caramel. Set it aside and take a deep breath. You’re about to make something delicious.

Take your madeleine tray and grease it with some of that extra butter. Unlike when you make friands (more on them another time), don’t be tempted to melt the butter and brush it on. It makes the mads too greasy. Once you’ve buttered the moulds, sprinkle some flour over and tap off the excess.

This is where a flour duster must really come in handy. A flour duster is a kitchen gadget I do not (yet) possess.

Now, sieve the icing sugar, ground almonds and flour into a bowl. You’ll no doubt have some bits of round almond left over in the sieve, just chuck that in too when you’re done. Using a fork, whisk the egg whites into the sugar/almonds/flour. Just lightly and with no panic. You’re not making meringues.

Now add the honey, whisk it up a bit more. Now add the butter which should be warm, but not hot. Now the lemon zest and mix until everything is homogenous. To use Heston’s very particular word. Now add a bit of salt. I grind up some rock salt for this.

Now press some cling film or baking parchment onto the surface of the mixture and rest it in the fridge for at least an hour. I’ve left it overnight and longer. The gluten relaxes to produce a madeleine that is, to quote Ross in Friends (The “Manny” episode) “Lighter than air”.

I have, at this stage, transported the mixture on holiday, or to friends’ houses so that I can cook up fresh madeleines on a whim. But what you’re meant to do next is fill the moulds (which you could of course grease whilst the mixture is resting) with the mixture. Heston says they make 10 but I’m sure I’ve made 12. Anyway you fill with madeleine mixture and put it in the fridge again for half an hour (or longer if need be).

No-one said this was going to be quick.

Preheat oven to 170C.

Cook for 10-15 minutes. They should be dark brown around the edges but golden otherwise. Turn out (you may need to prise the edges with a knife) and leave for five minutes before eating. You REALLY need to eat these warm from the oven, they will never be that good again.

Nearly all gone..

Update, 24 June 2012

After several requests from my children to make chocolate madeleines, I decided to try to adapt this recipe. What I did was melt 50g of plain chocolate and divide the mixture made above into two.

Into one of the halves half I drizzled the melted chocolate and stirred it well. I then dolloped a spoon of the chocolate mixture into my madeleine tray, a spoonful of the plain mixutre and cooked as above. Result: fantastic. The chocolately bit was really chocolately. I had worried it might alter the mixture in some way, but only for the better!

The only thing I’d change is that, next time, I’d swirl the chocolate mixture into the plain mixture using  a skewer or something, to make it more marbled. Dunno why, just think it’d be nice.

But generally, I feel really very clever.

You can also add a handful of chocolate chips to the plain mixture.

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6 thoughts on “Madeleines

  1. Lois

    I adore madeleines and have been meaning to get a proper mould to make them myself for ages. Maybe this will be next on my purchasing list…

    Reply
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