What is a Madeleine?
The Madeleine is a type of French butter cake, however everyone usually refers to them as cookies. They are pretty easy to bake, but there are a few steps that you should not forget to do, if you want the real thing.
I am here to say that Madeleines are not as simple as a cookie–that’s what makes them French. Sure, it’s easier to just prep the batter and pour it into a muffin tray of some kind. Though, in that case they would just be cupcakes. It is evident that there are steps in the process of making them, that provide those defining features. These characteristics differentiate them from being anything else. When fresh, Madeleines have a crispy exterior and a soft interior. They are most well-known for their distinct shell shape.
If you think about it, the person who created Madeleines, recognized the potential for something different and never done before with cake. There are plenty of legends and stories out there as to how they were invented, but it all boils down to someone pouring cake batter into molds, discovering that idea was good, and then polishing off the recipe. Basically, this pastry is creativity and elegance all in one shell.
Brown the Butter
It is really easy to go from brown to burnt with butter. Melt the 6 tablespoons in a very small pan/pot at a fairly low heat. Wait till it comes to a simmer. You could wait for the butter to brown slowly at this low heat, but make sure you keep an eye on the butter. It should turn to a golden brown. As soon as you see the butter slightly begin to brown, take it off the heat. The heat of the pan itself will continue to brown the butter even off the heat. What I did once the butter started simmering was crank the heat up high for twenty seconds, and it browned immediately. Act quickly, so that the butter does not burn. I suggest the slower method for beginners. After that, there may be some remnants on the bottom. Pour the butter once through a fine strainer to get rid of most of it.
Why should you do this?
Browned butter has a nutty flavor that adds a more rich flavor to the Madeleines.
Rest the Batter
Let the batter sit covered in the fridge for one hour.
During the this period of rest, starch molecules in the flour absorb the liquid in the batter. The absorption causes them to swell, which gives the Madeleine batter a thicker consistency. Gluten formed during the mixing of the batter gets time to relax, as air bubbles work their way out.
The result of this resting period, like all other batters that need to rest, is a more delicate and refined texture. Most importantly, the rest period creates the signature “hump” that they must have to bear the name.
Brush the Pan
First things first, plan to buy a non-stick metal Madeleine pan
In doing this, that well-known shell shape will be achieved, and there will not be any trouble removing the Madeleines.
Spray some non-stick spray into a bowl, and use a pastry brush to lightly brush the Madeleine pan.
2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
1 1/2 (7.5 ml) tsp citrus zest or vanilla
1 cup (120 g) flour
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
¼ tsp (1.25 ml) salt
6 tbsp (60 ml) browned butter
powdered sugar (for dusting)
You do not need a mixer for this recipe, so go ahead and use a whisk to beat the eggs with sugar until pale yellow. Add zest or vanilla extract.
Gently whisk dry ingredients into the egg mixture, just until combined everything is incorporated. Add the browned butter and slowly whisk the batter.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape the edges of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the batter for and hour or overnight. Do not skip this step, as you will not achieve the “hump” of a Madeleine, the traditional mark of this French pastry. Sometime during this rest period, preheat the oven to 350F/(176C).
Lightly coat a non-stick, Madeleine pan with baking spray. Do this by spraying the baking spray into a small bowl and with a pastry brushing the molds.
Fill each mold until the batter is a bit under the brim, but not reaching the top. You want to make sure the batter covers the shell shape. Do not touch the batter, instead allow the cookie to spread on its own.
Bake 7-9 mins until slightly golden around edges and centers look set and slight hump has appeared. The time depends on your mold size. Allow to cool slightly so they can removed from the tin. Then they can be dusted with powdered sugar and eaten!
Notes: Batter can be made 2 days ahead. Batter MUST rest for at least 1 hour in the fridge in order to get that “traditional Madeleine hump”.