I’ve spent a lot of time looking for the perfect madeleine recipe as my husband, Arthur, grew up on these treats. Unfortunately most of them are flavored with lemon zest, making them a little too tangy to replicate his childhood memories. If you’ve ever had the chance to travel to France and savoured these underrated butter cakes, you’ve probably struggled to find the same kind of fresh, egg-y taste elsewhere. It took me a very long time to figure out what made them so distinctive. At every bite, I used to scrutinise their taste trying to put my finger on it, a fun and frustrating game I think we’ve all played – I remember trying to work out which vegetable my mom used in her soup as a child. However being able to identify a flavor simply by its taste requires skills, and it’s something I’m still trying to acquire. I might not have Heston Blumenthal’s taste buds (yet), but after lots of research I think I’ve managed to find the secret to French madeleines: Almond essence! Just enough to emphasize the honey and egg taste of the batter.
The classic recipe from le Cordon Bleu, la creme de la creme of french cookery schools, is foolproof but here again the use of lemon zest is a standard. However it is the perfect base to experiment with flavors, simply change the lemon for another fragrance like vanilla or orange, or in my case almond. The original recipe yield 24 madeleines, a bit too much to eat by yourself as these will stay fresh for about 5 days, so I’ve adjusted the ingredients to make it more practical for the solo cook.
Reducing a recipe quantities isn’t as straight forward as cutting everything in half. For examples, how do you divide three eggs in two? I have tried several things; using 1 egg and 1 egg white or 1 egg and a yolk, but all experiments were inconclusive; one being too moist and heavy while the other was too airy and a bit dry. The best solution I’ve come up with was to whisk two eggs together and using 3/4 of the mix. Based on my attempts two whisked medium eggs is equivalent of about 8 table spoons. Therefore, using 6 tbsp of egg should do the trick, and it has never failed me.
Making madeleine can seem arduous, but once you get the hang of things you’ll see it’s actually quite simple. It is definitely worth spending a bit of time on homemade treats when you will be able to enjoy for the rest of the week.
- 100g/1/2 cup Butter + extra to butter the molds
- 10g/2tsp Honey
- 1/4 tsp Almond extract
- 2 tbsp Milk
- 2 Medium eggs
- 65g/1/3 cup Sugar
- 100g/3/4 cup Plain flour
- 5g/1 tsp Baking powder
- Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small casserole over a low heat. Once melted, add the honey, almond extract and milk and leave to one side to cool.
- Mix the flour and baking powder and keep aside for a later use
- In a small bowl, break the eggs in and give them a good whisk, until the white is fully broken and the yolk incorporated.
- Transfer 6 tbsp of eggs in a separate bowl, big enough to combine all the ingredients, and mix with the sugar until pale and frothy. you can discard the rest of the egg mix.
- Add the butter preparation to the egg mixture and mix for about 30 sec, or until it is all combine. At this stage the butter needs to be warm but not hot, otherwise it will cook the eggs.
- In two batches, quickly mix in the flour, just until the preparation is wet. Cover and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight.
- When you are ready to bake the goods, preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
- Butter and flour the tin and put a heaped tablespoon of batter into each shell.
- Put in the oven and bake for five minutes. Then turn the oven off for one minute, before turning the oven back on to 160C/325F/Gas 3 for a further five minutes. That one minute off is where the madeleines will get their signature peaks.
- Leave to cool in their mold. Only transfer to a wire rack once the cakes have set (after 5 minutes or so) otherwise you will lose their nice shape.
- I never have the time to leave the preparation to rest for more than 1 hour and they always turn out fine.
- Before I had a madeleine mold I used to use a mini muffin tin. You won’t get the nice shell crust but won’t alter their taste.
- Buttering and flouring your mold might seem like a hassle but skipping this step will result in soft cakes. Part of a good madeleine is its firm and slightly crispy outside.