Maybe you’ve never heard of Marcel Proust and madeleines are not part of your childhood memories. Still, you should try them. Made in a pan that forms them into beautiful, shell-like delicacies, madeleines are really small sponge cakes. With batter similar to that for a gènoise cake, they bake up in minutes and are perfect for teatime or a coffee break, or as dessert with ice cream or fruit.
If you need reasons to love them, here are my top three: 1) madeleines are simple to make once you know a few tips about preparing them; 2) they’re incredibly elegant and memorably delicious – Marcel Proust’s explanation for how tasting one transported him back to his childhood makes perfect sense once you’ve tried them; and 3) you can vary madeleines from plain to fancy with just a few extra ingredients.
Tips for Baking Madeleines
- Be gentle with the batter. Once you’ve beaten the eggs and sugar until they are light – a first step common in many cake recipes, fold in the rest of the ingredients with a light touch. Then when you’re moving it into the buttered and floured madeleine molds, just spoon it in without smoothing it or trying to even it out.
- Prepare the batter ahead of time, preferably the night before and put it in the mold, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake the madeleines. (I learned that trick from Dorie Greenspan and it’s definitely the way to go for the tastiest and best looking madeleines.) The characteristic “hump” on the back of madeleines -the top until you unmold it from the special pan that you bake them in – comes from letting the batter sit refrigerated for at least several hours.
- Serve madeleines on the day you bake them. Although they are fine for dipping in tea, coffee or milk the next day, they don’t last well and are best the day you bake them. (If you’re looking for a treat that lasts if you don’t eat them all the first day or two, try these nutella cookies.)
If you haven’t noticed it already, I’m obsessed by ginger. I love it in stir-fries and I’ve figured out how to easily peel the fresh ginger. For sweets I make candied or crystallized ginger and use it in lots of desserts: chocolate bark, loaf cake, cheesecake tartlets – even creme brulee. So it’s no surprise that I’ve added candied ginger to madeleines. I even have a pinterest board called Ginger Every Which Way
Although it’s fun to make candied ginger at home, if you’re not in the mood, just substitute a good quality store-bought version. This version (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Traditional Madeleines in Baking: From My Home to Yours) has a gingery undertone, but the flavor isn’t heavy. If you prefer a more pronounced ginger taste, add more.
Servings – 12 Cost – $3
- ⅔ cup flour + 1-2 tablespoons extra for flouring pan
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt (⅛ teaspoon) salt
- 1 – 1 tablespoons finely minced candied ginger
- 1 tablespoon ginger syrup (the simple syrup from homemade) or 1 tablespoon honey
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled + extra for greasing pan
- 1-2 tablespoons of confectioners (powdered) sugar for dusting cooled madeleines
- 2 bowls – 1 medium and 1 small
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Silicone (rubber) spatula
- 2 spoons
- Ramekin or similar microwave-safe container (for melting butter)
- Wire rack
- Small strainer for dusting confectioners sugar
- Butter the molds in the madeleine pan well (in all the crevices) and flour them, tipping out the excess flour.
- Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in the small bowl and set aside.
- In the medium bowl, rub the minced ginger into the sugar to release the aroma of the ginger. Add the eggs and ginger syrup or honey and beat the ingredients until the mixture is pale and light.
- Gently fold in the dry ingredients into the sugar/egg mixture. Fold in the melted butter, using a sweeping motion around the edges of the bowl to incorporate the dry ingredients until the batter is uniform.
- Using 2 spoons (one to dip into the batter and the other to release the batter from the first spoon), drop the batter into the buttered and floured molds. Lightly press a sheet of plastic wrap over the molds and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Bake the madeleines for 10-14 minutes until the edges are slightly brown and the center springs back when lightly touched.
- To cool the madeleines, gently rap the pan against the wire rack or a counter and turn it over. If one or two stick, pry them out with a butter knife. Hopefully, if the molds were well buttered and floured, the madeleines will release from the pan without much difficulty.
- Once they are ready to serve, dust the madeleines with confectioners sugar.