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Ah, the madeleine, the illusive shell shaped petit cake from the French Loire region. Several recipes were made and resulted in a rather dry and dull confection. Nothing to shout about and not what Proust could have meant when he wrote those famous words:
No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin…. And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
—Marcel Proust (author 10-7-1871 – 18-11-1922), In Search of Lost Time
The joy of creating the camel hump or ‘bosse de chameau’ as the French would say
Cakes, breads or cookies, the most important thing is finding that firm base of a good recipe. And we think we found it when we tried the one Mr Suas provides in his excellent book ‘Advanced Bread and Pastry’. Like with all these recipes aimed at professional bakers and pastry chefs you have to do some recalculation and tweaking with ingredients, methods and oven settings to make it work for the home baker.
We think our recalculated recipe and adjusted method is ready and worthy of sharing with you. It took us some bakes to hit that sweet spot where color and crumb are just right. We give you our exact times and temperatures, but remember that with these short baking times, a minute can make a lot of difference. So you might need a few turns too to get it right with your oven.
Let us know what you think!
Ingredients for the Madeleines
makes about 30 madeleines, depending on size of shells in tin
175 g pastry flour / French type 45 flour
5 g baking powder
175 g butter, melted (or you can make ‘beurre noisette’)
140 g sugar
20 g soft brown sugar
30 g runny honey (flower /acacia)
4 small eggs with total weight of 190 g
0.7 g / 1/8 teaspoon salt
flavoring of choice: lemon, almond, vanilla…
Making the Madeleines
Start by sifting the flour with the baking powder. Set aside. Melt the butter over low heat and leave to cool slightly.
Combine sugar, soft brown sugar, honey, eggs, salt and optional flavoring. Just make sure you get a homogeneous batter, you do not need to mix. We use a Danish dough whisk for this.
Add the sifted flour to this mixture and make sure all the flour is incorporated by stirring gently. The flour does not have to be 100% percent incorporated at this point as you will stir some more while adding the melted butter. Now slowly add the melted butter and fold it in until everything is combined and all butter has been ‘absorbed’.
Store in the fridge for one to two hours. Mister Suas pipes the batter into the molds and puts the filled molds in the fridge, but we do it our way out of practicality. We do not have enough molds to fill and chill in one go, so we chill the batter, fill the molds and place the remaining batter back in the fridge for the second round of baking.
Preheat your oven at 235ºC / 455ºF conventional setting.
Brush the molds (we use a non-stick version) with butter, then lightly and evenly dust with flour. After chilling scoop your madeleine batter in a piping bag. Fill the molds to about 3/4 with batter.
Take the filled madeleine mold and place it in the oven on a baking rack, on a tier above the center. Bake the madeleines at 235ºC / 455ºF for 2.5 minutes. Now turn your oven back to 180ºC / 355ºF and bake for a further 7 minutes. Please note that this method produced the best madeleines for our oven. Like us, you probably have to bake a few batches to get the optimum result with your own oven.
Take the tin out of the oven, immediately release the madeleines and place them on a flat surface for a few minutes. When they have firmed up, you can place them on a cooling rack. Please note that if you place them on a cooling rack too quickly the rack will leave prints on the cakes. We use the flat back of a bamboo chop stick to nudge them out of the mold.
You can give the cakes a lemon or orange glaze as an optional extra, but they do not really need anything added to them. Eat them as fresh as possible. Any leftovers can be stored in the freezer for a maximum of 3 to 4 weeks.