Bonjour mon amis! It’s Memorial Day weekend but instead of patriotism, pools and picnics I can’t stop thinking about Madeleines. The classic French little cake that compelled Proust to ponder the past.What has put me in this French state of mind? A little champagne in a large Chateau. On Thursday I attended a reception and fundraiser for Les Dames d’Escoffier hosted by His Excellency Pierre Vimont the Ambassador of France to the United States.
In the Ambassador’s residence I was surrounded by grandeur — oil paintings, toile fabrics, antique furniture, massive fireplaces and marble stairways — but the thing that really caught my attention was this tiny, little cake. Warm and moist inside; a thin, crisp crust on the outside. “Oh, so that’s what they are supposed to taste like,” I thought. I had tried madeleines before and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Hmm, looking back now perhaps it wasn’t a smart idea to let Starbucks provide my introduction to this treat.
Madeleines at the French Ambassador’s home are, well, let’s face it, the Platonic ideal of madeleine-ness. I think this recipe, based on Joel Robuchon’s, is very close to ideal. Unlike Robuchon’s original madeleine recipe I like to brown the butter before adding it to the batter, the result is a buttery, sweet almond cake. Don’t be afraid to let the madeleine cook to golden brown around the edges. Bon Appetite!
2 sticks of butter, plus a bit extra for greasing the madeleine mold
2/3 cup sifted flour, plus extra for dusting the greased mold
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 cup very fine almond flour
6 large egg whites
1 Tbsp honey, preferably one with a strong flavor
Special Equipment: 2 Madeleine molds, medium-sized whisk
Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a small pot over medium heat until it’s brown and gives off a nutty aroma – approximately 20 minutes. Strain the butter through a wire mesh sieve lined with a paper towel so that the solids and brown bits are filtered out. Cool the butter to room temperature.
Butter and flour the madeleine molds – set aside.
Stir together the flour and confectioners’ sugar. Using a whisk, stir in the almond flour.
Hand beat the egg whites with a whisk until just broken up and fluid. Whisk in the flour-sugar mixture until fully combined. Stir in the melted butter and honey, whisking until you have a fully incorporated batter. The batter will seem very running compared to normal cake batter.
Spoon batter into the the madeleine mold, fill to just under full. The cakes will puff up in the warm oven and will overflow the molds if you fill to the top. I like to use a small, gravy ladle instead of spoon to fill the molds.
Refrigerate the full madeleine molds for 1 hour to firm up the batter before baking.
Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
After one hour, bake madeleines for 12 – 15 minutes, until the madeleines are lightly golden and firm to the touch but still somewhat tender. Remove the pans from the oven and rap them on your counter to loosen the madeleines. Gently remove the cakes from the mold and cook on a rack. I like to cool them flat-side down to the racks don’t indent their ridges.
Before serving, dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Once completely cooled madeleines can be kept in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Makes 24 to 36 cakes depending on mold size.
You can substitute room temperature melted butter for the browned butter.
Hand whisking is the easiest way to prepare this batter, hand mixing will allow you to fully incorporate the flours and sugar.
Don’t be afraid to let the madeleines bake until golden, especially around the edges so you achieve the thin, crunchy crust to the cake.