There’s something about madeleines that seems so wonderfully precious to me. Maybe it’s because they share a name with the little French private school character. Maybe it’s because they require their own special pan for baking. Maybe it’s because they’re just so gosh darned dainty and cute that it’s a wonder they haven’t blossomed into macaron-territory popularity. (Mark my words: madeleines will be the on-trend dessert of 2019 or 2020).
My own history with madeleines is somewhat hazy. Until Christmas morning, I didn’t own madeleine pans, so I never got the chance to try to bake my own. Until now, my exposure had been limited to some store bought ones I tried when I was around 10. I can’t remember especially liking them – but I also can’t remember not liking them.
Nonetheless, I was eager to put my new pans to work and decided to test them out with the most simple and classic of madeleine flavours: vanilla-brown butter, from my Dorie’s Cookies cookbook.
Here’s the thing with madeleines: Dorie stresses that they should be consumed as shortly after being baked as possible. I was preparing these for an evening book club meeting, so I started to bake them just as the sun was going down. This means that the pictures get progressively worse – sorry for that. Is anyone else counting down eagerly until the days get long again?
Step one is to prepare the special madeleine pans by greasing them and flouring them. Check and check. Next, you whisk the dry goods together: all-purpose flour and baking powder. So far so good.
Now, the butter. The butter gets melted and swirled on the stove top for a little while – after all, this recipe is called vanilla brown butter. When the butter is amber-esque and smells nutty and delicious, it gets pulled off the heat.
Meanwhile, you mix white sugar with eggs, vanilla, salt, and honey – the wets.
For those keeping track, we now have three bowls going on: the butter, the dry, and the wet. It is now time to unite them as one: you gently stir the wet with the dry, then fold the butter, bit by bit. Finally, you add a bonus ingredient. The bonus ingredient is a tablespoon of either Scotch, bourbon, dark rum, or milk (… one of these things is not like the other…). I had some bourbon left over from the sticky toffee pudding I made somewhat recently, so I threw it in there – and you know what? The boozy kick was pretty noticeable, considering it was only a tablespoon! I’d like to see how the taste differs if I use milk instead.
The batter then gets poured into the mad-pan. The recipe says it yields 12 madeleines, but mine made 20 (bonus!!). They bake at a high-ish temperature (400 degrees) for a short-ish amount of time (12 minutes), then you have to tap them out of their shells right away.
(I’m not sure why it’s so urgent, but the recipe told me so. Maybe because they would keep baking and they’d dry out quickly? Who knows.)
I decided to kick my madeleines up one final notch by dipping them ever so slightly in some melted dark chocolate. This was not part of the recipe directions, but it was the right call – otherwise the madeleines may have been just a bit too plain.
The last step: a dusting of icing sugar (this step was called for by the recipe).
Now, I don’t know exactly what madeleines are supposed to taste like, but I’ll do my best to sum it up and someone can let me know if I made them correctly. They kind of taste like a mini two-bite cupcake – they’re light, and they have a nice springy texture. They’re not overly sweet, but they’re not terribly exciting either. Or maybe that’s just because I picked a boring flavour. The good news is that I’ve got some more exciting varieties to try both in this cookbook and another. Stay tuned – exciting madeleines coming your way soon.