To kick off our experimental loaner program, one of the first things I borrowed from The Concord Shop was a madeleine pan. I’ve never made madeleines before because I’ve never had the required pan, and I try not to make a habit of buying one-use items. Even one-use items that result in delicate, lemony teacakes.
[Husband would just like to interject to say that I have PLENTY of one-use-items, and he will refer you to Exhibit A: the cake pedestal. Which, yes, I own. And I will readily admit that not very many meticulously constructed, pedestal-worthy cakes get made on my watch. However, I got that cake pedestal as a wedding gift. I merely added it to the registry. If somebody else agreed that, yes, I should have a cake pedestal on my wedding day, that, in fact, one’s wedding day is the perfect day for such a gift, then I think certain husbands should take that up with the friend in question, not me. And, anyway, if you can’t satisfy your deepest, most profound culinary desires on your wedding day, then I’d like to know when you can.]
So, madeleines. Right. By law, I am now required to talk about Marcel Proust and his early childhood memories of France conjured up by tea-soaked madeleines in his epic, semi-autobiographical novel In Search of Lost Time. I have not read this book, nor do I have any similar nostalgic remembrances to report. My only memory of madeleines are from a Madrid subway station during my junior year abroad, where I purchased something billed as a madeleine and was struck by how genuinely tasty it was. This, I remember thinking, really illustrates the difference between Europe and the U.S. In Europe, you can buy quality confections in the bowels of the subway. Some days later, I returned to that same subterranean pastry case and bought a cream-filled something or other, and just barely made it to my stop before I threw up the whole curdled mess. It would seem that all of my autobiographical stories come back to vomit.
But not anymore. Here’s what madeleines conjure up to me now: a pleasant and windy Sunday afternoon spent nibbling the soft, buttery cakes with a mug of chamomile tea while everyone else was watching the football game. Warmth and comfort. Now I’m thinking a madeleine pan might be a one-use item I could stand to have around.
This makes enough batter to fill one standard-sized madeleine pan, plus a little extra for eating straight out of the bowl. No one, not even Proust, will cure me of that habit.
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working with the whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick, and light (2-3 minutes). Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days. This relaxes the gluten and makes a more tender cake.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and center a rack in the oven. Take one end of a stick of butter and apply a thick, chapstick-like coating to the madeleine pan. Use a paper towel to smear the butter entirely into the crevices. Dust the insides with flour and tap out excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them not quite to the top. Batter will spread in the oven, so don't worry about smoothing the tops. You don't want to deflate your lovely batter. If you accidentally overfill the molds, you will end up with a lip around the edges like mine, which is only a very minor aesthetic issue. Bake 11 to 13 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove from oven and rap edge of pan against the counter to release the madeleines, nudging them out with your fingers. Transfer cakes to a rack to cool. Dust with sifted confectioner’s sugar before serving.
Source: Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan