Sunday, July 1, 2007

classic madeleines

classic madeleines

On Friday, someone asked me if there was a food I was eager to try. I answered that I’d never baked or even tried a single madeleine in my whole life. Four hours later, I had done both, so emboldened by the suspicious ease of marking items off my wish-list, I next mentioned that I had yet to get that puppy I’ve been asking for. No dice on that one yet.

mom's madeleine pan

It might have helped that I nabbed a few months back the madeleine pan my father bought for my mother way back in the day when she, too, was absorbed with French cookery. I’ve realized lately that as much fun as it is to have shiny and new things for the kitchen, I like the appearance of the worn and, in this case, a wee dented ones better, from a time before there were silicon, non-stick and even miniature alternatives. All homage to old and beat up bakeware aside, I’m not sure with a recipe like the one I tried, I’ll be getting much more use out of it than mom ever did.

poor girl's fisheye a wee overfilled

While it’s so unlike a Dorie Greenspan recipe to do anything but send us catapulting into a buzzy baked good heaven, the one I used from her Paris Sweets book didn’t yield what I consider the stuff of florid food writing volumes. The crumb was surprisingly big, almost cornbread sized, they were fairly spongy and not in a tender way and they definitely lacked for salt to balance and round out the sweetness. They also had no hump. My last gripe, that I underbaked the first batch (you know, the one I actually got good pictures of), can be wholly chalked up to inexperience, though it might have helped if the recipe told you to look for browned edges and not just a top that sprung back. (That said, this, this, that and the other still make that cookbook a highly-advised, fun purchase.)

big crumb underbaked

Despite all the hoopla around madeleines, they’re really easy to make, did not barrage through an avalanche of ingredients and better yet, the items are fairly standard in a home kitchen, which means I have excuse not to bake up another batch very soon. But first I’d love some advice. Do you have a perfected technique, recipe or favorite experience with these vaulted cakes? In the meanwhile, I am posting the recipe I used for reference, in case it provides any insight into what may have gone wrong. And then I’m going to bug Alex to find out where my puppy is.

a proper edge

Classic Madeleines [Madeleines Classiques]
Adapted from Patisserie Lerch, via Paris Sweets

3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces; 70 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Sift together the flour and baking powder and keep close at hand. Working in a mixer fit with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until they thicken and lighten in color, 2 to 4 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. Switch to a large rubber spatula and gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Cover the batter with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal, and chill for at least 3 hours, perhaps longer–chilling helps the batter develop its characteristic crown, known as the hump or the bump. (The batter can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). If your Madeleine pan is not nonstick, generously butter it, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. If the pan is nonstick, you still might want to give it an insurance coating of butter and flour. If it is silicone, do nothing. No matter what kind of pan you have, place it on a baking sheet for easy transportability.

Divide the batter among the molds, filling them almost to the top. Don’t worry about smoothing the batter, it will even out as it bakes.

Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, small ones for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and golden and spring back when touched. Pull the pan from the oven and remove the cookies by either rapping the pan against the counter (the madeleines should drop out) or gently running a butte knife around the edges of the cookies. Allow the madeleines to cool on a cooling rack. They can be served ever so slightly warm or at room temperature.


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