It was about ten to twelve months ago when I was introduced to the madeleine. The first thing that popped into my head was, "Isn't that a person's name?" Yes, but madeleines are these super light and fluffy individual tea cakes that originated in France.
These lovely little cakes are distinguished by their beautiful clamshell shape and a bump on the back, and they're baked in special madeleine pans with shell-shaped cavities in them.
I finally got around to making madeleines myself a couple of weeks ago. I thought they were going to be miniature cakes, but I was so wrong. They're so much better than a regular cake. They've got a lovely texture, a buttery yet refreshing flavor. Madeleines are simply irresistible!
Madeleines are absolutely light and airy; they weigh practically nothing. They melt in the mouth and are so flavorful!
What goes into madeleines?
Madeleine batter is very similar to a génoise sponge batter. It's different from other cake batters because the eggs and sugar are beaten together instead of the butter and sugar like in most cake batters.
You need four main ingredients to make any madeleine, eggs, castor sugar, flour, and butter. I've also added some vanilla extract, lemon zest, and baking powder to my recipe. Using baking powder is kind of a cheat because madeleines should rise solely dependent on the air we beat into the eggs.
Unlike most cake batters, the process of combining ingredients is different for madeleines. We start by beating together the eggs and castor sugar until the mixture is pale in color and super light and fluffy. An indicator that it's been adequately aerated is that the batter should drip in a ribbon-like fashion when you lift your whisk.
We then fold in the flour and baking powder by sifting them into the mixture, followed by the flavoring agents. You must fold very gently. Lastly, we fold in melted butter. You can also use browned butter; it tastes phenomenal.
Madeleines aren't more reliant on the ingredients but on the technique. Everything relies on how you beat the eggs and how you fold the ingredients. You must be very gentle yet swift; your main goal is not to knock off any of the air you incorporated into the eggs. Cut through to the edge, lift, and turn batter over the flour. Give the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat until flour is incorporated.
Now, for the flavoring, I've used a mixture of vanilla and lemon. It's simple yet punchy. You can, however, play with the flavors as you wish. You can leave out the lemon, maybe add some peppermint; you can also infuse the melted butter with earl grey tea.
I topped my baked madeleines with confectioner's sugar. You can also top them with a chocolate drizzle, or a sugar glaze, or chopped nuts. The world is your oyster!
Lastly, I wanna touch upon the eggs. Eggs are absolutely essential for madeleines. There isn't a replacement or substitute for eggs, as far as I know. If I experiment with an eggless madeleine recipe and they're successful, I will update this post. [update: aquafaba works as a replacement for eggs in this recipe, check notes section for exact quantities.]
What equipment do I need?
You'll need an electric mixer to beat your eggs and sugar. You can do it with a whisk, but it's going to be a taxing job.
You'll need a sieve, two mixing bowls, and a rubber spatula.
Lastly, you will need a madeleine pan. Preferably a metal one. They're inexpensive and are readily available online or in baking supply shops.
The Recipe For Super Spongy Madeleines
Yields: 14 madeleines
Time: 40 minutes plus chilling
100 grams (½ cup) salted butter, melted
100 grams (½ cup) castor sugar
100 grams egg (2 large no.) [*see notes section for eggless version]
100 grams (½ cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
4 grams (1 teaspoon) baking powder
6 grams (1 ½ teaspoon) vanilla extract
4 grams (2 teaspoons) lemon zest
To a mixing bowl, add the castor sugar and eggs.
Use an electric mixer or a whisk to beat the two together until you have a pale and fluffy mixture that has more than doubled in size.
Sift the flour and baking soda into the egg and sugar mixture.
Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together without deflating the egg mixture's air.
Fold in the vanilla extract and lemon zest, followed by the melted butter.
Once you have a smooth batter with no flour pockets or lumps, pour it into a large piping bag and seal the open end with an elastic band or a bag clip.
Refrigerate the madeleine batter for 30 minutes to an hour.
Use a pastry brush to grease the madeleine pan with melted butter; make sure you grease every nook and cranny.
Place the greased pan in the refrigerator as well.
Preheat the oven to 180°.
Bring out the chilled batter and pan. Cut off the tip of the piping bag and pipe the batter into the prepared pan.
Do not overfill; leave around a ¼ inch gap from the top of the cavity.
Bake the madeleines at 180°C for 11-12 minutes until you see golden brown edges.
Turn the pan over and tap it on a surface and then shake it; the madeleines should fall right out.
Allow them to cool completely at room temperature and then decorate as per your wishes.
You can dust them with powdered sugar, drizzle melted chocolate, and so on.
Not all madeleines will have the signature bump on the back, and that's okay. They'll still be delicious.
You can store the madeleines in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.
You can also double or triple the recipe per your wish. The batter can stay in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
*For eggless madeleines: Use 100 grams (½ cup) of aquafaba (aka canned chickpea water). You can find videos on how to make some at home online.
You will need to whip it with the sugar until it’s thick and foamy, and proceed with the recipe as it is.