Once upon a time, when I lived in France, I fell in love.
It was a whisper-soft morning in Aix-en-Provence, and the world of southern France was stirring like a spoon through honey – slowly; sweetly. Still new enough to delight in every minute facet of this uniquely french culture in which I found myself, I was awake and bent on luxuriating in exploration. Slowly weaving my way through the quiet bustle of the Saturday morning market, I drifted from booth to booth, internally marveling at the magic inherent in both le marché and the morning. It was in this state of naïve marvel, that I unwittingly came face to face with a serious epicurean love, or, what some people might refer to as a culinary crush. That’s right, this was my first experience with madeleines in France.
So began my life-long romance with the madeleine. A few euro later, and I was hooked. Nothing has ever compared to the delectable madeleines that I tasted in Aix-en-Provence at the market. . . but I continue to seek out a delicious madeleine in the United States; my own personal Search for Delicious.
Today, I chose two madeleine recipes to attempt and, in one case, dramatically adapt. First, I went to Martha. Okay, so she might have a reputation for ridiculously elaborate everything (not to mention the whole brief stint in Jail) . . . but the woman shares a mean recipe. Said recipe, which you can find online here, is just so imminently doable compared to many. I followed all of the steps.
First, you butter the pan, zest the lemon peel, and juice the lemon itself. . . Then, you mix the melty butter with eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice until it’s silky.At this point, you put all the highly-sifted dry ingredients into the liquid-mix and “fold”. I dislike “folding” mixtures together. It’s tedious, and I don’t know how I feel about the results (aka, it seems a little bumpy in the end). . . BUT, fold I did, and then let it sit the requisite 30 minutes before spooning it into the pan, and waiting the short 6-7 minutes until this first batch was done.The Result? A fairly lovely madeleine, if you ask me. After they had cooled a bit, I gave them the madeleine treatment and explored the potential success story. . .
Martha’s Madeleines are respectable. They stay moist and retain a tangy lemon flavor that can sometimes be lost on the madeleine. I would probably make these again, although I’m not sure it would be worth the number of eggs. 3 full eggs and 2 egg yolks in only about 24 madeleines? It seems a little excessive. And, sadly, they’re still not as good as the ones from Aix. HOWEVER, they did keep a little better than the others, remaining tasty into the following day, rather than getting dry. People who do not typically like strong lemon flavors still enjoyed this madeleine immensely, and the heavier/more-bread-like texture has a certain density (*cough* EGGS *cough*) that appeals to some more than others.
SO, it was with hopeful trepidation that I took on an adaptation of my own, blending a lot of different ideas I read online with my preferred ingredients and a little prayer (it was very loosely based on Christophe Felder’s recipe in his book Patisserie). Without further ado, I give you my second attempt… the quasi-original:
Madeleines de Cakey.
- 1 Stick plus 1 TBSP butter (melted)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp vanilla-bean paste
- 1/4 cup + 2 TBSP sugar
- 2 TBSP honey
- 1 cup + 1 TBSP cake flower
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1&1/2 – 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 1-2 TBSP lemon zest
First you melt the butter and set it aside so it’s not scalding hott. Then, while you’re on the subject of butter, grease up that madeleine pan generously. After you set that buttery cake mold aside, break the eggs into a bowl and add the vanilla extract.
Next, whisk the sugar into the eggs until it dissolves.
Neeeext, whisk in the honey – it makes for a really lovely texture! When the honey-nilla-eggy mixture is smooth and shiny, pause to sift together the flour and baking powder, then mix it into the egg mixture.
At this point, your butter should still be liquid, but somewhat cooler than before, so this is its’ big moment . . . stir it into the rest of the mixture, followed by the lemon juice.
Now, once you are all set with the buttery goodness, it is important to remember your flavoring, so this is where I added the lemon juice and zested some lemon right into the batter.
Last, but not least, I added some vanilla bean concentrate/paste, which is possibly my favorite ingredient of all time.
Now that the mixture smells amazing and is flecked with beautiful bits of vanilla, it should look sort of like this: At this point, take saran wrap and cover the dough, right up next to the surface of the batter, and let it sit for 2 hours at room temperature. When two hours are up, bake them at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 6 minutes (in a buttered pan). Careful! These are easy to overbake! But I promise, the vigilance will be worth it . . . check out this beauty!
This is absolutely my preferred madeleine between the two recipes I attempted. Although it’s still just not quite as good as the ones from Aix, the consistency was much closer, and the spongey-ness was much better. These dried out a little faster, so I would recommend serving them the same day they are made. The flavor was, while a little less abrupt with the vanilla to gentle it, still a very nice, quite-lemony delicious! In the 15(ish) blind taste tests, only one person preferred Martha’s to mine, so I believe we have a winner, folks! (At least until an even better one comes along . . . )
Now, if somebody out there has the perfect recipe, please don’t hold out on me! I’m still on that quest . . . but these will assuage the nostalgic homesickness for france and tide me over for now!