15 minutes plus 1 hour chilling
“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me.”
Proust – Swann’s Way
The humble Madeleine had the power to evoke childhood memories that inspired Proust’s most famous work, In Search Of Lost Time. Yet, despite their lofty literary associations, Madeleines are, simply, small sponge cakes baked in a special scalloped tray that gives them their distinctive shape. Even though they are actually completely unassuming they are simply delicious served warm from the oven with a cup or tea or coffee, buttery and fragrant, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
Bake them once and you are very likely going to become Madeleine–obsessed. That’s because, like Macarons, you can create endless new flavour combinations, dip them in chocolate or caramel, cover them in glaze – really, your imagination is the only limit.
There are several ways to make Madeleines, some more complicated than others. The method here may upset the purists but is actually the easiest, requiring no special equipment other than the Madeleine mould.
To grease the mould
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Set aside to cool.
Put the eggs, sugar, vanilla paste, salt, lemon juice, and zest in a bowl and vigorously whisk together using a hand whisk until the sugar dissolves and the eggs are pale and frothy - about 5 minutes.
Sift the flour over the egg mixture then gently fold in the flour using a silicone spatula.
Add the cooled melted butter and fold in with the spatula until the batter is completely smooth. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge for at least an hour. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan (or the microwave on very low setting) then add 1 tablespoon flour and stir together until smooth.
Dip a pastry brush into the butter/flour mix and use it to grease the madeleine mould, taking care to coat every crevice and along the top. Put the mould in the freezer for an hour.
Once the batter is ready to use, preheat the oven to 180C and place a baking sheet in the oven. Remove the mould from the freezer and pipe or spoon about one tablespoon of batter into each shell (the amount may depend on the size of your mould).
Put in the oven (on top of the baking sheet). Bake for 8 minutes, rotate and bake for a further 8 minutes or until the centres of the madeleines spring back when pressed lightly.
Lay a clean kitchen towel on your counter top then turn the mould upside down and shake gently so that the madeleines pop out. If any resist, gently nudge them with the edge of a knife. Cool slightly and dust with icing sugar. Serve immediately with coffee or tea.