Weekly Kitchen: The trick to making Madeleines
By ANGELA McRAE, Special to The Weekly
Some foods have earned a place in literary history. Consider the Turkish Delight that was Edmund’s favorite sweet in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or the slices of southern goodness that Fannie Flagg had us all drooling over in her book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.
French novelist Marcel Proust, in his Remembrance of Things Past, famously remembered the pleasant time that his mother offered him tea, which he at first declined but then took along with “one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell.”
Madeleines do indeed have a scalloped shape, and one day, I decided to bake some of the classic lemon-flavored ones. I found a vintage French madeleine pan at an antique mall, and I had read that the key to baking madeleines was to butter the pan well, so I did. Alas, my madeleines clung to that pan for dear life. Then I read that you should really butter the pan three times and freeze it in between butterings so that every nook and cranny of the pan is covered in butter.
Fine. Tried it. Didn’t work.
I was about to give up on trying to bake madeleines when I happened across a Wilton nonstick madeleine pan for just 99 cents at a discount store. I decided to give it a whirl, and every madeleine I’ve ever made with it has come out perfectly. Madeleines aren’t hard to bake at all, but do yourself a favor and buy a nonstick pan, unless you just enjoy spending half your life buttering crevices and plopping pans in the freezer.
Having long ago mastered the lemon madeleine, I wanted to try another flavor, and this vintage recipe for Chocolate Madeleines comes from a grand old department store, Strawbridge and Clothier in Philadelphia. Perfectly light and cake-like, these madeleines are garnished with the tiniest sprinkling of powdered sugar, and I’ll bet that today’s kids would enjoy these as a fun new after-school snack.
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons melted butter, divided use
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
A few tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs well, then add granulated sugar and beat again. Add cocoa, baking powder, vanilla, and the 1 stick of melted butter and beat for one minute. Sift flour directly over the egg mixture and beat by hand for another minute, just till combined. Spoon by heaping tablespoons into cavities of madeleine pan greased with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter.* Bake for 10-12 minutes, until madeleines are slightly cracked or dry. Remove from pans and cool on racks. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. Yields 18 madeleines.
Note: I used a Wilton madeleine pan that makes madeleines about 3 inches tall and 2 inches wide.