These authentic French little butter cakes are the perfect accompaniment to good coffee. Easy to make and a fashionable bite-size they should be made in classic madeleine baking trays to create the traditional scallop shell shape.
Legend has it that the recipe originated in the 1700’s when a young girl called Madeleine prepared them for the Duke of Lorraine in Northern France. Madeleine’s soon became synonymous with Lorraine until King Louis XV introduced them to the French court and they became de rigueur.
I have no idea where the shell-shape first originated but madeleines are now an iconic part of our culture. Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus uses the scallop shell as a symbol of fertility – and it’s rather nice to think these delicious petite madeleines have been tokens of love throughout the centuries.
“My grandmother’s recipe has been passed down through generations with her treasured scallop madeleine tins”
There are few Frenchmen that can enjoy the warming buttery taste without bringing back memories of happy celebrations and childhood days. The pleasure of baking madeleines in old vintage baking tins that my grandmother used is second to none, but I confess I also have modern silicon baking moulds – such is my love for these ‘moreish’ buttery cakes.
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a vintage madeleine tin mould I suggest you chill them after making sure they are well buttered, I use a pastry brush for this as it gets into the folds of the shell, and floured. You can place the moulds in the fridge whilst you make the mixture or longer if you can. This will help ensure the little madeleines turn out easily from the mould and retain the iconic plump scallop shape.
As you might expect the ingredients are of utmost importance to gain the best flavour. Some recipes suggest lightly browning the butter to give a nutty flavour, or you may wish to try a mix of caster sugar and demerara sugar which adds a buttery toffee flavour. In my opinion the simpler the recipe the better. I add a little lime, following my grandmother’s recipe, which gives a fresh note. A good madeleine should appear with defined browned scallop ridges and a light and fluffy center.
“These little tokens of love deserve to be celebrated for their delicate flavour and charming heritage”
Serves: 6 or 12 madeleine
• 3 eggs
• 200 gr of sugar
• 80ml of milk
• 250 gr of flour
• 8 gr of baking powder
• 125 gr of butter
• 1 lime
Melt the butter in a pan on a low temperature and set aside to cool.
Whisk the eggs until they are light and fluffy and gently add the caster sugar, whisking all the time until combined.
Add the flour into a large bowl, making a well in the center. Slowly pour the butter into and flour and mix. Add the grated lime and mix until completely combined.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest overnight in the fridge.
Stir the rested madeleine mix a little to loosen, then transfer to a piping bag.
Take the madeleine tray and pipe the mixture to the level, being careful not to overfill. Bake the madeleines in the oven for 12 minutes at 170 c. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before turning out and place on a cooling rack. The mix will make enough for 12 madeleines and are delicious served warm.
Ideally serve warm, straight from the oven and accompany with a piece of dark chocolate or a good Fondant Chocolat Noir and strong coffee.
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