Saturday, March 28, 2009

Honey Madeleines

Let's be honest: we all need a perfect Madeleine recipe. You know me, the one with the tiny kitchen where a muffin tin has at least four different uses -- I'm the last person who will tell you that you need this specific kind of brand/ingredient/cake-pan. And yet, I am telling you now -- you need a Madeleine pan and you need this recipe for honey Madeleines. Why? Because it's perfect.

Spring brings that out in me, the appreciation of simplicity, of new beginnings. It's in the air, the way the little buds all open up at the same time and this tree outside my window, this tree that was bare yesterday, suddenly shimmers with a pale green mist. Sure, I could bake, say, a brandied-cherry mascarpone cheesecake (interested?) or mix some Poma-limon-tinis for brunch, but truth be told, all I want is a cup of tea, a stack of these tender little cakes and the smells of spring. What can I tell you, I'm just that kind of a girl.

You might remember that way back when, I tried Dorie's Madeleines and I wasn't thrilled. Having made them again, I can definitely say that my technique was off at that time, so it's partly my fault, but out of the two recipes, this one comes out as a clear winner. It was soft, it was fluffy, it was a little crunchy on the outside with tender air pockets inside. Lightly sweet with an underlying taste and smell of honey, these little cakes are just begging to be glazed or simply dusted with a festive coat of confectioner's sugar. They will lift you out of your winter funk -- and that's not a promise I make lightly.

Honey Madeleines
Once Upon A Tart
(makes 12 full sized Madeleines or 24 minis)

[Note: I love this book and this recipe, but their instructions for Madeleines are kind of scant and assume a greater level of familiarity with Madeleines than I previously had, so I roamed the internet for tips and have compiled an all-you-need-to-know Madeleine tutorial. I'd like to say I learned all this by example and by trial and error, but really, it was mostly by error. :)]

3/4 cup all purpose flour
4 tbsp butter (plus more for buttering pan)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp honey (I prefer to use dark, fragrant honey)
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

In a small saucepan or microwave, melt the 4 tbsp of butter (some people like to brown it, but I haven't tried that yet). Stir in honey and extract. Let cool to room temperature.

While the butter/honey/extract is cooling, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. For full disclosure, I have to tell you that for the best, the tenderest cookies, what you really need to do is sift the dry ingredients together, and possibly sift them twice (but if you are short on time or patience, or you are me, whisking is just fine).

Break the two eggs into a large bowl and add the sugars. Now, this part is really important - whip the eggs on a high speed for at least 3 minutes -- possibly as much as 5 -- until they are thick and light in color, and fall in a dense ribbon when you lift your beater out of the bowl. This is what gives Madeleines their airy texture, so don't skimp on the whipping.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the eggs, being really careful not to deflate the eggs and mixing only until the flour disappears. Then, being just as careful, fold in the cooled butter/honey/extract mixture. I do this by pouring it down the side of the bowl and then swirling it around with the spatula until the texture is uniform.

Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Turn the oven to 400F and brush your Madeleine pan with softened or melted butter. Brush it well - the worst is to be stuck prying your beautiful little cakes from the pan because you didn't butter it enough. Fill the molds about 3/4 of the way - don't worry, they will spread and rise as they bake. Bake until the Madeleines rise and the edges are browned. In practice, it's usually about 10-12 minutes for full sized cakes or 8-10 for minis. Please watch carefully because even 30 seconds extra makes a difference with these.

Take out the pan and tap it lightly on the counter to unmold the cakes and then carefully pry them out of the molds (I use a dull butter knife to help me there), arrange on plate and dust with confectioner's sugar. Usually, Madeleines should be eaten the same day they are made, but these were still totally awesome the next day.

To hump or not to hump, that is the question?

In my search for baking tips, I came across what I like to call as "The Great Madeleine Debate." By this, I mean the hump vs. no hump question. Some Madeleine purists insist that the perfect Madeleines need to have a distinct hump when coming out of the oven, and as such, this is the only kind they will allow to cross their venerated lips. The other purists counter with, "Aha, but even PARISIANS -- the ultimate authority on pastries in general and Madeleines in particular -- don't like their Madeleines to hump, and humping is not ladylike anyway, so there." They then get into a Madeleine-throwing fight and many cookies are sacrificed in the ensuing battle.

To me, all this "much ado about nothing" (I'm feeling very Shakespearean today) seems kind of silly (sorry, Madeleine purists). I mean, these are little cakes, not camels, right, so why would we insist on a hump? In short, my view is: as long as they taste great, I give them a pass, hump or no hump.


La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I never tasted a madeleine. I hope soon because these looks so yummy.

Sara said...

These madeleines look delicious. I bought a mini madeleine pan a while back but have yet to use it- this looks like the perfect way to start!

The Food Librarian said...

These look delicious!!! I would like to have some with tea right now!

Dewi said...

Wow Irene,
Such a pleasant treats to have for the day like today. I am just happy to see it. Will make this, but the chocolate version of Pierre Herme.

bridget {bake at 350} said...

Those look beautiful!

CM said...

I want a cup of tea and a stack of these too!!

Mermaid Sews said...

Thank you for the madelines tip. I just started a baking blogging group (using the Sweet Melissa Baking Book) and I will link to this post when we get around to madelines.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... It's been too long since I've had a madeline. Hopefully, it won't be too much longer :). These look wonderful.

Recipe man said...

look great! thanks
what fun i love madelines

Donna-FFW said...

These look absolutely delicious, I love baked goods with honey, and they are soo pretty!

RecipeGirl said...

Gosh, I've had a madeleine pan for a really long time and haven't yet tested it out. I kind of have forgotten about it sitting in my cupboard. This looks like a good way to try it out! Yum!

Ingrid_3Bs said...

I haven't had a chance to try your lovely strawberry scones and there you go making another wonderful yummy that I've yet to taste or make!!! I was hoping to take today off from baking but it's not looking good!

Your photos are beautiful!

Elyse said...

You're right: I do need a Madeleine pan. No excuses. I need to just break down and buy one...because until I do, I'm missing out on these treasures, and boy, do they look delicious!

Hayley said...

Well it looks like my next purchase is going to be a Madeleine pan. My close friend's name is Madeleine, so this would be a perfect gift to bake up for her. Thanks for sharing, your pictures and thoughts are always so wonderful.

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I love the look of these honey madeleines. And your description of them really makes me want to try them. I also love the photo of that bark. And on the hump or no-hump front, I really want to make a madeleine with a hump once in my life! After that, I'll settle for whatever the oven gods give me. :)

Veron said...

I've always wanted to try madeleines. Actually I just got reminded of it when I was watching this Transporter movie yesterday...

Ash said...

These look sooo delicious! I have never made these. I may have to give them a try!

Miette said...

Very cute ! They sound so good ! Like those whiche are coming from Commercy in France !



emily said...

I love your blog. The pictures are crisp, bright and happy.. Very mood lifting. Must be nice to be living in sunny California.. :) I can't wait to try some of your recipes!

Emily said...

These madeleines look delicious! And such beautiful photographs..

Jude said...

Love the deep brown color. Still working on my perfect traditional recipe and I hope to try yours soon. I can't seem to get the little bump consistently.

Joey said...

You are right to say that we all need a madeleine pan :) Mine is silicon though and I think that is the reason why I can never get the burnished golden color your beautiful madeleines have! I will bookmark this recipe and try it when next I make madeleines! Thanks you for sharing it :)

Irene said...

Joey, I think honey is the secret here. When I made madeleines without honey, they did not really brown at all. Also, some recipes have you brush the pan with butter and flour it - in this recipe, you only brush with butter.

Lauren said...

The madeuleines look lovely! I shall try them with gluten-free flour. Now I just need one of those cute pans. Beautiful blog you have here! :)

Irene said...

Thank you! You know, I've always wanted to try them with a gluten-free flour, so if you do make them, please let me know how they turned out!

Denise said...

Finally! The perfect Madeleine! I've searched and tested many recipe's but none were quite right. I was immediately intrigued with your instructions to beat the eggs and sugar until thick. Somehow I had a good feeling about this recipe and was fabulous! I love your site and read it everyday, the photography is brilliant! Thank you very much!

Irene said...

So glad you liked them! The "Once Upon a Tart" cookbook is pretty awesome and this is now my go-to recipe for Madeleines. Love the hint of honey there. And thank you, what a very nice thing to say!

Ms. Mary said...

I know this is an older post, but had to pop on and say...thanks so much! Just finished baking 2 batches for Summer Solstice, they were yummy! I added some lavender, which went so well with the honey.
Thanks again!

A said...

Hello! I'm a bit behind but I found your recipe and made them yesterday - wanted a honey one in particular. It took twice as long to get the ribboning, but then I seemed to have a double batch when I was done too. (Maybe the heat made a difference.)
Love love love them. My new gift food! Very glad it translated to Australian cooking too - sometimes the sugars can throw things off. Thank you!

A said...

And here's my effort. They're huge, I know. Think I'll only fill to 3/4 next time, fridge the remainder and make as many as it happens to make. Yum!

Kim Ng said...

Dear Irene,

Thank you so much.
You are so lovely and thoughtful to attached some many tips for these honey madeleines.
I have been making these batches from your recipes and they all work very well.

Thank you once again!

Love from Sunny Singapore,