October 17, 2011

Cracking the Madeleine

Madeleines are one of my favorite treats. Perfect for a cozy afternoon-tea or special event...or, a plan B, if Aunty M. is making an unexpected visit. Quick, simple, and delish. I have gone through many different madeleine recipes, from Julia Child to Le Cordon Bleu; after tasting, testing, tweeking, and a few re-dos I settled on the recipe from The Culinary Institute of America. It was simple; in ingredients and technique. The very essence of a madeleine is simplicity. A friend once told me, "This is the biscuit the French mother makes every morning to go with a good cup of coffee"-- it should come like whipping up pancakes, it should be simple. So here is my recipe, with a few notes on the side for inquiring minds.


⅔ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

½ tsp baking powder

4 tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (This is very important! See Note 1.)

⅓ cup sugar

½ tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 large egg, at room temperature (Also very important! See Note 1.)

2 tbsp cold whole milk

¼ tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp powdered sugar (for dusting)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat madeleine pan with oil (or butter, but it will brown more) and dust with flour.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest on medium speed until smooth and light in texture, about 5 minutes (see Note 2). In a separate bowl, combine the egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture in 2 or 3 additions, beating well after each addition. On low speed, mix in the sifted dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl as needed during creaming, gently mixing (not too much) to blend evenly (see Note 3).

Cool about 5 to 8 minutes in the refrigerator (just to make it a little more firm. This step is not necessary, but it is helpful if you're not using a pastry bag.
Fill pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch wide plain pastry tip with the batter (or just use a spoon, I was taught to use a small cookie scoop for portion control). Pipe into the prepared madeleine pan, filling the molds a little below the top. Bake until the edges of the madeleines turn a medium golden brown, about 12 minutes (see Note 4). Turn the madeleines out onto a wire rack while they are still warm, let cool before serving. Dust with powdered sugar.


1: Although most home cooks seem to skip the whole, “at room temperature” bit in a recipe, it would surprise you to know that when the eggs and butter (for more on butter see note: 2) are at room temperature, the batter can actually become lighter! Interesting, isn’t it? Because, at room temperature, the eggs are lighter, it allows them to be mixed in softly yet quickly, reducing stir time (flattening time) and more importantly, when cold eggs are mixed with warm butter the mixture will leak liquid or curdle, causing the end product to be dry, grainy, and flavorless.

2: Creaming butter should take about five to six minutes. Just one more of those little things we all tend to skip. But, if you have enough patience, you’ll notice the butter will triple in size, that is if the butter is at room temperature; this is what helps to make the batter lighter. Warning: The creamed butter will start to sink instantly when it hits its peak, therefore, prepping all the other components is imperative to quick and effective assimilation. On the side: you should not microwave the butter to get it to room temp.

3: If the madeleines come out with air pockets in them (see example photo below), they were mixed for too long, allowing too much air to be incorporated. This creates the unwanted chewy-dense-texture that many people attribute to the defenseless tea-cake.

4: Also, if the madeleines bubble up like small mountains (see example photo below), they were baked for too long. They should round off a little, creating an even slope, not bubbling to such great heights .


  1. Hey, this looks cool! It's not something I would ever have thought to try, but they sure look yummy! This may be a dumb question, but do you *have* to have a special madeleine pan, or is there some way to make them without? (It just might take me longer to make them if I have to buy a mold first. ;))

  2. Yes, you have to have a mold for them. :( Haha, I know, I always wanted to make them but never had a pan. Every time I went to Ross, I would check just to see, and then one day, there it was! It was love at first sight. Aha aha, jk. :P

  3. I don't have a mold for them but I'm sure you could make some for me and I'd tell everyone if they were delicious. :-D