A madeleine, the small sponge cake with a shell-like shape, is a classic confection with a long history. Stories about its creation are conflicting but the Larousse Gastronomique says that it was invented by a young farmer named Madeleine in the small town of Commercy, in the north-east of France. In 1755, the king discovered the farmer’s small shop and loved her cakes so much that he named them after her and the recipe soon became a hit in Versailles and Paris. Whether this is the real story or not, it certainly is akin to a fairy tale. A small and humble confection makes it to a king’s court? I think it suits the madeleine’s dainty appearance perfectly.
The classic madeleine combines baking’s most basic ingredients: flour, eggs, sugar and butter, and it is usually flavored with lemon zest or orange water. I love making madeleines during the holidays because they’re versatile; they can be served from brunch to dinner. I try different flavor combinations every year, and this one ventures quite far from the original. The delicate crumb tastes like freshly brewed coffee, and the glaze tips the balance over to the sweet side. It’s a decidedly grown-up treat, a marriage of sweet and bitter that makes the cookie especially suited to be enjoyed at the end of a meal.
To make madeleines, you imperatively need a madeleine pan, of course. A steel pan should be preferred over a silicone one, as metal conducts the heat better, allowing the cookies to brown and crisp evenly. This recipe yields 24 madeleines, so if you only have one 12-mold madeleine pan, just bake them in two batches. Be advised that the batter needs to rest in the fridge for at least a couple of hours (or overnight) before baking, a step that ensures the cookies will puff up generously, as madeleines should.
Makes 24 madeleines
For the madeleines
3 large eggs
½ cup [125 ml] granulated sugar
½ tsp [2.5 ml] pure vanilla extract
¾ cup [180 ml] all-purpose flour
¼ cup [60 ml] cake flour
¼ cup [60 ml] best-quality cocoa powder (such as Valrhona’s)
½ tsp [2.5 ml] baking powder
1 tbsp [15 ml] instant espresso powder, or finely ground espresso coffee beans
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] salt
4 oz [113 g] unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
For the glaze
1½ cups [375 ml] powdered (confectioners’) sugar, plus more if needed
2 to 3 tbsp [30-45 ml] brewed espresso or coffee, plus more if needed
½ tsp [2.5 ml] instant espresso powder, or finely ground espresso coffee beans
Make the madeleine batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, instant espresso powder (or ground espresso beans), and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla with a mixer on medium speed until frothy, about 4 minutes. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in 2 additions using a rubber spatula. Fold in the melted butter until incorporated. Refrigerate the batter for at least two hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375°F [190°C]. Butter madeleine pan. Fill each madeleine mold with 1 heaping tablespoon batter. The batter will be stiff, but it will spread as it bakes. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 7 to 8 minutes. Immediately turn madeleines out onto a wire rack. If baking the madeleines in batches, wash the pan, dry it thoroughly, butter the molds, fill them with batter and repeat the baking process.
Make the glaze: Dissolve the instant espresso powder into the brewed espresso (or stir in the ground espresso beans). Whisk the powdered sugar and brewed espresso mixture together.
Once cool, dip half of each madeleine into the glaze at an angle; let excess drip off. Note that the glaze should be opaque when covering the madeleines. If the glaze is too thick, add more brewed espresso. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar. Transfer dipped madeleines to parchment paper, and let dry until the glaze is set, about 30 minutes.
Glazed madeleines can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the fridge for up to a week. Make sure to bring the madeleines back to room temperature before serving them.
Recipe Source: Adapted from Ashley Ristau, Martha Stewart Living Magazine