These elegant savory madeleines are addictively fluffy, salty, and cheesy. They’re easy to make and even make-ahead-friendly! Perfect for a French-themed happy hour!
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A couple of years ago, I wrote and published a book about l’apéro, the French way of doing happy hour. While I was brainstorming and developing the recipes for the book, I wanted to try to create a savory version of every French snack cake: financiers, macarons, madeleines, and so on. Not all of my experiments were successes—all my attempts at financiers were a bust but I haven’t thrown the towel in on this challenge yet!—but savory madeleines were a runaway success.
Madeleines are the iconic shell-shaped cakes you’ll find in all French bakeries. They’re usually sold in bags and are just perfect for all occasions. You can serve them as a sweet treat with brunch, have them as a snack, enjoy them as a light dessert, or give them as a gift. I’m so passionate about madeleines that I’ve previously shared all my tips to make them at home, and I’ve also shared many variations on the classic recipe to turn them into seasonal treats.
Given that the sweet version of the treat is so versatile, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that savory madeleines are so addictive and delicious too. To make perfectly pillowy savory madeleines, you follow the exact same steps as you would to create sweet ones, but you flavor the batter with cheese and other savory ingredients instead of using sugar.
The result is a delightful tiny cake that’s perfect for happy hour, picnics, homemade gifts, and other occasions that benefit from a little something special that’s guaranteed to spark conversations.
If you’re like me, you probably already have too many baking pans, and so you’re wondering if you really need to get a new pan just to make madeleines. Although a madeleine pan is the only pan that will produce shell-shaped cakes, you can also use a muffin pan to make delicious savory madeleines.
To make madeleines in a muffin pan, generously grease and lightly flour all muffin cups, tapping off the excess. (You can also line the pan with parchment paper cups.) If you add only a small amount of batter to each cup, you will produce thin cakes with crisp edges that very closely mimic the texture of authentic madeleines. If you go the extra mile as indicated in the recipe—freeze your pan and refrigerate the batter—your round madeleines will even have that signature hump in the center of the cakes.
Madeleines have a pronounced hump on their back. This hump is the signature of a “perfect” classic madeleine. This hump has given madeleines a completely undeserved fussy reputation: it’s actually very easy to bake perfectly plump madeleines.
Madeleine humps are achieved by a temperature shock between a freezing cold pan and cold madeleine batter, and a very hot oven. While it might be tempting to skip the freezing and refrigerating delays to produce madeleines faster, you should know that haste will likely lead to madeleines that aren’t as fluffy, light, and high as they could be.
A note though: Flatter madeleines are perfectly delicious, so please! Never, ever throw a batch of madeleines away if they don’t rise as much as you would like. Be patient. Your next batch will be perfect!
Although modern madeleines pans are sold as “nonstick,” the only way to ensure your madeleines will pop right out of their molds is to generously butter and lightly flour each cavity. It’s especially important to take your time to properly prepare the pan if you’re making savory madeleines: their cheese content makes them especially prone to stick.
To prepare the pan you’re using (whether you use a madeleine pan or a muffin pan), use a pastry brush and very soft—not melted—butter to grease the cavities, then lightly sift flour over the pan. Tap the edges of the pan on your countertop to make sure the flour covers the butter evenly, then tap the pan upside down over your sink or a working surface to shake off excess flour.
For the fluffiest, humpiest savory madeleines, metal pans are best simply because they can become icy cold in the freezer, thus creating a more important temperature shock when you put the madeleines in the oven. This shock between the ice-cold pan and cold madeleine batter and the super-hot oven is what makes madeleines rise the highest. Silicon pans just can’t become cold enough to create the same effect.
If you have a silicone madeleine pan on hand, by all means, use it though! Although silicon is naturally nonstick, a delicate pastry such as savory madeleines could still stick to the pan and break when you try to unmold them. Always make sure to thoroughly butter and lightly flour a silicon pan before you use it. (See the previous question for additional tips.)
I’ve got great news for you: Contrary to classic, sweet madeleines, savory madeleines can be made ahead of time—they can even be frozen! Savory madeleines contain olive oil and cheese, both of which allow the savory madeleines to remain moist and tender for a longer period of time after baking.
Savory madeleines are at their very best when they’re enjoyed warm. You can bake the madeleines, unmold them, let them cool completely, and store them in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. To serve the savory madeleines, simply rewarm in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 5 to 8 minutes. This will make them pillowy tender again and wake all the delicious savory flavors right up.
You should also know that savory madeleine batter can be kept refrigerated for up to three days, which means you can bake just as many madeleines as you need and enjoy them fresh over several days. A pretty dreamy proposition, if you ask me!
Yes, they can! 🎉
As stated above, you can bake the madeleines, unmold them, let them cool completely, and store them in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 1 month. To serve the savory madeleines, simply rewarm them from frozen in a 300°F (150°C) oven for about 8 minutes to give them their freshly-baked texture and flavor again.
You can use many different ingredients to add flavor to savory madeleines:
You can even combine flavorings. Whatever you choose, make sure to make it a total amount of 1/4 cup (60 ml) as stated in the recipe to avoid weighing down the savory madeleine batter.
Yes, you can! I like Parmigiano-Reggiano because it injects so much flavor into the madeleines and it is often sold very finely grated (in a powdered texture.) You can substitute any strongly flavored hard cheese, such as Comté, Gruyère, or Emmenthal, but make sure to very finely grate the cheese to avoid weighing down the madeleine batter (which would result in flatter madeleines). You should also make sure to weigh the cheese you use instead of measuring it by volume to make sure you use the right quantity and reach the best flavor and texture.
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