When attending an annual spring tea and you signed up to bring a sweet little pastry under the list of either savory appetizers or sweet pastries, what do you bring? 

You bring madeleines, of course. 

And exactly what is a madeleine? They're sweet little butter cake-like cookies. What truly makes them a madeleine is the little scallop shell-like shape with a soft bump. It's been written that the soft little biscuit (biscuit being the UK term for cookie) first appeared in France during the 18th century. Supposedly in 1755, Louis XV, the son-in-law of the duke, was charmed by the little cakes prepared by the French cook, Madeleine Paulmier, hence their name. Later the little cookies were introduced to the court in Versailles. 

However, it was the French author Marcel Proust who immortalized the pastry in his 1913 book, Swann's Way, the first volume of Proust's seven-part novel Remembrance of Things Past. In this body of work, it gives mentions to the taste of a tea-soaked cake which evokes a surge of nostalgia. 

There are various basic madeleine recipes, along with recipes if you prefer to go rogue with lemon, chocolate, carrot cake-style, and even savory thyme madeleines. You will find many of these recipes on Pinterest. I suggest you try the traditional basic madeleine recipes - first. Keep trying until you find a recipe that works for you and then try the non-traditional like chocolate...

First of all, you will need the right pan seeking out a non-stick pan with the detail of the traditional madeleine shell. 

Madeleine Pans

Here is an easy recipe for madeleines and I liked the results. 


10  Tbsp unsalted butter
2    large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3    Tbsp brown sugar, firmly packed
2    tsp vanilla extract 
  tsp salt
1 ¼ all-purpose white flour
2  tsp lemon or orange zest, optional. Culinary lavender may also be added. 

First, slowly melt the butter on top of the stove or in the microwave. Let it cool. 

Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees (heat dependent on your oven). Prepare the shell-like cavities of the pans. I use a non-stick spray, but for a more buttery flavor mix together 
1 Tbsp melted butter and 1 ½ tsp flour. With a pastry brush lightly brush the butter/flour mixture in the pans. 

In a mixing bowl add eggs, sugars, salt, and vanilla extract. Mix well until combined. Sift flour into the egg/sugar mixture. Instead of dumping all of the flour at once, best if the flour is added by separating it into thirds, mixing well each time.

Add melted butter into the sugar/flour batter around the batter instead of in the center - and it's easier if you also add the butter into thirds and after each addition of the melted butter, mix well. If you are adding citrus zest to the batter, add it in the last addition of melted butter. 

Into the prepared madeleine pans drop into the shells about a tablespoon of batter. I use my trusty cookie scoop which makes this step easier and the cookies consistent in baking time and overall shape. 

Place pan(s) into the preheated oven and bake until madeleines are golden brown or just under 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the individual cookies cool on a rack. After the pan has cooled, repeat the process until the batter is gone. Depending I will get anywhere from 20-24 cookies. 

When cool sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. You may also get creative by dipping the tips of the madeleine into a simple vanilla or chocolate glaze. Also, before the glaze dries add your favorite party sprinkles, lavender, or finely chopped nuts. 

And yes, the bump on the back of the little cakes is classic of the madeleine. 

Wine Recommendations: Definitely when eating a French-inspired pastry, you must pair and enjoy the madeleine with a glass of French wine. My first impulse is to suggest a glass of Champagne or a blanc Cremant de Bordeaux. If you wanted to go with a still wine, then a Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) from the Loire Valley would be a treat. 


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