How to make the best French madeleines

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How to make madeleines, those delicate moist french cakes that set Proust on the road to writing À La Recherche du Temps Perdu.

Madeleines are bite-sized oval cakes with a shell-like pattern on one side (all the better to soak up a glaze) and when they bake, they form a small mound or bump on the other side, the one that is exposed to the heat.

Where can you buy a madeleine mould? In France of course, preferably at Dehillerin, our favourite Parisian kitchen shop – you’ll find them at 18-20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris – though they also have an online shop. If you can’t make it there (and it’s a costly trip to take purely for the romance of owning a french-purchased mould) you will easily find one in any good kitchen shop or on Amazon. They are not especially expensive and for the joy they bring, it’s well worth owning one (or two). Buy the metal or non-stick tin – silicone is not authentic. You can buy individual moulds but they are hard to clean and the metal ones become rusty easily (especially if you put them in the dishwasher which is one thing you should never do).

How do you bake the best madeleines?

We think that the madeleines from the Blé Sucré bakery in the 12th arrondissement in Paris are fantastic. Their advice, featured in a recent Bon Apétit magazine, is to leave the batter overnight in the fridge before baking. This offers two clear advantages: when the batter rests, it gives you a soft fluffy madeleine and it also ensures a good rise and each cake has that pronounced distinctive mound in the centre. It also means you can make the batter, leave it overnight in a jug in the fridge, pour it into the moulds the next morning, bake the madeleines and serve them warm with coffee. What could be better for a Sunday morning brunch? It’s like having your very own french pâtisserie in your kitchen.

Wendy Lyn from The Paris Kitchen has kindly recreated the Blé Sucré madeleine recipe here along with a handy slideshow.

Dorie Greenspan is faultless when it comes to any recipe – if you follow her instructions you will always be successful: read her recipe for Earl Grey Tea Madeleines with Honey here on the Bon Appétit website.

Here’s a recipe from the Bon Apétit test kitchen for Orange Blossom Honey Madeleines which just shows the versatility of a madeleine recipe.

According to an article in the Guardian, Proust’s first draft of À La Recherche du Temps Perdu had him reminiscing about toasted bread mixed with honey, not madeleines.


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