Madeleines are perfect. They are little butter cakes that are moist and creamy and don't come prepackaged with the guilt of eating a cupcake. They are flawless in their traditional state- warm vanilla, salty butter, deep notes of custard. But, the magic of madeleines is the ability to transform them into many, many variations. They are a blank slate for your pastry whims.
Madeleine dough, or batter if you will, is super simple to throw together. Eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and butter- really! You probably already have everything on hand. It is a thick batter, a bit sticky and needs to be refrigerated overnight. But trust me, they're worth the wait.
Madeleine pans are readily available in most baking shops, craft stores, and if need be, Amazon. They come in a variety of materials and a few varying shapes. Here's the thing: real, traditional madeleine dough doesn't contain any leavening agent such as baking powder or baking soda. The batter relies on what little natural leavening strength there is in the batter itself as well as a cold pan and hot oven to give them their unique and ubiquitous bump. Most people, including myself, believe that this isn't achievable with a nonstick madeleine pan. If you buy a madeleine pan in France, the motherland!, it will almost certainly be made of blue steel. This is the holy grail. Sadly, unless you have access to a kitchenwares importer, blue steel is impossible to find stateside. Personally, I use a madeleine pan that is made of tinned steel- the closest compromise I can get my hands on.
Let's talk about prepping your pan. Since I use a tinned pan and not a nonstick pan, greasing it is very, very important. I melt my butter and add in a bit of flour and brush onto the madeleine molds. Then, I place it in the freezer for about twenty minutes. After the pan is super cold and the butter has hardened, I repeat brushing the pan with another layer of butter and put back into the freezer for an additional twenty minutes. Crazy, right? As mentioned before, we need to help these babies rise on their own! Using a super cold pan will help them along their way. When the pan is ready, I fill the pan and put them right into a hot oven. Your patience will be greatly rewarded.
In terms of variations, your only limit is your imagination. Citrus zest, chocolate swirls, or dried fruits could all be added to the batter. And glazes! So many options. Let's just start with these clover honey babies dipped in rosewater.
3 sticks of butter, melted
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
1 tablespoon clover honey
2 cups all-purpose flour
In your large bowl, whisk together your eggs and sugar. Be vigorous! It's good to add a bit of air to your eggs at this step.
Add in your vanilla and salt and continue to whisk.
Add in the flour and stir until just combined.
Add in the melted butter and mix until incorporated.
Cover your bowl and place in the fridge overnight to rest.
Prepare your madeleine pan as discussed above. Combine a stick of melted butter and a tablespoon of flour and brush liberally onto the pan. Freeze and repeat. Freeze again. Your pan's ready to go!
Fill your molds with about a tablespoon of batter. Place in a preheated oven set to 375 degrees and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until your madeleines have a little bump and feel slightly firm to the touch.
Let cool completely and dip into the glaze.
1 cup of powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
A few drops of red food coloring
A tablespoon or two of rosewater
Whisk together all ingredients.