I’m not sure why but every once and awhile I get the urge to make Madeleines. Maybe it’s because on a whim years ago I bought a Madeleine pan and now feel obliged to use it. Maybe it’s their simple elegance, distinctive shell shape and comforting buttery flavour. The ingredients are very basic – eggs, flour, sugar and butter. Sometimes flavoured with lemon zest, honey, rosewater or nuts. They should be light, moist and come out of the oven slightly golden and crispy around the edges with a hump on their backs.
I’ve made Julia’s straight forward version (very nice), tried out a some what clinical recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (also very nice), and eaten the ones from Starbuck’s (like eating a sponge but not of the cake variety). My latest version is Anne Willan’s recipe from her oh so beautiful book The Country Cooking of France. The batter had to chill for 2 hours (ideally 8) and came out of the fridge really stiff, almost like a dough, I was a bit dubious but they baked up nicely. I didn’t bother with Anne’s finicky instructions to butter the pan twice and was paid back with Madeleines that stuck to the pan and are browner than I like. After some serious tasting I think I have to stand by Julia’s recipe.
I’ve tried several times to read Remebrance of Things Past where Proust elevates the simple Madeleine to a literary legend but it sits on my shelf with a book mark firmly stuck at page 20. Sorry Marcel I just don’t get it, but please pass the Madeleines.