Although this is a classic French cookie, Madeline’s have been served at most of the formal teas that I’ve attended. The classic recipe calls for vanilla flavoring, but I’ve had many variations from rose, orange, lemon … some dusted with powdered sugar, some dipped in chocolate … all of which are absolutely delicious. Baked in a shell-molded pan, these light, delicate sponge cakes are a great companion to a late afternoon cuppa.
There are a few versions on the origin of the Madeline (or Madeleine). The most popular belief is this cookie was the invention of Madeleine Paulmier, a young pastry chef who worked for Stanislaw Leszczynski. Stanislaw’s daughter, Marie, and her husband, who happened to be Louis XV of France, loved these little confections so much they named the tiny pastry “Madeleine” in honor of the young cook. With a little prodding from Marie, Louis XV introduced these little “shell cakes” to the court in Versailles, and they became a sensation all over France.
Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. They are quite easy to make and the batter can be made up to two days ahead of baking. All you really need is a Madeline shell baking tray.
Have all ingredients at room temperature. Bake at 400°F for 8 to 10 minutes. Makes about 21 cookies.
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and then cooled
3 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Optional: Grated lemon zest, grated orange zest, rose water
Generously grease and flour the Madeleine mold pan(s). Most pans have 12 to 16 shells. This recipe will make approximately two sets of pans.
Put the butter in a bowl, melt it and then let it cool. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, Then set aside. In a third bowl, beat the eggs and sugar on high til thick and pale yellow (about 3 to 4 mins). Beat in the vanilla (or whatever flavoring you’d like to use). Slowly add the sifted dry ingredients, being careful not to over beat.
Then take a spoonful of the batter and mix it into the melted, cool butter. This is important to break down the butter so it can be incorporated into the batter without breaking it down. After the butter mixture has lightened, fold it back into the batter. Be sure to scrape the sides and fold everything in well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes (or up to two days in the refrigerator).
Take a teaspoon of the batter and put it into the shell mold. Only fill the mold about 3/4 of the way – no more. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Take the pan out of the oven and immediately turn the cookies out onto a cooling rack. Regrease the mold pan and continue baking until you’ve used all the batter.
When the cookies or cakes have cooled, dust with confectioners sugar or dip into a warm chocolate glaze. These are light, delicate and oh so yummy!!! They will keep nicely in an air-tight container for a couple of days (but not in my house!!).